Handpicking the very finest international hotspots for the ultimate sensory wine experiences, Kishore and Smita Iyengar scale up the goblet crest this winter season.
1. Entrecasteaux Channel, Tasmania –Australia
Half an hour outside Hobart, Tasmania’s cheery capital and you’re cruising along exhilarating Indian Ocean seafronts, leading to this bracingly panoramic, grass knoll lookout. The spot instantly calms you with a smile as you sit on the bench watching colourful sail boats and schooners on the ultramarine waters. The moments can only be celebrated with aptly picked fine labels. A chilled Australian Banrock Station Chardonnay makes it’s presence felt, the hay coloured apricot and grapefruit scented white uplifts the scenery with peach, orange and pineapple flavors.
Strolling along the banks, watching restless seagulls prancing and a gentle wind adding zest, you go for a fine Spanish Mia Frexeinet Red, a well rounded wine with soft tannins, ripe fruits and berry flavors. The Tasmanian Cheddar and Blue Vein cheeses make a perfect combo on your taste buds.
2. Flam –On Aurlandsfjord – Norway
Perched on rolling hillocks, overlooking the stunningly beautiful Fjord and the misty waterfall- etched verdant mountains around, this spectacular locale is heaven on earth, literally. Watching fat cows and sheep on the grassy slopes and wild flowers dancing in the breeze, its fairytale land for you. Flam village is hardly inhabited, the Flambana classic railway is the highlight of this unique experience.
The moment is heralded by a superb German Black Tower Riesling from Bingen, the dry wine excels with heather, lime and green bamboo bouquets. Just before boarding the train, cap the scenic sojourn with a robust and peppery Pampas del Sur Malbec from Argentina, allowing the leather and spice flavours to boost your journey onwards to Myrdal.
3. Evolve Back Kuruba Safari Lodge, Luxury Resort Kabini – India
On the scenic, moonlit Dining On The Deck venue overlooking the meandering Kabini River, the candlelight glows flicker gently with the seasonal wafts. We watched the darkness envelop the world renowned Nagarhole National Game Reserve, home to the Indian tiger and scores of distinguished wild species. Our ice bucket was honoured with a fantastic Zonin Ventiterre Merlot from Italy, the silky smooth tannins aiding flavors of light coffee, prunes and cocoa.
Our grilled cottage cheese with pesto emulsion and paprika sprinkle made it a special savour, the vintage Finca Flichman Misterio Malbec from Argentina uplifting with enhanced woody, tobacco and burnt wood flavours. The wind dwarfed the distant growls of the big cats. They would be awake. We cheered their eco-collaboration with the red wine!
4. Evolve Back Chikkana Halli Estate Luxury Resort Coorg – India
No experience can be as memorable as the ‘By The Lake’ wining and dining experience here in Karnataka. As mellow twinkles enlivened our sights across dark viridian plantation vegetation and Kodava heritage villas, a placid, mirrored lake smiled back in the twilight glow.
Our specially chosen Chateau de Fontenille Entre Deux Mers white was poured with ceremony , the lemon and dry hay notes adding verve to pear and white rose flavours across our senses. Nothing interrupted the calm and soft whispers we exchanged. A gentle crackling fire glowed welcoming luminance across our seating as we absorbed the night sounds of silence! Our fine red wine –a medium bodied, well rounded Two Oceans Shiraz from South Africa announced it’s synergy with striking berry, plums and smooth tannin palate, the wine lingering on to dark chocolate flavours. Hmmmm!
5. Niagara-On-The-Lake, Lake Moraine -Banff, Lakefront – Kelowna – Okanagan –Canada
Across the scenic Niagara-On-The-Lake wine region in Ontario, boutique wineries create award winning world class varietals, lesser known to the rest of the world. To celebrate their excellence, an ideal location would be on the fringe of the spectacular Niagara and Horseshoe Falls by night. The psychedelic mood illumination brings alive the sheer, raw multi-colour majesty of the amazing rapids in mood tones.
You raise a cheery goblet of two splendid wines, -A Chateau de Charmes 2015 Chardonnay Musque Estate Bottled V.Q.A. showcasing lovely lemon, green apple and moist grass flavours. The wine exhilarates with chilled grace as the notes create sensory curiosity. A zesty red takes over the celebration in right royal style, -a No.99 Wayne Gretzky Cabernet Merlot 2017 uplifts the experience with fleeting spice, plums and ripe berry flavours. To match the red, a 90% dark chocolate makes merry on the palate!
The lake is Kelowna’s lifeline and most admired feature. It is around this charming water body that you find most of the outstanding wineries of the Okanagan in British Columbia. With undulating, sloping blue hills around, scores of lush vineyards at inclines gentle colour the canvas.
Strolling down the panoramic lake views at the carpeted green Mission Hill Family Estate Winery in west Kelowna, we were awed by the vast sweep of green vine rows almost fringing the lake shores, the skies tinged by fleeting pink and crimson streaks of a fine autumn evening. In our hands were two superlative Mission Hill wines. The 2017 Perpetua white with its remarkable Chardonnay with finely fragrant pear and lime bouquets and going on to a long, intense lingering palate.
We drank in the gentle shades that turned the scenery around in myriad shades as we raised a toast with a superb 2013 Quatrain consisting Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon carefully calibrated proportions. The intense, full-bodied wine heralded cassis, dry herbs and black plum nicely structured around firm tannins, ripe fruit and spice. Magnificent marvels, those!
The snow was unrelenting in its intensity as we drove into Banff in the gorgeous Alberta Rockies. Through winding snow crowned roads we arrived at Heaven On Earth. On the rocky banks of this placid, mirrored aquatic marvel reflecting brilliant neon-esque turquoise and emerald green, we held our breath to stare in awe and wonder. Lake Louise, one of the prettiest lakes in the world. On the ledge we sat, saluting Nature’s incomparable paradise with a Tantalus Vineyards’ Old Vines Riesling offering lemon zest and fruit on the nose and slate and chalk, nectarine and apricot distinct on the palate.
Pristine silence and untouched beauty appealed with uninhibited brilliance as we went in to cap our experience with a boutique, limited edition white –2018 ‘Inclination’ from Nagging Doubt Winery in Okanagan. The fantastic blend radiating white peach, tangerine and fruity character thrilled us across the stunning views of Lake Louise. Sante, we whispered.
6. The Hahnenkamm Summit -Kitzbuehel –Austria
Minus 5 degrees Celsius doesn’t deter us from hopping onto to the steep gondola to the top of Tyrol’s famed summit.
As the Alpine peaks shimmer in snowy sunshine and the world’s most exotic ski paradise Kitzbuehel gleams in miniscule mirth, we settle ourselves on a wooden ledge near a derelict red snow covered vintage cable car, overlooking the valley below. Pulling out our ice chilled Domaene Gobelsburg Riesling from the Kamptal wine region, we raise a cheer to the stunning views beyond the Tyrolean Alps.
As frenetic skiers ready and leapfrog into the deep slopes at hyper confident speeds, we watch in gleeful delight. The snow gets more insistent as we complement the soft, winking sunshine through the clouds with a fine Schloss Gobelsburg Zweigelt. The wine exhilarates with spicy and tangy notes,. The after taste of roasted mushrooms is distinct!
7. Lake Stafelsee –Murnau, Bavaria –Germany
Calm, breathtaking, rejuvenating and fairy tale. In the lap of the Bavarian Alps, this charming water body with tiny hamlets dotting the shores is a naturalist’s delight. Walking trails and bridal paths abound and the leisurely lake cruiser is a wonderful way to drink in the views of abounding greenery and Alpine meadows in the distance. On a leaf scattered bench we sat, our goblets of a gentle, lily and lemon flavored Italian Rubicone Sparrow Pinot Grigio in hand. The wine added cheer with mildly acidic flavors.
Aboard the breezy cruiser the chill wind stirred up an approaching autumnal exhilaration as crimson and mustard yellow interspersed with olive green and peach on the forests. On the small jetty of one of the tiny hamlets we did the honors. Our full bodied red Chilean red added depth to the scenery, Concha Y Toro’s Casillero del Diablo Devil’s Collection with marvelous black cherry, vanilla and ripe plum notes. The fine wine’s silky tannins added depth with well rounded and balanced palate.
8. Lake Wakatipu -Queenstown – New Zealand
We were told Lake Wakatipu had a huge giant sleeping in it’s lap….his breathing created waves we could feel….Sitting on the elevated vantage perch of the ultra boutique Azure Lodge on Sunshine Bay, we soaked in the evening tones of mauve and crimson across the lake. Our companions for the evening? A super Australian Wolf Blass Bilyara Chardonnay with impressive thyme, pine nut and peach notes.
The shadows lengthened gracefully across the Southern Alps, the snow changing tones by the minute. The North Island soft Brie cheese enhanced our white wine, as we awaited the barbecued prawns with coriander and paprika chutney. The wine matching the sizzling dish was a wonderfully clove-and-cinnamon flavoured Framingham Pinot Noir. Fabulous wine, even fabulous location! Kia Ora!
9. Cape Point, Above The Cape of Good Hope, Cape Town –South Africa
Jaw dropping, sweeping and shimmering two ocean views stopped us in our path. An undulating mountain range on the Indian Ocean coast and the relentless crash of Atlantic ocean waves below us, we could see the Cape of Good Hope and the nearby cliffs in a dramatic, weather worn ensemble. Cape Point is dramatic and overwhelming and spending good time absorbing the rugged beauty is a lifetime experience. It needed a superlative Paarl wine, a Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc with delightful honeysuckle and green apple flavours to complement the iconic landmark.
Moments in time like these make for everlasting memories and we didn’t want to miss any opportunity to take in the Cape sights and attending sounds! Down at ground level right on the Cape of Good Hope, we cheered the historic site round which centuries ago Vasco Da Gama sailed to India in search of the famed health giving spices. A fabulous Domaine Barons de Rothschild Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile was in order, the smooth tannins, pink pepper, paprika, chocolate and coffee flavors of the red wine ascended with blackcurrant notes as if in symphony with the crashing waves in the near distance. What a wine, what a sight!
10. Castaway Island, Islands of Fiji – South Pacific
An elevated wooden platform stretching into the sand, kissing the waves. Colorful cabanas over sun decks restaurant covers, sheltering us from the sun and mind blowing panoramas across the ultramarine-to-turquoise-tinged Pacific. These were dream frames! We quaffed a musky red southern Italian wine -Altemura Puglia Negroamaro which wowed us with cigar box, black truffle and cocoa notes going onto well rounded flavours.
With zipping water scooters adding action colour across the waves and the small island’s white sand fringed shoreline punctuated with bright lagoon cruising canoes, the idyllic scene was akin to a Robinson Crusoe frame. A Rioja-Spain red added intense ruby colour to our sensory enchantment with a Solar Viejo Tempranillo. The oaky and light tobacco bouquet was striking, we sipped into a velvety wine with pinewood and wet earth flavours.