You need good reason to celebrate another country’s independence day. If that reason hinges on wine and food, all the better. This July, it was the third year in a row that I conducted a French wine and cuisine experience titled Bienvenue (meaning “Welcome” in English). The occasion was the eve of the French national day, also called La Fête Nationale, Jour de Bastille or Quatorze Juillet. The event saw participation of the who’s who of Delhi’s wine circuit, with ardent support by wine importers as well as the Embassy of France in India. France being a major hub of wine and cuisine,it is quite logical that any French celebration cannot be devoid of these two fascinating aspects of their culture. Not something that revelers would complain-of course!
Celebrated every 14th July, Jour de Bastille signifies the onset of French revolution when revolutionaries stormed the Bastille prison to free-up scores of their compatriots. This incident heralded the overthrowing of an oppressive monarchy and transfer of power to the French people. In terms of wine and spirits it meant transfer of ownership to common citizens and opening up of the markets that were erstwhile restricted to the royals and aristocrats.
The venue for this year’s soirée was Rara Avis – one of the few French restaurants in the capital. Jerome Cousin, who comes from Alsace, is the chef and partner of the restaurant that is recognised for its avant garde cuisine. Together, with his oenophile Indian partner Rajiv Aneja, he makes a “Champagne and shellfish” team . With the authentic French touch on the plate, I could cover most French wine regions armed with a non-vintage Champagne, a red and a white Burgundy, a Rhône Red, two Bordeaux Reds, a Cognac and a liqueur from the Loire valley. The prices could be kept at sane levels courtesy the beverage sponsorships from Sula Selections, Prestige Wines and Spirits Pvt Ltd. and vino india.
Generous support by the Embassy of France in India and particularly the Ambassador H.E. François Richier (we received three exclusive wines from his private cellar) saw that the attendees had pleasant surprises in store too!
Speaking of the food and wines, the effort was to incorporate a traditional French meal with all courses listed out in proper nomenclature. It afforded the opportunity to acquaint everyone on common French terms including their literal meaning and pronunciation. A quiz on wine and food with an attractive Bordeaux Red up for grabs saw everyone labour to get it right. But eventually the prized wine was everybody’s delight since the winning lady shared it magnanimously with all during the dinner. The pairings are self explanatory from the menu given below:
As mentioned above, the wines presented a virtually 360° glimpse of France. Here is how they worked out.
Champagne Piper Heidsieck Cuvée Brut – A Pinot Noir dominated champagne with excellent structure as well as freshness.
Joseph Drouhin La Foret Bourgogne Blanc 2010– A crisp light Chardonnay with mineral undertones.
Domaine Boisson Cotes du Rhone 2012– A mouth filling juicy and spicy wine.
Ormes de Pez, St Estephe 2009– A Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel. True to its pedigree, the wine was robust, fleshy and a worthy companion to the powerful main course. The star of the evening.
Chateau La Lauzette, Haut Medoc 2010 – A medium bodied wine with rounded tannins and black fruit flavours.
Joseph Drouhin La Foret Bourgogne Rouge 2009– A light bodied fruity-vegetal wine that went hand in glove with the assorted French cheeses.
Cointreau– The iconic and intense orange liqueur from Angers (Loire Valley).
Rémy Martin VSOP Cognac– A fine eau de vie aged for 4 years in French oak barrels.
The team at Rara Avis handled the wine service deftly with exact pours and optimal serving temperatures. They bust the myth that only five star properties in India are capable of immaculate wine service. I now know which place to go for a quiet sip when in the writing mood!
With more such engagements planned, I share the sentiments of oenophiles with the French saying- La vie est trop courte pour boire du mauvaise vin– meaning- Life is too short to drink bad wine!
Sante, Salud and Cheers!