“Masterclass” is a term we often come across in today’s wine world. It essentially denotes a deep dive familiarization with target wines, fringing on technicalities. It is also an often misused term , with innumerable instances of generic wine tastings being passed off as “masterclasses”. But when a winemaker himself conducts such a class, its raison d’être surpasses the realm of definitions, as was the case when William (Bill) Hardy- the fifth generation helmsman of Australia’s biggest winemaker Hardys Wines conducted a series of masterclasses in Delhi/Mumbai. Spread over two days, these masterclasses were meant primarily for the hospitality trade and selected wine media. I had the privilege of attending the one in New Delhi at hotel ITC Maurya in the closing days of Aug 15.
Hardys has been in India since the year 2003 through their importer Sula Selections. Then why this masterclass now? Bill Hardy told me that given the positive sentiment about India as an emerging wine consuming nation, efforts to “train the trainer” are considered to be in good stead. These efforts are also necessary to consolidate Australia’s enviable position as the largest wine exporter to India in terms of volume. According to him, the Indian wine market has been showing admirable maturity over the years and it is a must for such an emerging market to have professionals who can present a particular wine to the consumer in the right earnest.
The wines for the masterclass were from Hardys Stamp collection. Bill brought out that this range was inspired by their founder Thomas Hardy’s vision of popularizing Australian wines in the world. He highlighted that the majority of grapes for this collection are from warm, inland river regions, producing wines that are full flavoured, fruit forward and smooth- a character preferred in everyday drinking wines.
The Delhi masterclass commenced with Bill familiarizing the audience with Australian wine producing regions and how these could be mapped to entire Europe in terms of vineyard area. He highlighted the typical characteristics of each of these regions, explaining step by step the production philosophy behind each of his presented wines, including their probable Indian food matches. The session progressed with the wines served as under:
Hardys Pinot Noir Chardonnay NV
Made from two of the Champagne grapes, this wine is a straightforward sparkling with yeasty, citrusy and tropical fruit aromas. A refreshing spritzy palate makes it a good ‘evening starter’. Bill said that they employ both traditional and charmat methods in their sparkling wine production and this particular wine has been elaborated by using the charmat method, keeping in line with its affordability aspect.
Hardys Riesling Gewürztraminer 2014
A popular wine in Asia, Bill informed that their Riesling-Gewürztraminer also sells well in Canada and British Columbia presumably due to a large migrant Asian population. The wine, with its honeyed, tropical fruits, and off dry (residual sugar 15 g/l) character is quite well suited to Asian cuisine. It’s lingering finish completes its profile as a gourmet wine. In addition Bill highlighted a subtle petillance (fizz) in the wine which is purposefully crafted to give it an extra refreshing character.The wine was indeed very pleasing and I thought of a shaslik of cottage cheese, pineapple, onion and bell peppers as its ideal food accompaniment.
Hardys Chardonnay Semillon 2014
A deep lemon, light bodied wine with a creamy palate and a discernibly oaky character. Bill educated us that for the Stamp range, they use an innovative and cost effective method of oaking called “plank in tank” wherein oak planks with sawed off edges are dropped into wine tanks for better surface area (six sides as opposed to four) contact. This method enables faster oaking at a relatively lower cost, which is very important for keeping the affordability aspect of the range intact. In addition, this wine is oxygenated using medical grade oxygen to impart oxidative complexity. The result is a fairly complex wine affordable as a regular indulgence.
Hardys Cabernet Sauvignon- Merlot 2014
Bill Hardy is the first Aussie winemaker to be trained in Bordeaux, that too under the famous French oenologist Émile Peynaud. His affinity to the “Bordeaux style” can be noted in this essentially Bordeaux blend with good structure as well as an intense but restrained fruity character. Bill informed that this wine is also oaked “plank in tank” for 3 months in Burgundian oak that has loose grains that promote faster ageing.
Hardys Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Shiraz- Cabernet Sauvignon blend is by far the most popular red wine blend in Asia Pacific region owing to its affinity to spicy cuisine. Aussie Shiraz is well known for its ripe and full bodied flavours. Bill explained that in this blend, around 30% Cabernet Sauvignon is added to the remaining 70 % Shiraz in to balance out the voluptuousness of the wine. The result is a savoury wine well suited to rich Asian cuisine.
The masterclass concluded with young interns as well as seasoned professionals satisfying their queries from an immensely approachable Bill.
After all you don’t come across Masters so often! Do you?