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An evening with Grover & Son February 17, 2007

Posted by C Y Gopinath in Food, Humor, Wine.

EVEN AS I REACHED for the cheese I knew it was a mistake. Grover and Son had kept their hands off it, must be some good oenological reason for it. Kapil Grover had helped himself to a butter biscuit, though; perhaps that was allowed with white wine. Clairette, it said on the bottle.

You monumental fool, what was your hurry? I said to myself, but I wasn’t listening.

I swirled the wine about in the port glass, and sniffed. I looked forward to making some elegant remark about the bouquet. In case my face was being watched for a reaction, I kept one eyebrow up in a look that could stand for anything,. Couldn’t really catch any bouquet, but that could be because of my deviated septum. I said a pensive Hmmm. Grover & Son & Guest sipped in silence.

It was the best white I’ve had in India.

“I’m a red man myself,” said Kapil, and I looked up at his face in alarm, the word sangloté flashing through my mind. Got it. He means red wine. I rejoined with, “I must confess I’ve always been a white man.” Kapil nodded, understanding my plight. I hoped Grover Sr. would not say he was a Rose Man.

“I’ve always believed that it is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and confirm it.,” said he, with a look in my direction. What did he mean? Was my preference for white giving my own pedigree away?

“It was in Florence,” I began expansively, waving airily with a cigar that wasn’t there. “How can I forget? The evening, Piazza Michelangelo, a bottle of the best white wine I’ve ever had, Chianti, original Chianti, you understand, chilled. . .”

“Of course, Chianti is really known for its red.” Kapil, succinctly.

I recovered swiftly. “You mean you’ve never tried their absolutely outstanding white? Very, how shall I put it, gouleyant. Almost gras. You know?”

Three more port glasses, and an outpouring of the Rosé. The Grover Vineyards, already the most written about in India, grow exclusively French grapes but on Bangalore soil. Grover Sr., the sort of squire who you expect will say dem fool or silly gel any moment, knows his liquor, and more recently, his wines. Over three years, 30 varieties have been experimentally planted, 21 have been eliminated as unsuitable, and the first cases of true Indian-made French wine have emerged this year, for sale only in Bangalore and Bombay.

I thought it a good time to ask Grover Sr. about the Clairette’s bouquet. He might describe it as frank and supple though a little short; I would tag it as definitely velouté, though a little nervous. “What is your own opinion of the bouquet, if I might ask?”

“No dem bouquet in that white,” he growled. “Got to fix that. Got to fix the aftertaste too.”

I raised my skilled eyebrow: what aftertaste? “Now the thing that will give it an aftertaste is also the thing that will give it its bouquet,” continued Grover Sr. enigmatically. A vintner knows what a vintner knows.

The Rosé disappeared, more port glasses appeared, and the red was poured out. “The rosé has only a very faint bouquet, discreet but discernible, but you will find that the red has a clear presence ,” said Kapil. I took a deep sniff — no doubt about it, that was the mother of all bouquets — and took a glug. Swirled it around the mouth a bit in the expected manner. I’m not a red man, but this red was clearly distingué. I was here face to face with the Cabernet Sauvignon itself, the famous grape that stands behind the world’s great clarets, the “aristocrat of the cellar”. Do note how well I have mastered my Larousse, even if the wine occasionally dribbles down my chin.

“It’s time for a bit of that cheese now,” said Grover Sr., reaching for the cheese knife. Learn something, you galactic moron, I chastised myself. Hard cheeses go with red wine.

Well, the game was up, I knew that. I had given myself away with the white Chianti bit and the inappropriate reaching for cheese. But by now the wines were doing their magic, and the evening was acquiring a certain harmonious glow.

“I have a dream,” Grover Sr. was saying. I leaned forward to hear the rest of it: people’s dreams are always interesting. Grover’s is to identify the specific wines whose temperaments can forge durable alliances with Indian cuisine. You know the booze basics: beer goes with chow mein, full-bodied reds go with red meats and game, whisky goes with seekh kababs, all that.

“Well, surely,” I averred, “a heavy-handed cuisine like ours, where taste is overlaid in broad, coarse sweeps rather than in fine brushstrokes could not be married to anything as refined and subtle as wine?” I thought I had finally asked a question that was exactly á point. A true wingdinger.

Grover Sr. smiled into his glass, nodding to himself. He was clearly going to give the thing a go anyway. I decided against telling him that the French themselves hold that heavily spiced Oriental cuisine doesn’t and couldn’t dance with French wine, and had best be accompanied by local lagers and rice wines. What the hell, man has a right to dream, I thought to myself tolerantly.

Kapil’s voice spoke into my tolerance: “Now that you’ve had the three, which would like to continue with?”

“Well, the red is still dancing on my tongue,” I said, dancing with my language, “so I know that’s what suggests itself —”

“Excellent, excellent!” said Grover & Son, all approval. I had clearly passed some test. But I was already hurtling towards a terrible destiny. Even as they reached for the Cabernet, I bulldozed ahead: “I do believe, however, that I will after all go back to the white, if you don’t mind.”

You stellar baboon, I muttered to myself, you’ve just blown it. See the looks on their faces. You simply have no vintage whatsoever. Of course, it was too late to make amends. Grover & Son were grimly pouring out what to me is the most outstanding white wine in the universe, and I was feeling too happy for remorse.

“Best dem white I’ve had,” I babbled genially. “ I’m a white man myself.”


1. Mr WordPress - February 17, 2007

Hi, this is a comment.
To delete a comment, just log in, and view the posts’ comments, there you will have the option to edit or delete them.

2. Priya - February 21, 2007

Hi CY, Reading your articles brings back so many happy memories of my life in India. You made my day:-)

Am so glad that you have your own blog now! Gives me some good reading to look forward to!

3. pelicano - June 15, 2007

The Larousse Gastronomique does come in handy; I may even admit, after a glass or four, to having a fling at a few of its formulas, though, to be honest, I have nearly-completely abandoned the vine to embrace the trees. I’m a fruit man. 🙂

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