Sunday, 7 November 2010

Grover wine dinner at Moti Mahal

'It's time Brits drank Indian food with Indian wine, instead of a beer named after a snake', begins Amber Vaidya, brand ambassador for Indian winery Grover Vineyards, in an impassioned speech at gourmet Indian restaurant Moti Mahal in Holborn.

He'd gathered a group of journalists to celebrate Grover's entry to the UK, which was signed and sealed this summer through an exclusive partnership with Bibendum, who've taken on three wines in the Grover range: the Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Shiraz and La Reserve, voted best new world red last year by Steven Spurrier in his Decanter column.

Situated in the Nandi Hills, 40km from Bangalore, Grover Vineyards was founded in 1988 by defense equipment tycoon Kanwal Grover after seven years of research into the best grape growing areas in India. The 410-acre estate is planted with international varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc.

Buffered by the mountains, the vines are protected from monsoon winds and enjoy a long growing season, while the limestone rich soils imbue the wines with a mineral core. Keen to produce terroir-driven wines in the French style, Grover enlisted the help of Bordeaux-based super consultant Michel Rolland, who counts Angélus, Lascomes, Léoville Poyferré, Robert Mondavi and Casa Lapostolle among his high profile clients. Winemaking methods therefore, are distinctly French – La Reserve is hand picked and spends six months in French oak.

But what of the food? Moti Mahal's head chef Anirudh Arora has created a menu inspired by his childhood travels along the Grand Trunk Road, a 2500km stretch built in the 16th century that navigates the breadth of the country, pumping life through it. The five course menu begins with a Punjab dish: masala paneer with tomatoes and bell peppers, followed by succulent monkfish simmered in a tamarind, ripe tomato and ginger sauce – a dish made popular in Lahore, paired with the grassy, fresh, grapefruit-driven 2009 Sauvignon Blanc.

Next up is the culinary highlight of the night: butterflied leg of lamb seasoned with cinnamon and green chillies. The small, juicy morsels of lamb are the softest I've ever eaten - almost like lamb clouds, with an etherial tenderness, matched with the young, fruit forward, spicy 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz. The final main is chicken tossed in basmati rice, crushed fennel and saffron from the food capital of India – Lucknow, paired with the jewel in Grover's crown; La Reserve 2009.

Closed on first sniff, the wine soon opens up to reveal a bouquet of ripe red and black fruits, with hints of spice. On the palate it shows black currant, mocha, chocolate, vanilla and licorice, which fuse together into a long, pleasing finish. The feast is rounded off with an exquisite bread pudding made in reduced saffron milk served with cardamom ice cream. Having had my first sip of Indian wine at the London International Wine Fair this year, I was excited by the wines on show at the dinner. Displaying elegance, character, and a sense of place, they suggest a promising future for Indian wine. The Cobra days are over...

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