Tag Archives: wine and cheese

Article by Nikhil Agarwal for Mumbai Touch Down

I like women and women like me but that’s definitely not enough when you reach the dating-and-beyond stage. After spending a large part of my life in the company of some fine women, I have learnt to understand the art of detail. The thing being, who has the goddamn time??

The mounting workload, the clocking of incessant air miles and the perpetual deadlines leave little room for romance. However, in my journey to find the best wines and cheese located in different pockets of the world I had an epiphany, one that allows you to mix business with pleasure.

Wooing your partner with some fine wine and carefully paired cheese is a heady mix of detail and planning, couple that with a perfect location and you have a sure shot at whatever you are aiming for. Putty in your hands, so to speak.

Wine and Cheese is like Laurel & Hardy, Guns & Roses, Bill & Hillary, and other combinations that are frequently better than either independently. But be careful, you need to do the pairing properly to ensure maximum please and any cheese with any wine will not work. Regions or vineyards that produce fantastic wine usually have very high culinary standards and cheese is an integral part of the whole experience.

You don’t have to know a Cabernet Sauvignon from a Chardonnay to appreciate these destinations – they offer as much peace and scenery as they do great wines. Here’s a look at some destinations that are a winner every time.

We will start off with our very own Nasik. I would recommend making a trip to Sula Vineyards which has done an excellent job in creating a wonderful wine experience. Their tasting room with its breath taking view is one of the most perfect places on the planet in the evenings especially in the colder months. You could head to York Winery which is further down the road for more excellent wine and cheese with an even more dramatic view and then bring the evening to a close less than a km further down the road at Sula’s 21 room only hotel Beyond.

In Akluj, ahead of Pune is the state of the art Fratelli Vineyards with impressive accommodations literally in the middle of nowhere. Get them to hook up a scrumptious sun downer and dinner in their lookout point over the vineyards which are a little away from the winery/rooms for you and your partner. You will have never seen anything like it.

All the above wineries serve generous portions of assorted cheese as accompaniments ensuring that your taste buds are in heaven.

Away from India, if you are heading to the west coast in the United States, I suggest you make a trip to Napa Valley and its surrounding areas which are littered with wineries producing excellent wine. The wineries have tasting rooms, a restaurant or two and rooms that are perfect for some alone time. They even have spa’s so you have an opportunity to go completely all out in pampering her.

Bordeaux in France is another of my favourites; the city is mesmerizing with unbelievable architecture. If you are into wine, this is your mecca and every street corner has cafés and restaurants dishing out incredible cuisine, glorious French cheese with a wine list to match. You can also hire a car and drive into the adjoining vineyard regions, visit some grand Chateaux and carry a picnic basket to make a stop wherever your heart desires. Make sure you make a trip to Saint Emillion, a medieval town on the right of the river Gironde that produces top wines and is simply drop dead gorgeous.

One cannot talk about wine and cheese and of course romance and not bring Italy into the picture. Head to Tuscany, rent a villa or park yourself in the middle of a vineyard and take in the fantastic wines and gastronomy. Maybe after a glass or two you can tell her how much you love her in Italian? Try Castello di Quercetto, a legendary wine producing house with over a 100 years of history. I highly recommend renting one of their apartments and spending some quality time there. Open a bottle of two of their Super Tuscans and she will not be able to resist you. Additionally, your only 25 kilometers away from the lovely city of Florence ! Need I say more? Veneto is another region within Italy that produces fine wine, and with Venice one of the worlds most romantic spots as its main city you cannot go wrong.

In the southern hemisphere if you are travelling to Australia, especially the Southeast of Australia make a trip to the wonderful wine growing regions of Barossa and Mclaren Vale. Try their full bodied reds from the Shiraz grape varietal paired with some local delicacies. I highly recommend visiting the Woodstock Estate in Mclaren Vale for some fabulous hospitality and a charming setting. New Zealand is full of stunning beauty, wineries producing top class wines and world class cheese. Take a trip to Marlborough and visit the legendary Cloudy Bay winery. Also visit the charming Clos Henri winery for an old world kind of wine experience.

There is of course a lot more countries and regions to visit but this should keep you busy for a while and in your partners good books. There are thousands of cheese and endless wines and I hope that you spend a lifetime time taking in their pleasures along with your partner.

Cheers to good loving!

Nikhil Agarwal, Sommelier and Director at All Things Nice – www.allthingnice.in

The Art of Entertaining: Nuances of entertaining at home

An extract for the Diwali Issue of BBC GoodHomes: 

1)Before you plan a wine and cheese party at home, what are the basic things that one should keep in mind?

Well to begin with how many people are coming, making sure you have enough wine glasses, decanters, cheese boards, cheese knives and accompaniments to go along with the cheese and wine like crackers, olives, balsamic vinegar and select fruit.

2)If it’s a wine and cheese party, what should be the host’s perfect shopping list? 

Lots of wine and cheese to begin with ! different styles of wine and an assortment of cheese. I like to open up a range of styles –  2 to 3 reds, a rose´, some sparkling and 2 to 3 whites if I have enough guests. This way everyone has get their style of wine that they prefer, everyone can experiment and move from one wine to the other and also because a variety of cheese will be served, there will be a wine that is simply delicious with that cheese instead of doing an assortment of cheese that has to go with one or two wines.

I’m a stickler for glassware so ensure you have the right glasses. I also think decanters not only help in opening up the wine but look fantastic on any table. A couple of decanters in different shapes will make that table even more inviting.

3)What are the absolute must-have wines that one should stock? 

That’s a very personal choice since one persons taste will differ from another but generally , Champagne and or high quality sparkling wine. Red, rose  and whites from all over the world showcasing a range of varieties, a couple of dessert wines. A few top end wines from those special occasions or if you’re like me then top end wines for today. If stocking wine at home then invest in a wine fridge, not only does it look super but will help you maintain the quality of your wines in the right way. When I have guests from out of town I usually pull out my stock of favourite Indian wines just to show what we can do here as well.

4)Which wine goes with which cheese?

All of them. The world of wine and also cheese for that matter is just so large that there is always a wine to go along any kind of cheese. Keep in mind that wines with high acidity,  Sauvignon Blanc or sparkling wine for example will go with softer cheeses,  wines in high tannin structure will go with hard cheeses. Pair semi hard cheese’s with medium bodied wines. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Instead of trying your favourite blue cheese with a sweet wine which works wonderfully, also try with a full bodied tannic red and see if that works for you, you might prefer it.

5)When you are choosing your wines, what are the aspects that you look for? 

I like to experiment with wines I have not tasted before so I am looking for something new. Perhaps a new grape variety, producer or region I have not come across before or experimented with enough. But when entertaining its important to make sure that your guests aren’t the guinea pigs unless they themselves have a thirst for experimentation as well. I generally keep a few crowd pleasers and also a couple of wines that I know will be completely new to everybody.

6)What’s your secret mantra to be a perfect host?

Really simple. Be warm and hospitable and make sure your guests glass is always full.

Written by: Nikhil Agarwal – Director & Sommelier, All Things Nice