The Red has Run Out
Last weekend I held another wine tasting at the French Club in Islamabad – called “Second Annual Wine Tasting.” Simple, right?
Only a few people arrived. Which was good because the goal was to have the occasion be intimate and easygoing. We sat under trees in gorgeous weather. Last year, we sat inside because the screaming July temperature sent us scurrying for air conditioning.
There we were. Club 21. Islamabad. This is an excellent gathering spot because it’s easy to enter, and the food and wine are always decent. Arrive, sign in, go through a quick search and a scan, and enter the Cavern or Vinous delight.
Sometimes red wine runs out in this city. It becomes not just scarce, but absent. There is still always some bad cheap wine to buy (“French Red”) for too much money, but it’s not worth the price or the headache the next day.
The French Club was low on red. Low to the point that I could only buy white wines. This was splendid because it gave me the chance to learn about French white wine. I’m not going into detail here, because you can search Wikipedia. However I will emphasize that there are intriguing confusions to watch out for in the world of French white wine. For example, the Muscadet wine from the Loire Valley (goes well with seafood, and some tens of millions of gallons were produced and sold last year – and you’ve never heard of it, right?) is made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape. Which means the Melon of Burgundy grape. Except that this wine is not produced in Burgundy, but in the Loire Valley.
Historical sidebar: After a particularly cold snap of weather in the early 1700’s, King Louis XIV learned how the Muscadet grape thrived while other grapes had died – and he ordered that huge quantities of Muscadet be planted in the future.
Or, take Pouilly-Fuissé wine. This is a classic Burgundy white wine made from the Chardonnay grape. However, this is not to be confused with the Pouilly-Fumé wine produced in the Loire Valley (across the river from where the Melon de Bourgogne grape grows, actually).
And remember Muscadet? Not to be confused with Muscadelle, which is one of the three grape varieties that constitute a white Bordeaux blend, made of course not in the Loire Valley but in Bordeaux.
The more I learned about white French wine, the more I thought I was moving in a circle, and the more I wanted to have a drink. So, at the French Club, to celebrate the Second Annual Wine Tasting (the first was to celebrate the launch of my book Vino Voices), we began the evening beneath trees and amid birdsong by ordering champagne. And were served – a Prosecco from Italy! Ah, no harm. All bubbly and good. It’s the unexpected that keeps life here so intriguing.
Our one French attendee remarked how the setting, temperature and ambience reminded her of sitting outside and drinking wine in Provence. (That would not be a Burgundy or a Bordeaux blend, but a rosé. But that’s another wine to explore another time.)