Of Yoga, Wine … and Cuisine

Chilling out- Nature style
Chilling out- Nature style

Wine tasting in the lap of Himalayas? It probably doesn’t get fresher than that! I started the  Year 2014 on a work cum pleasure trip to the sleepy hamlet of  Bhatelia, a couple of kilometers ahead from Mukteshwar in Nanital district of Uttarakhand.  That the area had received fresh snowfall just a day prior to our landing was a divine blessing as it enabled me to chill the wines in natural snow- and needless to mention, it worked magnificently to enhance the excitement of wine lovers!

Background of the Event

It was in Apr 2013 that  Haru Mehra, owner of Frehindi Education Pvt Ltd– a well known French language training institute in Delhi, discussed with me, the idea of having a wine session in the Himalayas during his Institute’s Frehindi Village Séjour . Haru has been conducting these excursions since the last two years where the focus is to facilitate cultural exchange between Indian and French/Francophonic people. To this effect, Bhatelia has been developed by him as Frehindi village, with excellent facilities for ethnic living, interaction with village folks, visit to heritage sites and what’s more, adventure activities. This year, the highlights of the engagement  were Yoga by an American expert, French cuisine by a French teacher from Morocco and of course the Wine session by yours truly.

Imane demonstrating the making of Crêpes
Imane demonstrating the making of Crêpes

Coming to the wine session that happened on the day two of our three day stay, we decided to have it back to back with the cuisine session to be conducted by  Imane Ibnoussina (a French language professor at Frehindi from Morocco). The aim was to give a live feel of the food and wine pairing to the well heeled audience, all of whom had some link to the French context. Imane’s session started with text book perfect Crêpes and Croissants prepared right in front of the audience. As the sun started descending on the horizon, I uncorked the first of wines, a Sparkling Brut from California, followed by a French White, two Indian Reds and finally a French Red. The wines were:

The line up
The line up

André Brut (USA)
A refreshing sparkling with intense bubbles and an off dry palate with fruity/floral flavours.
Food Pairing: Croissants and salted potato wafers.

Béatrice Defresne Chardonnay 2011, IGP Vaucluse (France)
A well balanced Chardonnay from the Rhône valley (towards south of France) having aromas of citrus fruits, peaches and apricots. The palate was crisp and dry with a medium finish.
Food Pairing: Croissants and cheddar cheese.

Sula Cabernet Shiraz 2006 (India)
A medium bodied red with red fruit aromas and a mouth filling palate of red fruits and spice.
Food Pairing: Crêpes with spicy cottage cheese filling

Grover Cabernet Shiraz 2011 (India)
A complex red with black  and red fruits aromas/palate with a distinct feel of spice.
Food Pairing: Crêpes with spicy cottage cheese filling.

Béatrice Defresne AOP Côtes du Rhône 2011(France)
A red from the same producer as the French white above, Côtes du Rhône reds are mainly the blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre grape varietals. The deep ruby wine had an intense nose of red cherries, black currant and spice. On the palate, it was medium bodied with a distinctly juicy and spicy feel, a firm structure and a long finish.
Food Pairing: Pan fried Chicken Tikka in highland style.

Unique aspects of the session

Given that the event was conducted in an unconventional setting there were some off beat experiences. In a nutshell, these were:

  • A super attentive audience that was in a mood to leisurely appreciate the drinks with none,whatsoever, nag  of mundane daily commitments (commuting back home, next day office etc).
  • A diverse audience of different age profiles, nationalities and professions with even teenagers keenly joining-in just to acquire some knowledge on wines, even if it implied them not sampling the wines due to minimum age constraints. (To tell you a secret, I allowed them at least one wine with expicit permission of their guardians).
  • Participative fervor with several volunteers uncorking/ serving wines and showing around snacks in the decided sequence.
Warming up to the evening
Warming up to the evening

The wine session was followed by dancing bonhomie with a local Kumaoni troupe doing highland songs with ethnic music and some enterprising group members fetching a Jack Daniels to pair with pakoras (fried Indian snacks) as also with the prevalent excitement. Our discussion but naturally switched rails to Bourbon, Rye and beyond.

The indomitable Indian spirit was famously at work.

Col Joe
wirtten by: Col Joe


  • Having been part of the excursion, without doubt the highlight of the trip was the wine session. Personally, I learnt about the wine bottles not having corks were OK. Whilst drinking move from lighter white wines to full bodied wines. And about the use of the Champagne saucer glass is OK.
    Thanks and Regards.

  • Thank you for the encouragement Sir! It was in fact enriching to have a widely travelled and accomplished person like you amongst the wine passionates on this trip. I am humbled to know that you could derive some value addition into your already sound wine knowledge through this experience. It would be my pleasure to remain associated with you. Cheers! – Joe.

  • It was past Sunday midnight and we were returning to our rooms after arranging all bags on the bus roof.

    We found Haru sitting on a stone in dark. May be he wanted to scare us but he chose wrong candidates….!!! Later he joined us back in our room for a drink.

    Over his second serving of Courvoisier, he finally couldn’t resist asking us about the best think (as we thought) about this sejour. Everybody gave opinions discussing almost everything. Upon my turn, I summarized in one name….Colonel Ravi Joshi

    Colonel Joe was `Find’ of this trip. Not only his impeccable knowledge in spirits but his entire persona and mannerisms were enchanting and very pleasing. It is good have you as a friend, colonel!

    However I must mention the discussions with Commodore Swarup and Mrs. Swarup, ranging over the education system to AAP… And how can I forget the Bhatia family. It was good to both ends of spectrums from the officers of our coveted Defence.

    Thanks Haru and I promise again to remove all managerial hiccups in your next trip….

    Pankaj (student of Frehindi)

  • Thank you Pankaj ji for the generous praise. It gives me great satisfaction that this unique wine session, so overwhelmingly close to nature, was appreciated by lovely people like you. The credit goes to the enthusiastic participation by all passionates that kept the freezing evening soulfully warm and lively till the superlative finale. It also proved that Spirited people enjoy wine rather well (pun intended) with suitable atmosphere around. Will look forward to say Cheers more often..

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