Importing wine into India sounds like a lucrative business proposition. But if that is really the case, why have some companies shut down and so many others are struggling to stay afloat? Without further ado, here is a step-by-step explanation of the various stages of duties, taxes, and other levies that an importer has to pay in order to get wine into India. India is best regarded as a giant subcontinent, a unified entity wherein each smaller part adheres to the larger central administration but then each state also has its own set of exclusive laws which can be (and most often are) entirely different from the central laws as also from those of other and/or neighbouring states. Three states will be covered in this entry: Delhi, Maharashtra (Mumbai/Bombay), and Karnataka (Bengaluru/Bangalore).
I have blogged enough about Austria in general but it’s time for the real stuff, a few wines and the winemakers behind them. These guys sure know what they are they and how to go about achieving it. If nature speaks in mysterious ways, these people are like wind-whisperers, with senses more synced than those Blue people in Avatar! They are the Buddhists in the world of wine, so at one with the multiple elements that constitute wine. And so obvious is this message of “natural symbiotic compliance” that even a single sip of their wines will dawn upon you an idea of their respective philosophies. Ironically, at such levels of quality, the adopted path maybe different but the ultimate message, the final goal, is uncannily yet unsurprisingly similar. Here are excerpts from my interactions with a handful of them. I could drone on but that would only blur the message, and spoil it for you for when you do get to meet them. To make it more fun, I’m awarding them a little Magan’s Two-bit worth of what I made of their wines (do check out the pics gallery in the end for more wines.) This truly was my Test of Taste…
Vievinum is a great national wine event to help the professional wine world get to meet Austrian winemakers and also to get to know their wines. Amateurs can have an equal amount of fun indulging in their own chosen way. What makes it most enjoyable is the setting: a 17th century palace for a backdrop can be quite a distraction, but luckily, for the Austrians, it only further lends to the charm of the event, further strengthening the traditions and values that formed this nation.
I have attended three Vievinums and while a lot has remained reliably similar, a lot has changed too. Here are some observations that I am jotting down after my most recent experience.
“Everything in nature lives by give and take.” – Goethe
This simple yet deep sentence forms part of the core beliefs of the Respekt group, a collection of winemakers, all Austrian (for now), who wished to depart from the more conventional ways of winemaking and shift focus back to Mother Nature.
I cant resist asking people as to what does it mean to be Biodynamic, and how much ‘more’ is it over Organic? My idea is not to taunt winemakers or to see if they really understand their cosmic cycles but to merely and actually understand if all the hype is actually worth the talk time we are all currently generously allowing it?
I always have a confusion with BioDynamic (BD) producers, for I’ve so far never met a bad BD winemaker. All the people who I know converted to BD style of winemaking were making great wines in the first place. So the chicken-egg question that I always have in my head is, “Are you a good winemaker who also happens to be BD or was it BD that made your wines so good?” Self-fulfilling prophecy? A bit of a ad-hoc-ergo-propter-hoc philosophical dilemma for your morning breakfast!? Moving on…
So, today was day one of Vievinum (actually it was preview of a preview but hey, I was there, I clocked time, so it’s a day) and I had a chance to indulge in some an absolutely fantastic tasting. The Austrian Wine Marketing Board (AWMB), has a level of organisation that could make Swiss clocks work hard to mark time. But more than just punctual, they have an uncanny ability to be precise, comprehensive, and yet very efficiently concise. Nothing is left to chance, not even the weather one is often tempted to imagine, and attendees can devote their entire time and attention to one solo task: tasting and learning about the wines of Austria. Read more
India is an upcoming wine market; not a day goes by without hearing about just how many countries want to export wine to us and how, next to China, we are their only hope of sending their kids to school.
And we too wear these feathers with (false) pride, for in spite of the high taxes that shackle us, we seem to try and indulge in some cocky calisthenics, ignorant to the blinding reality that wine in India is too expensive to be affordable or even a meaningful drink. Furthermore, brace yourselves for this, China is way ahead of us, and the patience of the prestigious people from the world of wines waiting for India to open up as a lucrative market is wearing thin. Add to that the hoard of cheap consultants and agents who hawk their services to these visiting and unsuspecting winemakers and we have something that is worse than vine rot. Read more
I would like to prize myself on having some superpower but, short of the ability to fly or to run through walls, I do reserve a small amount of vanity in reassuringly believing that I can make certain predictions about the future. I may not give the best of soothsayers a run for their money, but when it comes to fields of my work and interest, I would be among the first to show up when they ask for crystal-ball volunteers.
One such prediction was when I had returned to India and tasted the first crop of wines that was coming out of our local wineries. My first reaction was to ask my travel agent about one-way flights to Europe. A certain winemaker had even suggested that, but not too politely if I may add.
What is indeed in a name, for that we call a rose, by any other name would still get a sexual harassment case slapped on us. In short, it’s a dog lick dog world out there and… wait, sorry, wrong testimony.
So, back to wines and labels…
Portugal is a country that, to us has connections with Goa. They made some beautiful churches, and supposedly left behind certain traditions, including one around the Port wine. For a history of Port refer to another blog, or just view it somewhere online, but suffice to say that while Port was a wine destined for transport, the Goan Port is only meant to make one journey: to the deepest darkest abysses of a dustbin! To truly understand this country and its wine, nothing short of a visit will suffice. Sure you could attend some tastings, as so did I, but unless one has seen first-hand the slopes and gauged their steepness while trying to climb or descend one, one can never entirely comprehend the scale of difficulty that is involved in making wines here.
I love Australia. I love their accent, their sense of humour, their beautiful country, the lovely wines…in fact, the only thing I feel I am not too particularly fond of is that it is worlds away from where I stay. But, that apart, they are one of the most affable lot around. Sure they can get a bit naughty but hey, it’s only cricket…
Coonawarra is a town with a population of 30 people, give or take a few. When we landed there on this remote air strip, we immediately swelled the population by a factor of three! Even with the neighbouring towns, the number of people can’t exceed 5000, (and yet, they had this superb restaurant, Fodder, which I suggest you must try, for the food but also for its very extensive international wine list.) And the defunct railway station is a picture postcard from the last century!
Writing about a resort while you are there is a bit rigged: it is bound to be good, even if they spill a whole tray of assorted coloured tidbits on you. Not that this happened; just merely citing for sake of an exaggerated example.
This “rigging” starts at the airport itself which is itself more of a resort. The landing is akin to an
autumn leaf gently floating to the ground to find a resting place among the other leaves, in the shade. Think of it as a touchdown into nature – like a Willy Wonka airline with an Eco-quotient. Read more
Here is an on-the-go scribble on Bangkok. I have to admit that the city has a way of growing on you. i enjoy it a lot more with each visit. Singapore, one of my favourite haunts, serves up everything exact and precise. You feel safe, almost inoculated. Bangkok, like a well-fed Sardarji,loves to flaunt its underbelly. It thrives on its eclectic mix, the good with the garish, the Egyptian cotton-lined to the remotely dangerous, the lemongrass scented to the Bird’s Eye implanted, the straight with the tut, the ladyboys, the straight cross-dressers, and the much simpler to understand, regular homosexuals. If you wish to enjoy Bangkok, you have to learn to let your sensibilities be a bit more fluid, more accommodating, for Bangkok will push them to the limits, from food to design to orientation, and in the end, it is how you bounce back, more learned or more disgusted, that will shape the experience to come. Read more
With a name like Magan, my parents had set me up to be the punchline of the most ridiculous joke ever to happen to anyone living or braindead: that lame advert about some vegetable oil (this was before the era of Omega-3s et al) where the tagline went… waitaminute! Why am I even bothering. Suffice to say that, the word Magan always evokes Gagan followed by the “joke”. Going to a restaurant called Gaggan (Praise the Lord for the extra ‘n’) would then be too quirky, even for me. Read more
If you can tell, I am feeling a bit Bond, James Bond. If he can have a movie called the Quantum of Solace then I jolly well am justified writing a blog entry titled such.
But it is true folks, life is about the bigger picture, not the 300mm zoom version shot from a voyeuristic angle that you often get to see, although, I admit, that is not a bad angle to see things.
Annyhoos…Enough deep talk; let’s get shallow…today I am in the mood to administer a little get-to-know-me true-false quiz-format kinda’ entry. It is my (vain) attempt at trying to make my mundane details sound intriguingly exciting! Here goes… Read more
The most ridiculous inherent contradiction that was ever uttered by any sane (or at least under influence) human being was along the lines of this: In my humble opinion…
An opinion can’t be humble…just like an elephant can’t fit in the backseat of a Tata Nano, not even if he folds his legs. An opinion is your take on the world or the things in it, how then can it be humble. Sure it can be presented with humility but that too has the paradoxical putridity of how humble can a 100-carat diamond present be…
Sure you invite the tag opinionated but that’s not all a bad thing – you get used to living alone eventually.
My show has always been about an opinion. If you notice, the camera never goes off between the time the dish is brought and I take my first bite and comment. It is perhaps the only thing that manages to intrigue on the show.
Else, I have been accused of killing food twice – once when it is being prepared and once when I dead-pan comment on it. I could use more emotion I am told but, in my defence, I am not allowed to drink on the job. Waitaminute…aargh!!!
Back to the point, the intrigue of the show hangs on what comes out of my mouth once I bite into something – the intrigue of the immediate. Not what I will blurt post three bites, two takes and five make-up jobs later (although there are none, can’t you tell!?).
The idea was always to play on spontaneity and speedy suspense. Now I am opinionated. I am as opinionated as any Indian who likes his political drama interspersed with a few innings of cricket. I have a take on everything – from movies to the people who go to watch them, from food to drink to lack of them – I am so opinionated that I find myself judging my own self and I find it hard to be living with me all the time.
Trouble is, in spite of my opinions I hardly seem to improve…Thing is, like all of us, I have a vision of life, the world and everything in-between and when things appear different, it sparks an opinion. The chicken-egg here is how did I come to have that opinion in the first place?
Well, I sure wasn’t born with it, it evolved. Through my experiences and exposures, it came to be. And it is never complete, it is always evolving. And it is so for all of us, opinion grows and matures even when we refuse to.
So, if you ever have an opinion, splash it. The caveat is, bring it when you are asked for it: Free anything is worth what you pay for it, a free lunch costs even more. Through my blogs, I invite and solicit opinion.
I like to be told how I am faring, how I can improve. It is my way of bouncing a hundred tiny graphite balls off my blank canvas and hoping a meaningful sketch evolves from it. Usually, it does.
Recently someone left a comment on my previous blog, “Of Crime and…” and it made me think. I like my meat au bleu and unknowingly I seem to have pushed it upon others.
The idea wasn’t as much to thrust as to let people know what I feel and it could be the popular accepted opinion in certain parts of the world. But, I guess, in my zeal to outlaw over-cooked meats, I think I have irked a few.
In my defence, first, the science – the more you cook meat, the more the proteins coagulate, the juices escape and the meat becomes chewier, tougher. It is incorrect to think that raw meat is chewier.