The wine life with Radhika Puar

The Vitis vinifera grapes, when intermingled with a certain measure of yeast over a prolonged span of time, convert into ethanol and carbon dioxide. Different varieties of grapes and yeasts produce an exhaustive yet fascinating range of wines. Apart from these two factors, the terroir or the composite effect of environmental properties, such as the farming practices, climate, grape phenotype, condition the production process of wine. The biochemical development of grape from the fruit into a globally adored spirit is an art that is loved by many and impossible to ignore for those who bear the slightest immersion in the culinary world.

Within the spectrum of admiration, love and adoration for wine and wine-making, Radhika Puar stands in the last category. “I have always been fascinated by the tremendous variety available in wines. Different grape varieties and terroirs produce different kinds of wines. Some wines are sweet and some are dry. Some are light-bodied and some are full-bodied. There are Red, White and Rose’ wines. A great wine not only tastes good but is also an investment” the wine connoisseur narrates excitedly, in her opening sentences.

A graduate from the London School of Economics and Political Science, Radhika spent a few years exploring the corporate sectors of the United Kingdom and India before she decided to exit the arena in pursuit of carving a niche for herself. She soon decided to combine her prior business skills from LSE with solid skills in wine by joining the Wine and Management Programme at France’s renowned Le Cordon Bleu. From then on, there was no looking back for Radhika, who is currently the owner of The Grape Vine, which is an India-based blog site that centres itself around wine, food and travel adventures. She also works in close association with the Ambassador of Champagne to India. At present, Radhika is steadily exploring options with the aim of starting her own entrepreneurial venture, whereby she is able to “encourage people to drink wine as a part of the enhanced food experience”.

In her career as a wine entrepreneur, Radhika has visited over 41 vineyards between the wine-expanses of France, India and Australia. “I am continually learning how different terroirs express themselves in wine,” she says. The young lady elaborates upon her comparative assessment of wine as a gourmet trend in Western Europe vis-a-vis India. She explains: “In parts of Europe, wine is considered an agricultural product. It is a healthier option to hard liquor However, in India, it is not considered an agricultural product, and the distinction between wine and hard liquor is not understood, which is unfortunate.” In the near future, she hopes to create ripples in Indian drinking culture by encouraging people to give up conventional drinking of hard liquor in exchange for a sophisticated and healthy glass of wine. Hence, not only does Radhika envision an India that adopts healthier drinking habits but one that is more conscious about the art of wine-making and the value behind its curation. The gradual ageing of this fruit spirit is known to increase its value in the wine market, hence making it a worthy investment in her views, as she had initially stated.

Choosing an alternative and lesser-known career has had its fair share of challenges for Radhika, all of which she embraces with due optimism and an evolved vision. “I face the same problems as any woman striking her own path. I find that it is still taboo for women to be involved in anything to do with alcohol in India. The lack of distinction between wine and hard liquor plays a big role in this”, comments the entrepreneur. However, having the unconditional support of her immediate family, as well as finding fulfilment in her career choice aid in keeping Radhika fully dedicated and passionate in her evolution as an upcoming professional in the wine industry. She concludes by saying, “As India grows and her economy grows further, Indians are travelling abroad and experiencing other cuisines and cultures. Awareness and interest in wine will only grow further, and returning Indians are likely to look for a taste of their foreign adventures in India.” It is within this market that Radhika hopes to make her mark in the years to come.

FOOD & WINE PAIRINGS

Radhika recommends these food & wine pairings:

• Smoked salmon with Champagne

• Danish blue cheese or Roquefort with Sauternes

• Rajasthani lal maas with Chateauneuf du Pape or a good quality new world Shiraz

• Goanese prawn curry with a good quality rosé or a late harvest Gerwurztraminer

MEMORABLE VINEYARD VISIT

“In the case of the Cognac Delamain, I was impressed by the enthusiasm and the affection the house owners had for the Cognacs they produced. The owners themselves showed us around and explained the process, and allowed us to experience on the nose their oldest cognacs straight from the barrel! The experience ended with a tasting of their Cognacs, and a souvenir which I have with me to this day. Why was I impressed? Because Cognac is made by double distilling wine and its ageing in oak barrels is counted in terms of decades rather than years (think closer to a half-century in barrel). Hence the business model and the vision of the business is extremely long term, and you have to have a lot of patience, perseverance, and a certain sense of detachment to put into production what you may or may not see through. It is an honour to work with what previous generations have put in place for you and a privilege to produce what coming generations will make use of,” says Radhika.

INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT WINE

Here are some interesting facts about wine: 

• Wine has always been associated with the landed nobility in Europe and is considered agricultural produce in France.

• In the past year, the change in wine index is 20% upwards as compared to diamonds and precious metals, which rose to a meagre 3%.

• In India, the production of wine dates back to as early as the 4th century BC.

• Grapes are not stomped underfoot as movies would have you believe it. Today wineries have hydraulic presses which do the job more efficiently.

• Champagne is the name of a region in France, as is Cognac. Sparkling wine from Champagne is called “Champagne”, and grape brandy produced in Cognac is called “Cognac”!

• Legally, if sparkling wine isn’t made in Champagne, it cannot be called “Champagne”! it would have to be called “Sparkling wine”.

• French wines have been associated with Indian Royalty for at the very least a century and a half.

• Cristal Champagne (Prestige Cuvee from the house of Louis Roederer) was first made for Czar Alexander the 2nd of Russia in 1876. The Czar was so paranoid against being assassinated that he insisted that the bottle be clear and transparent and not green (for fear of poisoning) and that there be no punt at the bottom of the Champagne bottle for fear that a bomb could be placed there.

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