Wine trainer Dominique Besnard talks about Indian oenophiles and his personal favourites at our wineries
The story behind his marriage could inspire a Bollywood movie, Dominique Besnard tells us, as we sit down for a chat at the Coffee Day Square in Nungambakkam. But first, we exchange cards and I almost successfully manage to pronounce the French moniker he consults under — Vive Le vin. “She was a PhD student of history and we met in France,” he exclaims, telling me about Kamakshi, his wife, who hails from Lucknow. Just like in the movies, they fell in love, were married and are now back in Chennai 20 years later, so that their young children can learn about their Indian heritage.
Taking up the bottle
The odd thing, though, is that Besnard, a wine consultant and trainer, hails from a part of France that is not known for its wines. “I am from Arras in the North of France, where there are no vineyards. There are only beer drinkers there,” he laughs. It was through his father, who stocked bottles from places like Burgundy and Bordeaux, that Besnard was introduced to wines. Initially working in the field of human resources, he became a wine consultant in Paris after a stint at Institut Jules Guyot in Dijon. After six months in Chennai, Besnard agrees that being a wine drinker here, with our taxes, can be a challenge, when compared to a city like Bangalore, where he lived for a year. That said, the clientele at his sessions in the city are a mix of expats and Indians, in their 30s to 40. He finds that a lot of women are curious to learn about wines, especially those who are not open to drinking spirits.
Know your grape
“The sauvignon from Sula and the shiraz from Zampa are very good,” he informs, when asked to share his critical opinion of our grapes. He feels that our whites are better than our reds and, having done the equivalent of a thesis on the wine industry in India, he can more than hold his own in a conversation about the same. Awareness about wines is yet to spread in Chennai, he feels, citing the example of how wines are stored on open shelves in TASMACs. This could result in the wines going bad because of the heat. So even if there are just a couple of guests who are new to wine at a session, he spends at least 15 minutes on the basics. “In a glass of wine, there’s flavour, aroma, the story of a place and person — so much to take in,” he shares, adding, “When you have the basic knowledge, then you can start appreciating it.” Besnard organises sessions at The Leela Palace, Taj Gateway, and at clients’ homes, and even does sessions in French. “It is important to go step by step and choose your wines according to your taste and budget,” concludes Besnard, who is also a fan of single malts and our “Old Monk.”
Besnard’s next session, on French wines, takes place at Taj Gateway on March 1. At Rs. 2,000 per person. Details: 9789944094
– Ryan Peppin