By Sharon Thomas
“It happened on a voyage to France,” he recalls. Visiting the wineries in France in the early nineties not only got him to taste the exotic wines there but helped him discover his passion — to explore the world of wines. After being a sommelier for years, today John Agnel D’souza organises wine tasting sessions as a freelancer.
D’souza has been sampling wines for more than 27 years. D’souza (56), a resident of Santacruz, began his career as a bartender in 1991 on the Norwegian Cruise Lines.
After returning to Mumbai, he worked with Reveilo Wines and Trinity Vintners for two years as a sommelier and is currently freelancing with several restaurants across Mumbai and Pune. His most recent assignment was at Jamjar Diner in Bandra, where he trained staff on serving and presenting wine.
He says that an ideal session on wine tasting includes basic “sipping, sniffing and swirling” of the wine to check the balance between sweetness, alcohol, acidity and tannin, which makes it cordial to consume. “Drinking and tasting wine is not the same. While you can drink wine with most kinds of food, tasting wine is best complemented along a plain cracker. Even chewing gums and using a strong perfume can alter the tasting sense,” he adds, reminiscing about the 500-plus flavours of wine he has relished through the years.
March, April and May is the Indian wine season and during these months D’souza assists wineries by conducting workshops for visitors on wine classifications and tasting techniques. He was also the official sommelier for The Kala Ghoda Wine Festival in 2013.
Though it varies based on events, he charges about Rs 6,000 and above for a three-hour session on wine tasting. He also assists in organising “wine dinners”, where the guests are served wine with food that compliments it. D’souza, who also maintains the wine cellars of a few celebrities, testifies that some have a fascinating, vintage collection of wines.
On an increasing number of people preferring to make wines at home, D’souza thinks it’s impressive but the outcome is very different from the one created at a winery. “The homemade wine will contain a higher level of alcohol as it is not measured and assessed technically,” he added.
Describing the complexity of choosing one label for Christmas, D’souza says, “There’s no single suitable wine for a season or an occasion, the taste and mood of the drinker matter the most.”
He suggests that a person who has a sweet tooth can choose a fruit wine while one who prefers dry taste can go for a Rhythm wine and for the ones who prefer sparkling wine can choose from York, Chandon or a Casablanca label. “Wine can be as unique as different terrains in the world and it’s also an atlas that brings the world together,” D’souza sums up.
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