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Big Banyan Wine pairing at Graze - Taj Vivanta MG Road

Friday, May 09, 2014Me! In words

With the number of wine paired dinners and tastings I have been attending recently, its safe to say that it seems to be the order of the day for most brands. When I received an invite for a Big Banyan wine pairing, complete with their wine maker Lucio Matricardi in attendance, there was no saying no. Big Banyan has had its shelf space at home for a while now but seemed relatively silent on wine scene in Bangalore in general. This dinner announced its arrival with a bang. 

The venue for this wine pairing was the Graze at Taj Vivanta on MG Road. Graze has a time-tested menu which has not seen much of a change lately and so the excitement was in the pairing of the wines. The evening began with socializing over a glass of Rosa Rossa - a still rose wine with brilliant hues of violet and pink rose. Always an ardent fan of rose wines, this one was a beautiful start to the evening - excellent for those who are initiating their way into the the world of wine. 

Big Banyan Rosa Rossa 

Our table for the evening

The Rosa Rossa went extremely well with the salmon-capers-cream cheese canapes. The acidity of the wine balanced the slight saltiness of the salmon and the tang of the capers. 

The vegetarian canape served was a herb cheese on filo pastry - the salt of the cheese blends perfectly with the mellow sweetness of this Rosa Rossa making the pairing a good one. 

The bread basket, while we waited for the first of the courses to come through. Stand-outs were the corn bread and the pesto pull-apart rolls. 

The meal began with an amuse bouche of champagne jelly, served with a touch of micro-greens and herbed foam. I don't recall the make-up the foam, but this was an amuse bouche that I did not much care for. 

And now to Lucio Matricardi, Big Banyan's official Italian wine maker - there is something so charming about the Italians I have met in the food and beverage industry. A singular factor that drives them all is passion for what they do and a beautiful style of whisking you away to their world. Lucio began his evening's introduction to the wines saying "I needed a good reason to tell my mother why I was drunk all the time - that's why I became a wine maker!". With the evening set, Lucio introduced each wine, its tasting notes and it was time to pay complete attention to our 4-course meal.
The first wine of the evening was the Big Banyan Sauvignon Blanc. This straw yellow still wine is fruity, served at a pleasantly chilled temperature. Its fruity base and fresh aromas of citrus make it a slightly sour and dry wine on the palate. It went well with the Beet Carpaccio and the Chicken & Cous Cous Salad that were served as part of the 1st course. 

The beet salad was a sight in contrasting colors. Beetroot seems to be making a comeback at most high-end restaurants. While the carpaccio is by far the most common means, it is a never-fail presentation of this red beauty. Paired with dressed up salad greens, this dish went well with the acidity and the freshness of the Sauvignon Blanc. The balsamic reduction though could have been avoided. 

A closer look at the Beet Carpaccio which were sherry marinated, with Chevre and balsamic reduction. 

The chicken and cous cous salad was another pairing with the Sauvignon Blanc which was pleasant without being too memorable. Sauvignon Blanc after all always works well with white meats.  

Up close with the Chicken and Cous Cous Salad served with mixed greens, cranberry speckled cous cous and a raspberry vinaigrette. 

The Roasted Garlic Soup with garlic chips and basil oil came out with a flourish next. This was a good soup - the smooth texture complementing the wine well. It was light enough not to overpower the wine, despite garlic being the central ingredient. Though the soup was great, I did not finish it down to the last drop as I would have liked to keeping in mind that soups always tend to fill me up.  

The Roasted Garlic Soup with garlic chips and basil oil

Next came the palate cleanser in the form of a lemon tea sorbet - which is exactly what the name suggests - lemon tea sorbet with a finish of mint. 

And from here we moved to the main courses - the famous John Dory from Graze of course made an appearance on the menu, as did the chicken with mash and vegetables, Marubini and a wild mushroom risotto. The main courses were paired with a Big Banyan Limited Spring 2008 Shiraz which I simply must get my hands on. I have never been much of a red wine person, but there are a handful out there that make me nod in affirmative to a refill and this was one of them.

This is a superlative, bold wine, dry on the palate and with amazingly long legs that caress the body of your glass when you swirl it around. I may sound like a wine snob here, trust me am far from it. But I do love to learn the right way to appreciate a wine and the smell, swirl, smell, sip is truly the right way to go. And oh - when I say smell- do it the Lucio Matricardi way - have the rim of the glass completely envelope your nose and inhale deep.

This wine has a well rounded, full body flavor that pairs it perfectly with chicken, though you may think otherwise. No denying it would have been ideal with medium rare beef medallions, but the versatility of this wine lies in its ability to pair well with a range of meats - making it a good choice for the Indian market. The chicken was done well and a special mention must go to the satin scarf like texture of the mash potatoes. This was the pick of all the main courses that came across the table. 

Chicken with olive potato mash, garlic baby spinach, young vegetables finished with a pan glaze

Like I have said numerous times before in my posts - there are only a handful of restaurants in Bangalore that make a great risotto and unfortunately Graze does not fall in that category. The rice, though with good flavor was pointedly under-cooked and was left virtually untouched by a dining partner. A good excuse though to indulge some more in the Limited Edition Shiraz

Wild mushroom risotto with porcini foam and truffle essence that sadly did not make the cut

And the one dish that always catapults Graze back to the top (though the risotto is still not forgivable) - the John Dory - with fork crushed potatoes, lettuce and a very interesting lemongrass veloute and red wine jus. This made for a delicious meal - perhaps a little too mild for the strong Shiraz, but on its own a brilliant dish. I loved the pairing with the wine, because, like I was once told by a winemaker - "It all depends on how you like the pairing with a wine - rules be damned"

John Dory with fork crushed potatoes, warm lettuce, lemongrass veloute and red wine jus

And lastly on to the desserts which were paired with the Big Banyan Bellissima - a late harvest muscat. This wine will take you a while to appreciate. It is deep amber in color, served chilled and has strong fruit notes of apricot and peach - with peach standing out more prominently for me. The wine has a thicker, satiny texture, and each sip takes a few seconds more. This was paired with Creme Brulee Napolean and a Banana Souffle with sesame ice-cream and chocolate soil. Ideal for desserts of this nature. 

Creme Brulee Napolean was an almond stuffed filo pastry - pleasant dessert

The sesame ice cream with chocolate soil was the only nice factor about this dessert platter

While the food may not have done complete justice to the bouquet of Big Banyan wines showcased this evening, one thing was for certain - Big Banyan wines do make for wonderful pairing and certainly elevate any dish they are presented with. Its a good thing Big Banyan is getting out there and marking their presence on the ever growing wine scene in Bangalore. 

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