challenges · Italy · Travel

Of Wine Gurus And Wine Tales

I come from a long line of tea drinkers. Wine on the other hand was rare, strictly for the grown-ups, seasonally brought out around Christmas. Perhaps that’s what made it more luxurious and decadent in my mind.

I was in college when I first tasted it.

My roommate thought that the dark red, sweet, Port wine, sent by her parents from Goa for the Sisters, would be more appreciated by her friends. That day, our tiny room became a hotspot. Soon there were five of us giggling and in high spirits. Adrenaline coursed through our bodies as we sipped from our tumblers. It was chaotic as we kept expecting the nuns to swoop into the room any second and break up our party.

“We do not remember days, we remember moments.”

Cesare Pavese

It was a heady feeling. We got away with it. As for that wine, it was unanimously declared as the nectar of the gods.

Years rolled by and no other wine tasted like that one. I also discovered that not all were sweet. My fondness over time waned.

Wine bottles and wine glass at a lunch table.
Summer wine.

Then I visited the Sula Vineyards in Nashik, Maharashtra.

One word- exhilarating!

Too many novels and movies had painted a vineyard as a place of soft sunshine bouncing off the green vines, bunches of delicious grapes ready to be plucked.

This was an adventure I had been gearing for all my life. Except in my reality, the sun blazed with all its might that day. It was a relief to sign up for a tour and wine tasting session, right away.

Our young, bespectacled guide was friendly and bore a striking resemblance to Uday Chopra, the actor. Like little lambs, we followed him everywhere. Surrounded by huge shiny vats, we boned up on how wine was made.

I was amazed to hear of ice wines from Germany for the first time. They have been on my wish list ever since then. I was also a tad heartbroken to find that the Goan port wine I put on a pedestal, did not rate high in the hierarchy of great wines.

Pamphlet about the Sula winery’s tasting tour called The tasting room.
Memory cache!

As for the tasting session, it was a revelation.

There were six varieties to savour. Lesson also included how to hold a flute, swirl, sniff and sip.

Sauvignon blanc, Cabernet Merlot, Chenin blanc, Late harvest, Brut, Rosé all seemed so exotic. The lessons have faded. All I remember feeling very wise at the end of it.

In the words of Tyrion Lannister, “I drink and I know things.

It came in handy when I found myself in an actual wine country, Italy.

Sightseeing, eating by the roadside cafes and sipping wine. I was living the dream.

Mami and I especially signed up for a walking tour of Tuscany with a lunch in a vineyard.

A vineyard in Tuscany showing rows of vines attetching into the green horizon.
Green gold!

“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

Gustave Flaubert

A grape would probably say the same!

I remember the sun was hot in Italy too. Rows of vines stretched straight into the green horizon. We quickly scrambled out of the bus and into the dining area. Two wines to drink with our lunch, followed by a short tour of the farmhouse.

White cows at a farm in Tuscany .
Animal Farm

We later picked a bottle of wine we liked the most during lunch; perhaps two choices made it easier to choose. Smart thinking!

So this wasn’t was the place for tuitions in wine appreciation.

It was back to Florence and to make the most of my time there.

Firenze had already charmed me. I had bought ceramics, magnets but a bottle of wine was a daunting prospect. Honestly speaking, I had no idea what I wanted.

“In order to succeed, we must first believe that we can.”Nikos Kazantzakis

So Mami took the lead and marched us to this shop she had seen during our explorations. A girl in a black apron minded the store. Also, she looked Indian. It felt strangely comforting and bolstered our confidence.

Seher turned out to be an Iranian instead. Turned out, she had been to India sometime back on a Vipassana Meditation Camp. I was zapped. Who knew Vipassana had such a global appeal!

Anyway, we completely threw ourselves at her mercy. She was going to help us pick the most suitable wine to take home.

An interior shot of a shop in Tuscany selling wines , cheese, dried meat and herbs.
In San Gimignano.

Now when I look back, it was a surreal experience. Wine tasting different kinds surrounded by rows of bottles of oils, blocks of meat, cheese, packets of herbs and wine again was an incredible experience.

She did a splendid job.

We got our wines.

Then we had to ask the question that had been vexing us ever since we had landed in the country.

What is that orange drink that everyone seems to be drinking in this city?”

Ah! Is it the Aperol Spritz? I can fix it for you”, said Seher. “Why don’t you wait for it next door?”

Next door happened to be a trattoria done up in the aqua colours of the sea. We sat at a tiny white table and watched the crowd go by.

It was incredible. Then Cesario waltzed in with our order.

“Hi! I’m Cesario. Like the Caesar salad”, the jolly giant said when he handed our drinks with a flourish. Yes, he had us utterly charmed in no time.

A close up of the orange drink, Aperol Spritz in a wine glass.
Pic credit: Juhirk (Mami)

Aperol Spritz. The colour of summer days and glorious sunsets and sunshine smiles.

“To me, food is as much about the moment, the occasion, the location and the company as it is about the taste.”

Heston Blumenthal

The friendly Iranian, the Italian charmer and the ebullient Indians all converged for that evening in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Now that was a memorable day!

My wine appreciation journey continues. I still haven’t got the hang of the notes or the flavours.

As James Purefoy said, “Does it give you pleasure?’ That’s all that matters. And you can get as much pleasure out of an 8-pound bottle of wine as you can out of a 200-pound bottle of wine,

That’s my Marie Kondo mantra, “Does this spark joy?”

Your thoughts?

Friendly Friday


Weekly prompts Weekend Challenge


30 thoughts on “Of Wine Gurus And Wine Tales

  1. We are a bit awful here in Portugal. We don’t have a refined palate, you see, and are quite happy to buy wine boxes, as they last much longer than bottles and are invariably cheaper. I do love port, but it has a tendency to send me zigzag, so only occasionally. I like white port too, which you can have with tonic as a longer drink if you’re so minded. Aperol is pretty, but really not to my taste.
    And incidentally, I’m back!

    Jo’s Monday walk – the canal beat

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Joe! I’ve missed you so much!
      Wine in a box was something I discovered in Florence and I was stunned. I guess travel really expands one’s horizon. Recently I came across wine in a can and it was actually fine. So I’m ready to experiment. I see from your list, I need to add a few to mine.
      Now I’m off to check your post . Welcome back!


  2. I so enjoyed meeting your wine gurus and sharing your experiences of discovering wine – and Aperol Spritz, which I also love 🙂 The little shop in San Gimignano looks wonderful, just my sort of place, and I loved your photo of the Aperol and description of the trattoria where you first tried it! You’ve made me homesick for Italy – we visit most years but haven’t been able to since 2019 😦 Thanks for joining the challenge 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sarah, it was wonderful diving into my memories and dredging up stories for this post. Thank you for the nudge and for all your kind words.
      Italy has that special charm that leaves one absolutely smitten. I’m glad you could visit it before the Corona madness took over the world. I’m sure we will travel again.
      Stay safe, stay healthy!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. In my youth, before I discovered wine I drank port with lemonade very refreshing.

    I loved hearing about your discovery of wine and I thank you for sharing it with our challenge. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Sheetal, what a lovely story about your orderly discovery of wine. This fit the requirements of WQWWC perfectly, so glad to read your delicious post. That orange summer drink sounds lovely. I felt like I was journeying right along with you. Thanks. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. An honest and heady post, Sheetal, lifted up my spirits.
    Regarding the ice wine, Germany may take the credit for the original or the most expensive ones , but Canada can’t be beaten in its production….so far. (Chinese and us, Indians can always take over)
    Cheers to more trip to such exotic places!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Really enjoyed this post, Sheetal! Totally agree with the comment on your “orderly discovery of wines”. That is so completely you 🙂 My favourite bit though is this – “The lessons have faded. All I remember feeling very wise at the end of it.” Sums up my experience with most lessons in life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Puja, can’t help but grin as I read your comments. They take me back to another day at SHS. Champa-g- nae even then had an alluring ring to its name😊
      Right now, basking in the warmth of your appreciation. You made my day!


  7. WONDERFUL traveling with you and your beautiful wine tails along the way. You do transport me as I read along!! I too am not a wine drinker and you already know more than I but I can understand and appreciate all that goes into wine making. I should try and be more adventurous. What a lovely read! Have a great week my friend! ❤️🥰❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A fun exploration of the delights of a good bottle of wine Sheetal! And if one doesn’t like the wine (yours truly) one accompanies their spouse (my husband, who loves wine) on many vineyard tours which always offer superb vistas and a chance for some terrific images!! So glad you found some things to love and friends to share them with!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. As always sparkling, corsé & boisé ..a rivulet that coerces one to quaff in the magic of your piece until the last sip. The feature is terreux, charpenté & rond & takes us on a moelleux swirl around the variétal bubbling golds, crimsons, azures(did they make their way to you?), crystals & not to miss out on the peppy tangerines.. from Port to the bistro..all of it was just avvincenté.
    Loved Gustave Flaubert but énergique would be great.. violent, a no-no!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Sheetal just loved reading it
    Also when you have wine sneakily when young it tastes even better 😃
    Spritz was available everywhere in Italy didn’t like it though,
    sweet wines like Moscato are great

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Amy. Happy you liked the post. Also that was an Interesting nugget of information about wine being cheaper than water. Honestly, we were thrifty travellers holding to our water bottles like we held our backpacks, in a tight grip. Luckily we found a public drinking fountain everywhere we went. So that sorted our water refills. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I had to come back and reread this post and savor it like a fine wine, show the photos to my husband, and in general swirl and sniff it. LOL. I grew up in a home without wine, and for that I’m grateful. It made tasting wine for the first time exactly what you described – a little naughty, grown-up and decadent. I started out loving only sweet wines, and now my taste has widened as well. Of course, most of the wines we dring are from California, since we lived so close to wine country. We just shared a bottle of dessert wine with our neighbors from a winery we visited on the Central CA Coast. It’s been sitting lost in a box for a year in Vince’s sister’s garage. It didn’t hurt it a bit. It was delicious. I’m glad I found this post again. It was well worth reading a second time when I could just relax and linger over it. 🙂 Hope you had a happy Valentine’s Day and have a great rest of your week. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marsha, I’m still lingering over your comments, gathering my thoughts to pen an appreciative response. I’m not doing a good job as you can see by the time I’ve taken to respond to your engaging commentary.
      I’m thrilled to know that my words triggered some happy memories. We may have an ocean in between, the experiences of growing without the wine have been similar.
      Wish I could say, things have become better after all these years. Californian wine is a mystery to me but I’m inspired to look it up. Thank you for raising my spirits so spectacularly, Marsha! Your words made all the difference. Have an amazing weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

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