‘Subu Ramachandran is a busy and an active finance professional. He grew up in India, has lived in Europe and is settled in New York City. He enjoys learning about wine, sharing them with friends, family and fellow oenophiles’. This is his (unedited) entry in our seminal wine competition.
Growing up in a traditional south Indian conservative family, there was no exposure to wine or any alcohol. There was no culture of wine in India, in the 80s and 90s. The cuisine however was extremely complex, aromatic and on the palate delivered a multitude of flavors. I took an interest in cooking, helping my grand mom in kitchen, primarily cooking a variety of soups and stews. She taught me to taste, taste at every stage and discern if it was balanced, if not what was predominant.
Fast forward, to my early 20s, I found myself in Paris for an exchange program in business school. I was no longer a tee-tootler but was still a wine virgin. A certain lady classmate was trying to draw my attention and invited me to a picnic. She had brought with her some cheeses and a bottle of red wine. The shape of the bottle looked peculiar to me as it was not cylindrical. The bottle shoulder was gently sloping as opposed to the angular ones I had noticed in many college parties. As I sniffed the wine, I was totally taken in, this was unlike any other alcohol I have had. This had intense perfume of red cherry, roses and pink flowers began to dominate and captivate my consciousness. I spent rest of the evening going back to the glass just for a sniff. It was so profound, provoking emotions that I never realized a beverage can do. I thought, wow so this is why people drink wine. Perhaps I ought to pay attention to this beverage.
Few years later, I was an associate in the trading floor at a prestigious investment bank in London. The work was rigorous and I hardly found time to sleep, let alone indulge in fine-wine. The industrial mass-produced supermarket wines however were imbibed at parties, but none evoked emotions like the one years back in Paris.
While at a work dinner in Canary Wharf, my boss, who I could tell knew a thing or two about wine, had ordered a bottle of white wine. Wine initially didn’t deliver much on the nose, however on the palate the wine had layers of flavors and texture yet without any weight. There was harmony between the acid and the textural material. Everything was in place, exactly how my grand mother had taught me. The interplay of the wine and the grilled salmon, I ordered, was unlike anything I ever had. The wine cleansed my tongue, cleaned any remaining protein offered new taste and texture so that I was ready for another bite of the salmon. I finally realized why there was a place for wine at the table.
Containing my excitement, I enquired the identity of the captivating wine. My boss, with a smile replied, “Ramonet Montrachet”. That was a hard one to remember, hence I pulled out a pen to make a note. I asked what the grape was, and the answer puzzled me. This was Chardonnay? The back of my business card read: “Ramonet Montrachet – Chardonnay!”. This set my journey spanning now over a decade of exploring the wonderful world of wine. (I was young and naïve not to make a note of the vintage.)
I am grateful for everyone in this industry. Be it dedicated growers, vignerons and their teams for safeguarding, experimenting and pushing the boundaries of wine. For wine-writers to bringing to light these stories and grapes, however obscure a region or grape they be. Every grape/region needs a voice (not just the French ones). For importers/retailers/restaurants making these wines accessible to the public. And finally, to you the consumer (and I belong here), for supporting this industry with your hard-earned money. This helps us all to learn, map, preserve and pass-on the gift from nature to generations beyond, just like the Cistercian monks did for hundreds of years!
Few years back I met with my friend in Paris. As we briefed each other about our lives, she was pleasantly surprised that I have become an oenophile. She reminded me, that she takes the credit for bringing a bottle of 1990 Mugnier Musigny.