Sunday, June 29, 2008

I survived Nine Hills

Just to lighten up my blog here. Last night I went to a Page 3 party (for basically the first time) and would like to report on it. However nasty this posting gets (and it will, I promise you) it will not rebound on the kind people who took me there, since I won't be mentioning their names. I'd also like to say that I drank a lot and enjoyed myself thoroughly, for which (since I didn't spend a cent) I am grateful. That won't stop me being nasty though.

The event was billed as a "wine-tasting" of the new Seagram's Nine Hills wines. There are, in this category, four wines: two red (Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz) and two white (Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc). To get straight to the results, Seagram's Nine Hills wines are very poor indeed. It takes a certain cheek to launch such worthless stuff at a party, moreover one that was hosted by foodie Karen Anand and featured a gentleman from Australia who supposedly works at the Jacob's Creek winery (producers of undistinguished but extremely reliable and drinkable stuff) as well as miscellaneous French people, some of whom openly discarded their wine glasses the moment they got a whiff of the vile stuff.

Here's a vignette: a waiter comes round with a tray of red and white wines. I say "I'll have the white please" and help myself to a glass. "Which wine is this?" I ask the waiter and without a pause he replies "white". He has a point! Later in the event I discover the sweet sherbet-like concoction I've been drinking is Chenin Blanc. I ask for a glass of the Sauvignon Blanc. It is exactly the same. I sip alternately from the two glasses and can't make out the difference. The waiter obviously knew something when he said "white".

The snacks were worthwhile. Lots of imported cheese (specially Parmigiano, which is unbeatable as a snack even if people know it better in its grated and sprinkled form). There were also pepper potatoes (OK), mascarpone on sliced figs (lovely), honey-dipped cheese with sundried tomatoes and basil (lovely) and - catering to the domestic taste, chilly chicken (also very good). In fact nothing on the snack trays was horrid, leaving that label free to be applied wholeheartedly to the wine. I forgot to describe the reds: the Shiraz tasted like Duke's synthetic raspberry syrup while the Cabernet was actually different and tasted more like vinegar than syrup. OK, that completes the wine review.

Now to the live jazz band. It featured saxophone, electric bass, a keyboard and drums, as well as a lady on vocals (can I be rude enough to say "chick") who couldn't sing. But what struck me was that the rest of the band was really rather good. For one thing they played real jazz, mostly standards of the Duke Ellington era. I find those standards eternal - dare I say "evergreen" - and much can be done with them. I particularly enjoyed their rendition of "Caravan". The saxophonist played with intense involvement and, considering he was facing a bunch of morons who couldn't tell a Shiraz from a raspberry sherbet, he didn't seem at all dispirited. The bass player too produced a few energetic solos and the drummer was extremely adequate. All in all there were many good moments in the performance. The bad moments were almost exclusively linked to the vocal efforts, which - as I've already indicated - were doomed by the "chick".

What of the crowd? It's easy enough to say "the usual page 3 types" but I don't believe there's only one type of page-3 type. This must have been the Colaba and Cuffe Parade page-3 type, I suppose. Can't say more for lack of my own expertise. Also I didn't manage to recognise anyone except Gerson da Cunha. Again, my lack of expertise. I was photographed several times but I assume (and hope) that when I'm passed through the page-3 software, it will identify me as junk and delete the photo!

The crowd paid basically no attention to the band, and never once applauded. They also mostly paid no attention to the speech by the Australian from Jacob's Creek who alleged (flying in the face of facts) that Seagram's Nine Hills wines were very good. They seemed altogether uninterested in any detail except "this is a party and there is free booze". And here is a point that interests me. Social elites exist everywhere (including, as we know, in Communist countries) but they differ in various ways including their degree of cultivation. A Tam-brahm needs to know Carnatic ragas and an Italian socialite needs to know opera. This crowd evidently didn't feel they needed to know anything or learn anything. Does this say something about Bombay?

As we were leaving, even the decent jazz music was torpedoed by the organisers who announced that we would now hear "jazz tadka" (!!). This consisted of the "chick" trying desperately to sing "I will survive". Unfortunately, she will.


Rahul Siddharthan said...

A friend of mine asked a Mumbai wineshop for the vintage of a particular bottle. Receiving a blank look, he said "what year?" and got the reply, "अरे बिलकुल ताजा माल है sir!"

I assume Nine Hills is produced in the Sahyadri region, like Chateau Indage and Sula. I preferred the Grover Vineyards that I tried, to my rather undiscriminating palate it seemed as good as a lot of foreign wines I've had.

You should go to more such parties and report on them.

Anonymous said...

...the "chick" trying desperately to sing "I will survive". Unfortunately, she will.

couldn't control the LOL at the office; I am heading out to the coffee shop solo, to avoid serious glares at the lab


Suvrat Kher said...

rahul- the shopkeeper was unwittingly being helpful! Indian wines especially the reds dont age well at all. they are best drunk fresh. the main reason apart from their mediocre quality to begin with is that there is no temp. control in Indian wineshops, so wiines go bad very rapidly.

As for the astute observation by the waiter that the wine is white, reminds me of the standard answer you get in restaurants when you ask about any dish- "That is medium spicy sir"


Sunil Mukhi said...

Suvrat - you are absolutely right about wines aging badly in India. I just want to mention that recently Sula has started putting a screw cap on their Cabernet Shiraz (along with a dangling label that pompously and at length explains the benefits of this). I find this wine much improved as a result (in other words it didn't manage to turn as bad as it used to). For the same reason I find French wines sold in India are usually awful (certainly at the low-medium price end) while Aussie/South African/Chilean do better because they often use rubber corks or screw caps.

Suvrat Kher said...

Sunil- that's an interesting observation. corking has been a problem all over the world, and the higher temp at which we store wines and poorer quality corks might be exacerbating that effect. next time i'll make sure I buy one with a screw cap :-)


Ajay said...

Dear Sunil

It was great to see your comments about Nine Hills but i have different views about the wine. I have also tatsed these wines at an event and i will say they were quite good as i have heard they just launched a year back. You were darn right when you asked the waiter which wine and he just said "white". The awareness level among indian waiters is so low they dont talk about name of grape variety. because when you know a grape variety you know what to expect.Specially their Cabernet Sauvignon has been the stealer. Their Chenin is little sweet for a person with developed taste. But you will be surprised to know most of the Indian Che nin Blanc are little sweet, i guess this grape is ripening too fast as the alcohol level as well as the sugar level are little higher in this grape . Whereas sauvignon blanc has been showing signs of green which they need to work on. They got a scope of improvement for shiraz

happy drinking on diwali