How important is ambience for wine enjoyment? Does a change of place affect the wine experience you have? While it is no secret that a setting for wine appreciation should be devoid of any strong odours, coloured lights et al, the contextual environment related to wine appreciation is an often overlooked angle.
I recently had the opportunity to do a Quod Erat Demonstrandum on this theory when M. Nicolas Delion Export Manager Asia Pacific for Taittinger visited New Delhi in March 2014 to present their Champagnes in the backdrop of Taittinger’s association with FIFA world cup 2014. The venue was the opulent Oval Bar at hotel JW Marriott, Aerocity, New Delhi and three Champagnes from Taittinger were presented for tasting- two being the same I had swooned over not long back (one of these described in my previous blogpost on Taittinger).
Coming to the two different scenarios- the first one was the enchanting environ of Château de la Marquetterie, the 18th century manor surrounded by one of a kind vineyards owned by Taittinger and the second – the classy Oval Bar Both these places were poised for wine appreciation as under:
| Château de la Marquetterie|
(CDLM), Champagne, France
|Oval Bar, JW Marriott New Delhi|
|Format||Five courses paired dinner preceded by an aperitif session at the vineyards.||Informal tasting with accompanying hors d’œuvres|
|Ambience||Majestic, ethereal and overwhelming with vineyards all around. Expansive interiors silently telling the history of the centuries gone-by.||Chic, modern and fraîche, conforming to the best in hospitality standards. Dégustation area extending outdoors to breezy cabanas.|
|Attendance||An exclusive group of wine professionals and journalists from India.||A diverse group of wine and spirits professionals and journalists/bloggers.|
|Common Aspect||A congenial host from Maison Taittinger.||A congenial host from Maison Taittinger.|
The wines presented were :
Taittinger Brut Resérve (The FIFA World Cup 2014 official Champagne): A blend of all three Champagne grapes viz. Chardonnay(40%), Pinot Noir(35%) and Pinot Meunier(25%), Taittinger ages this wine for more than twice the duration prescribed by the Champagne appellation (15 months) hence resulting in its superbly mature character.
Taittinger Rosé Prestige: Ruled by Chardonnay, this wine is blended towards the end with still Pinot Noir wine from the best areas of Montagne de Reims- the ‘capital’ of Pinot Noir grapes in the Champagne appellation. A refreshing wine with a pronounced red fruit character.
Taittinger Noturne Sec: A blend of Chardonnay (40%) and the Pinot grapes (60%), this would be the wine that you would probably date if your party begins at 10 in the night. No wonder Taittinger purports this as the one that ‘awakens at night’ . Histrionics apart, the wine has 17.5 grams per litre of added cane sugar during the making process, that qualifies it as ‘Sec’ meaning Dry.
The different tasting perceptions
Out of the above, I had already experienced the Brut Resérve and Nocturne at CDLM earlier. So did the wines taste any different? They had to- since winemaking is a hand perfected craft where churning out two items with 100% similarity is well nigh impossible even if the intention is so. Factors like variability of vintage apart from those highlighted in the table above come into play and therein lies the charm of expecting something new from a particular wine everytime you meet it . I am cautioned though, to clarify that this does not imply unpredictability in any way, since the differences are just subtle.
Coming to the wines again:
We had this wine as an aperitif while standing amidst the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay parcels surrounding CDLM. There could be no feeling comparable to tasting a wine while experiencing the very terroirit came from and could well qualify as ‘once in a lifetime’ kind of experience. The wine itself came across as a deeply inhalable whiff of fruity and floral aromas and a sense of unadulterated pleasure on the tongue. Nothing short of heavenly!
At Oval Bar
Surrounded with multiple luxury potions like Louis Treize cognac, Bordeaux Grands Crus wines and the Super Tuscans, we already felt as having just walked the red carpet. When the wine was served while Nicolas highlighted its FIFA affiliation, an emphatic ‘goal’ was scored with its bold and complex characteristics. But unlike the contemplative mood at CDLM, we swigged it indulgently with the vast range of exotic hors d’ouvres to accompany. Immensely satiating for the senses!
Served with the dessert course of Pistache Macarons, Strawberry Sorbet and a collection of fresh Red Fruits, we enjoyed a well rounded pairing defying the common fixation of pairing dessert with sweet wine. Again, the mood was contemplative with us trying to dissect the layers of both food and wine to understand the similarities/ contrasts. The grand interiors of the Château along with the historical perspective of Taittinger brought out by Mme Dominique Garreta, Directrice Communication at the house made us look at the wine from yet another dimension.
At Oval Bar
The first thing I noticed was the habillage (dressing) of the bottle. As compared to a bright purple label and a golden foil in 2012, the bottle is now in a chequered polymer covering with different hues of purple. It makes the bottle look funkier and aligned to its ‘awakening in the night’ character. Nocturne being the last wine for the evening, the stage of letting the hair down had arrived. We moved to the romantically lit up cabana area that rendered shimmering reflections in the water in the backdrop of the night. Sampling it with Prosciutto Crostini, Lamb Pepper Fry and Smoked Salmon Blinis was a different ball game as it brought out the robust aspects of the wine.
What is the bottomline then? To put it in fewest words,most of the factors as enumerated in the table above are relevant to the contextual angle in wine appreciation. These and some others are:
- Format of the fixture.
- Overall Ambiance.
- Tasting group composition.
- Theme of the event.
- Type of food pairing.
And finally, perception is a game of mind- which highlights the importance of a skilled presenter in the whole gamut. Madame Garreta and Monsieur Delion happened to excel in that.
Taittinger wines are imported in India by Prestige Wines and Spirits Pvt Ltd.
Retail prices ex Delhi:
Brut Resérve ₹ 5800.00
Prestige Rosé ₹ 7900.00
Nocturne ₹ 7500.00