On cloud wine

The moment Kelsang Dolker, 25, enters a liquor store, she feels overwhelmed by the varieties of imported wines displayed on the wall-to-wall shelves. All the different names and locations listed on the bottles can leave an amateur flummoxed.  “Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah, what are these, even?” she asks.

Dolker used to just decide on red or white, pick something not too pricey and grab the bottle. But she started developing a taste for Merlots with their dry and smooth finish, and came back repeatedly to buy more of the same.

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Ashank SJB Rana also knew little about the vast variety of wines before deciding to study it. It was because of the potential he saw for wine promotion in Nepal that he graduated in wine management from Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He is now director of marketing at Vesper House, a wine cellar and restaurant in Jhamsikhel. Rana has seen a gradual shift in Vesper’s clientele, with more Nepali buyers nowadays than expats.

“It is natural for customers to be baffled, as wines are still a slow bloomer in the country. But consumers are catching up because they travel abroad and have exposure,” says Rana.

Vesper House currently imports hundreds of wines, including from Australia, Spain, Germany, Italy, and France. The Nepali company also has its own wine label appealing to a wide variety of pallets, from Chardonnay to Syrah to Cabernet Sauvignon. Nepali customers typically prefer Merlot and Chardonnay.

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Vesper works with restaurants to advise them on their wine menus, and trains their waiters.

We asked Rana to list his ten most popular wine brands.

The 10 most popular wines

Costa Russi Barbaresco D.O.P, Gaja 2014

The 2014 Costa Russi is an amalgamation of berry fruits -- strawberry, raspberry, mulberry and black cherry. It also holds floral and spicy notes of rose, green tea, chestnut honey and fresh hay. This wine is said to be precise and well balanced. It pairs well with red meat and pasta.

Oreno Toscana IGT, Tenuta Sette Ponti 2014

Orena Toscana is a Bordeaux blend. This 2014 wine is Tuscan red and passes a flavour of flowers, citrus fruit and currants. It has a polished aftertaste. This wine compliments full-flavoured meats, game and roasts.

Champagne Premiere Cuvee, Bruno Paillard Champagne

A combination of three grapes – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier – this French champagne opens with fresh brioche and toast flavours along with sweet cherries and strawberries. It has a bright straw-gold colour. It is slightly salty and any fish will go well with this drink.

Amarone della Valpolicella D.O.C.G, Tedeschi 2014

Strong ruby-red in colour and clear and transparent, with notes of vanilla and an ethereal air, depending on the ageing period of the barrel. It leaves behind notes of sweet fruits. The wine is well balanced, with an enduring flavour. It is best served with red meat and cheese.

Bellavista Alma Cuvée Brut, Franciacorta D.O.C.G

Alma Cuvée has a white, bubbly and persistent mousse with bright yellow colour and luminous glints of green. The taste carries hints of sweet ripe fruit, meringue, pastries and candied citrus peel. Highly recommended with fish.

Pinot Noir, Framingham 2016

New Zealand's Pinot Noir is bright and displays a mid-garnet colour. The flavour of this Pinot Noir leaves a lasting taste of cherries and herbs. It pairs well with duck, salmon or other fatty fish, roasted chicken or pastas.

Sauvignon Blanc, Framingham 2017

The 2017, Sauvignon Blanc has a smoky, flinty aroma, notes of bitter lemon and grapefruit and suggestions of tropical fruit salad. It has a rich, slightly chewy palate with good mouthfeel. Goat cheese, green vegetables, fresh herbs, and delicate fish with citrus dressing are best suited for this pallet of wine.

Prosecco Treviso Silver D.O.C, Follador

This wine has a bright yellow straw colour and leaves bubbles with delicate foam. The aromas are fruity and flowery, leaving a fresh, well structured and pleasant aftertaste. Best paired with starters, aperitifs and cocktails, fish and shellfish.

Vesper Cabernet Sauvignon, La Carraia

Vesper Cabernet Sauvignon is produced by La Carraia winery, located near Bachi in central Italy. Brilliant ruby-red in colour with slight berry fruit on the nose. Full and ripe on the palate with balanced tannins. Recommended with a first course and with lightly grilled meat dishes.

Which wine with momos?

French sommelier Antoine Garet has been based in Kathmandu for over a decade. Fluent in Nepali, he currently runs Lazimpat-based restaurant Vino Bistro, where he sells and offers over 300 varieties of wine. Although his restaurant does not serve Nepali cuisine, Garet has some ideas about pairing wine with Nepali food.

He maintains that pairing food and wine is all about pleasure, and how one does it will depend on the diner’s pallet. “If the dal bhat you are eating is spicy, you would go for two glasses of cold water. It’s similar with wine. You would want something fresh and light.”

With momos, too, Garet generally prefers a light wine, maybe a Chardonnay, because it leaves a light and refreshing taste that will help dissolve the momo’s strong flavours in between bites. He has a different take, however, on sekuwas and seafood. “If you want to drink wine with your sekuwa, opt for a thick wine. It’s all about balance, and why waste a good rich taste on something that doesn’t complement it?” He also advises that prawn should not be eaten with red wine, as the chemicals don’t work well together.

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