In Bengaluru and Kolkata, almost anything goes. The weather is neither too hot nor too cold, but just right. So, people have just about anything that takes their fancy. I personally like a soft, full-bodied cabernet to wash down a nice steak — thank goodness, it is still available here. However, if turkey were the centrepiece of your Christmas dinner, then you would want to go for either a full-bodied white — not many of those are around — or a medium-bodied red with low tannins. So, an oaked chardonnay from either Napa or Côtes du Rhône would be nice. Alternatively, a Cru Beaujolais, a Right Bank Bordeaux (Saint-Émilion, where Merlot dominates), or even a Rioja Reserva would be nice.
Then there’s the Christmas pudding: rich, sweet, stuffed with nuts and raisins, and served with either whipped cream or a brandy butter sauce. I would venture to pair this, if at all, with a dessert wine — an aged tawny port works best here — and, on no account, settle for the cheap, sweet and simple port-style indian wines that are mushrooming like weeds.
The chilly Delhi weather is ideal for mulled wines, which are called Gluhwein in Germany. Although the internet offers scores of recipes, the one below is simple and delicious. Its ingredients include:
A bottle of 750 ml cheap red wine and one-fourth cup of brandy (any cheap brandy will do).
Three star anise, two cinnamon sticks (or one tablespoon of powdered cinnamon), and eight whole cloves.
Half a tablespoon of orange peel (fresh or dried) and one-fourth cup of honey.
Put everything together into a pan and leave it to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Next, add honey, sieve and serve in cups. What you’d get is just what the doctor ordered to chase the blues — and the chills — away.
Which brings us to muggy Mumbai. Like in Singapore, the city’s winescapes create their own — air conditioned — premises. So, the external weather has little effect on the wines recommended, which can be truly catholic in taste. Still, there is nothing quite like a nice sparkling wine to start the evening, and the flavour of the season seems to be Chandon Brut.
Then move to a dry and aromatic Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand (which I prefer to the somewhat staid Pouilly-Fume from the Loire — the Marlborough varieties have this wonderful aroma of ripe guavas and a crisp acidity that lifts the wine above the ordinary). And I would finish the meal with a classic red: a Bordeaux from Haut-Medoc, perhaps, or a Shiraz from the Barossa Valley of Australia, with the tannins so pronounced that one is almost picking out the oak chips from one’s teeth.
Wines I’ve been drinking
A Saint Clair Marlborough Pinot Noir 2013 from New Zealand (89 points; Rs 2,981 in Bengaluru). The wine has a complex aroma of blackcurrants and cherries, a medium body and a good finish where spices and coffee come through at the end.
Alok Chandra is a Bengaluru-based wine consultant