October 2019 | 789 words | 3-minute read
As we enter the imposing corridors of the iconic Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, it feels like taking a step back in time.
A few paces ahead, nestled in a quaint corner, is the Palace Lounge by day and the Wine and Malt Lounge by night — which recently opened its gates to non-resident guests between 7pm and 1:30am — was previously open to in-house guests only. We decide to unwind at the lounge on a Friday evening and savour their rare collection of wines.
Jehangir Sabavala’s View from the lounge in 1990s adorns the entrance wall of the heavily wooded lounge that has arches with intricate design, classical style furniture, warm lighting and soothing music playing in the background, to create a warm and inviting ambience.
A connoisseur's delight
The in-house sommelier Abhas Saxena ushers us to a table that provides a panoramic view of Apollo Bunder. He informs us that their exclusive collection of wines, specially curated from different regions around the world, is an oenophiles delight!
“Our curated collection is unique as we procure quality wines, which have ‘character’ and are ‘complete’, from different regions of the world. We also showcase lesser-known ones that are favourites in the countries of their origin; besides, our wines are ‘approachable’,” says Abhas, who takes us on a wine tasting, varietal tasting and glass tasting tour on request before we settle down to relax.
Wine and Malt Lounge boasts 115 varieties of wine to commemorate 115 years of The Taj Mahal Palace, and around 75 of these are served by the glass — one of the most extensive lists in the country. This allows guests to try different varieties without having to buy an entire bottle!
The lounge is the perfect setting for pre- or post-dinner drinks that are paired with canapés, cheese boards, charcuterie platters or a range of bite size hors d’oeuvres.
Using the latest wine preserving equipment, Coravin wine preservation system, the lounge offers rare wines by the glass without pulling the cork. "Coravin allows you to pour the wine without opening the bottle; it keeps the wine fresh for repeated use," says Abhas.
It is a system where a thin hollow needle is inserted through the cork to extract the wine. The bottle is then pressurised with argon, an inert gas present in the air. Once the bottle is pressurised, the wine flows through the needle and is poured into the glass.
Sip wine from glasses of different shapes to know how a curve or the circumference of the glass could enhance or alter your drinking experience.
Of the different varieties of wine we tasted, the classical wine style from Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand is unique for its aromatic style of white, especially in a region predominantly known for Sauvignon wines. The spice and fruit in Domaine Weinbach, the new wine from Alsace in France, lends a fuller body to the wine and is good for novice wine drinkers as it imparts a sweetish taste.
Some of our other favourites were:
Henschke Julius Riesling Eden Valley 2017, Australia: This 150-year-old winery is the pioneer in growing Riesling (a white grape variety) in the Eden Valley in south Australia.
Dominio del Plata Crios Torrontes Uco Valley 2017, Argentina: This top-rated winery of Susana Balbo, often referred to as the First Lady of Argenine wines, is in the country's Mendoza region.
Weinlaubenhof Kracher Welschriesling Trocken Qualitätswein Burgenland 2016, Austria: A white-wine grape variety from Austria, it is known for its diverse styles of wines, including Trocken or the dry style that goes well with fresh food.
The exciting part of learning wines is knowing the history of the region and the societal influences it had on why a particular variety is preferred.
Sommelier Abhas is there to provide personal recommendations and pairing options to make our experience truly memorable. “The finest pairing is not food and wine pairing but mood and wine,” he says, adding, “Pair the style of wine with the cuisine you are going to eat. Different elements of wines can be used as criteria to pair wines. Acidity, body, flavours being the key players. The key is to either contradict or complement these traits.”
We finally return to our table and settle for a savoury, delicate wine — served cool in Mumbai’s muggy heat — and pair it with interesting tidbits on the cheese board. The idea was to relax, sip and enjoy the wine by glass, as we soak in the spectacular view of the vast expanse of the sea in the evening sky.
Photos by Tejal Pandey