I don’t know much about wine but everyone who remotely knows me know I love wine to the point where I’ve always secretly dreamt of a future career as a sommelier… Now that may be a bit far-fetched, but whether its at a dinner, a movie night at home, while cooking, or as an after-work reward, having a glass of wine or three is my favourite relax-mood trigger. That being said, I’m by no means a wine snob or particularly educated about grapes, countries or hints of blackberries and liquorice…
Whenever I order wine at a restaurant or buy from the store, I have a few criteria I generally go by:
Colour – Red
Countries – USA, South Africa, Australia & France. And Italy, for whites.
Price range – Depends on where I am. In India wines are extremely expensive and overpriced. Here, my budget for a good wine would be around INR 1600/USD 25. You can find for less, but the great options are very few. In Sweden I’d say you can get a good bottle for anywhere between INR 500-2000/USD 8-30. In the US, to be honest I have no idea – my college budget for a ‘good’ bottle 4-5 years ago was around 7-8 bucks (Yellowtail and Barefoot wines obviously).
Other words I throw in there: Dry, full-bodied, oaky, not fruity, rich, heavy. My younger sister gave me the tip to always ask for wines that are good with red meat–they tend to be on the heavier side.
Final tip: They say you should ‘never judge a book by its cover’, but when it comes to wines I find it fairly useful to go by the label. These new-age, boutique wineries popping up all over tend to be well-priced, delicious, and generally have semi-quirky, fun and classy labels. I avoid the classic boring ones…
In the honor of the weekend, thought I’d share my favourite wines. I’ve also personalised this slightly by adding a memory of when I first tried the wine and fell in love with it. Sometimes memories add to the goodness, if you know what I mean?
The City Runner – Cabernet Sauvignon, 2015 (California, USA)
TASTE: Generous berry aroma with hints of black currant, oak and vanilla. Rich and flavorful of dark fruits and oak. Long and rich aftertaste.
PRICE: Super well priced at around USD 10
MY MEMORY: This wine was released in Sweden in July 2017 – so very recently. It was awarded the wine of the month at Nordic Sea Winery in Simrishamn, so I had it with my mom, grandmom and sister at our reunion luncheon a couple of weeks back. Delicious.
Valenciso Reserva – Rioja, 2008 (Spain)
TASTE: Cherry deep color, spicy nose, intense, live with fresh and intense fruit, subtle fine oak hints, seductive, invites. Sexy, high-pitched red and dark berry scents are complemented by vanilla, cola and pipe tobacco.
PRICE: Pricey. Around USD 45, I think.
MY MEMORY: Saif and I were introduced to this wine when we asked for an oaky wine to accompany our first dinner at Barrafina in London. It’s one of their most recommended wines and even though its on the pricier side, honestly, it’s worth it for a special occasion. Possibly the best wine I’ve ever had.
Bad Boy – Merlot (France)
TASTE: Ripe, fleshy but softening black currant and plum fruit laced with hints of white chocolate and tobacco. A tug of earth, with sleek integrated tannins. (I don’t really understand the last part but I know tannin is a key word for tasty wine so I’m including it)
PRICE: Around USD 25-30.
MY MEMORY: This was one of the first bottles Saif and I shared together on one of the earlier dates we went on. We were having dinner at Wasabi and Saif selected a bottle for us to share. We still order it every time we go.
MAN Family – Pinotage (South Africa)
TASTE: Medium-intense aromas of berry, cherry and plum are coupled with seductive notes of milk chocolate and licorice root, framed by moderate tannins and juicy acidity.
PRICE: USD 10-18
MY MEMORY: Whenever this wine is on the menu, I order it. Its one of the few affordable yet amazing imported wines easily available everywhere in India, so that makes me an even bigger fan. Saif and I (obviously) discovered this wine at The Table – a South Bombay restaurant we sort of consider our second home…
Black Stallion – Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley, USA)
TASTE: Full-bodied and balanced with vibrant aromas of blackberry, plum, vanilla and toasted oak.
PRICE: USD 20-25 – so good!
MY MEMORY: Saif and I clearly drink a lot of wine together, but here it goes again – Black Stallion is one of those wines I picked up from the liquor stop in Sweden two years ago. I liked the label and the name of the vineyard. The Napa Valley sign off made it even more trustworthy. I remember us having our first sip of this wine, and the second we tasted it we both looked up at each other as if in shock – then burst out laughing because of how incredibly tasty we both found it. Try try try!
Wines I recommend in India under INR 1000:
- Dindori, Shiraz – Sula Wines
- Charosa, Shiraz
I hope you get a chance to try any of these delicious bottles at some point – there are also loads of affordable wines in Europe and the US, but since I live in India the available options are less and that makes the recommendations I have given on the higher side in terms of price. I’m also a big fan of “two buck chuck” at Trader Joes in America – we used to drink this fantastic bottle every week when I used to live there — USD 1.99 very well spent!