India is an immense country where the number of potential viticultural regions dwarfs that of most wine-producing countries. The operative word is “potential,” because based on the sample I tasted last night, they should hold off on that whole “wine for export” thing. We saw a bottle of Indian Shiraz on the menu and, because nobody checked with me, a bottle of the stuff appeared at the table. The next time I dine with this particular collection of buffoons, I will bring a stun gun and a cattle prod to ensure that none of them gets anywhere near the wine list.
I am particular about wine, and will cheerfully display my pompous plumage in all its glory whenever I have the chance. That doesn’t mean that I won’t drink most of the stuff I am served, because in the last 10 years or so, the wine industry has made huge gains in quality control and production techniques, which means that most wines that are commercially available are palatable. Not necessarily good or interesting, but certainly correctly made and without obvious flaws. And even boring wine is infinitely preferable to the finest soft drinks. Not this one — it wasn’t boring — it was bad. The nose was sharp, tart and faintly chemically; not a good beginning. Not surprisingly, it got worse! I have tasted wines that were described as having a burnt tire flavor or aroma and, strangely, in balanced wines it can be interesting. But until last night I had never tried a wine that immediately dragged me, kicking and screaming, to a pile of burning tires. We have all seen video of those huge piles of discarded tires that for some reason always catch on fire, and seem to burn forever. Well, there is one sitting near some winery in India, and they are carefully bottling the runoff.