Not many people can claim to have met with royalty and nobility. Watching royal weddings on TV, visiting grand Scottish castles or making faces at the Royal Guards in front of Buckingham Palace probably count as our closest brush with anything noble 🙂 But the infectiously cheerful team at Fine Wines n More changed all that for me… a real Italian Count was going to ‘hold court’ in Mumbai with some very exclusive wine aficionados, and I was invited to the session! It wasn’t just the thought of meeting a Count that was super-exciting – I was about to cross out a very important entry in my ‘bucket list’. Aha!
So there I was, amidst a few big-wigs of wine-dom – Suneeta Sodhi Kanga, Trainer – Fine Dining and Wine Appreciation, Sonal Holland – Wine Consultant and founder of the eponymous Wine Academy, Nisha Samson – Managing Editor of Liquid, Spenta Multimedia, Aneesh Bhasin – Wine Connoisseur and Co-founder of Indian Wine List, and, of course, the handsome Count Giuseppe Rizzardi himself, all the way from the shores of the picturesque Lake Garda in the Veneto region of Italy!
The first wine was already poured and ready for tasting when I walked up to the prestigious table at Two One Two in Worli, feeling like a red-eared school girl walking in late for an exam! And to make things worse, when the Count looked up from sniffing the herbal notes of a Guerrieri Soave Classico – a proud product of his centuries-old vineyards – to acknowledge me, all I could say was a weak ‘Hi!’ from across the table. Wince!! Whatever happened to the curtsying, and the ‘Pleased to meet you’ and all that I had planned in my head for the meeting?? Guess girls DO lose their heads over Counts, whether it’s nobility or mathematics 😉 Hate to admit you were right, Craig Wedge!
The group got down to the business of wines. Excited questions on oaks, tannins, acid, nose, longevity, finish, complexity, soil conditions, grape composition and origins, bottling and resting, good harvest years, history and heritage of the Guerrieri and Rizzardi wine-growing families were flying at the Count who calmly fielded them, and engaged us all in little stories behind the bouquet of 5 handpicked wines that we were tasting that day. There was the herby-creamy Soave Classico, the fruity and crisp Costeggiola Soave, the complex and spicy Valpolicella Classico, the rich Pojega Ripasso with almond and cherry notes, and the gorgeously dark and mysterious Amarone, with little gleams of chocolate and cherry. Each bottle was carefully stored and chilled, the temperature reaffirmed by the Count before serving, so that we could ‘see, swirl, sniff, sip and savour’ to get it’s real taste. No, no spitting out for me – they were all too delicious to just taste, and NOT swallow!
It’s quite fascinating that the humble grape can be the subject of such complex, scientific and labour-intensive processes, where families dedicate generations into perfecting a distinctive and distinguished wine. And then the enthusiastic guys at Fine Wines n More spend some more quality time educating, story-telling and catalyzing these precious wines into the lives of us wine-lovers. Wow! Quite a journey, that! Not unlike the story of a sparkling diamond, with probably more intrigue involved!
Once done with the tech-specs, our tongues, now aptly coated with delicious wines, moved on to softer topics like visits to wine regimes and regions of the world, the making of a Count, the charms of calling a 14th century villa your home, and the incredible cultural similarities between Italians and Indians – passion for food, deep-rooted family values and the occasional dabbling in ‘dolce far niente’ – ‘the sweetness of doing nothing’! (Remember ‘Eat, Pray, Love’? – Watch the clip here!)
The afternoon ended on a bitter-sweet note. Bitter, because the Count was leaving… Sweet, because of the large platters of Smoked Cheddar, Mature Parmigiano and Blue cheese, Fresh Baked Breads, and tissue-thin Cold Cuts that just melted away into nothingness as we bid our dewy adieus. Sigh!
Plate-Licker’s Wisdom : ‘La Dolce Vita’!