Conversations With IWBS – Rajat Parr

Rajat Parr is regarded as one of the best wine tasters in the world.

From Calcutta to California, Rajat PARR’s journey into the world of wines is something we can all look up to. Now a Californian winemaker PARR, trained to be a chef at Welcome Group Graduate School of Hotel Administration, Manipal in India. Later, he advanced his culinary skills at the Culinary Institute of America. However, soon he realised kitchen was not to be his calling. A few transitions later, he ended up working at Rubicon, California as a server. What started as a humble job to make ends meet soon metamorphosed into a three-year stint where Parr blossomed into the wine specialist for the restaurant.

Owing to his kitchen learnings, doing justice to maintain the sanctity of a recipe is something one can see in his style of winemaking as well. The Burgundy-esque techniques and style of Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays are inspired by his mentors and travels to France.

REWARDS FROM HARDWORK AND EVERLASTING PASSION

He has numerous accolades to his namewhich could take up more space than this little write up can afford. He is generally regarded as one of the most prolific tasters in the West. He is also the author of two award-winning books – Secret of Sommeliers and Sommeliers’ Atlas of Taste. As a winemaker, he can be credited for putting Santa Rita Hills in California on the world map. The region, which was barely a few vineyards dense back when he started is today a recognised and highly prized wine-growing region in the world. And yet, when you see him turn up for tasting sporting a snapback and an easy-fitting checked shirt, his humility masks it all. 

The presentation and the tasting that followed were equally disarming. Rajat spoke about his life insofar and his winemaking ventures in California and Oregon. Domaine de la Cote and Sandhi from the two regions respectively, were a good showcase of the style of the two regions however, most pertinently they were great at highlighting Parr’s philosophy of “Believing in the Magic of Terroirs”. 

At a tasting organised and comprising some of the biggest names from the wine industry – very much like Judgement of Paris where Californian wines beat French for the first time in history – Domaine de la Cote Pinot Noir was adjudged to be among the finest of wines, surpassing even some very enviable names from Burgundy, a region which pretty much is home to the most iconic Pinot wines in the world.

THE JEWELS FROM PARR’S WINEMAKING EXPERIENCE

A recent wine tasting hosted at the Leela Palace, New Delhi

During a recent wine tasting and a tête-à-tête with Mr. Parr in New Delhi. We tasted 2017 Sandhi Chardonnay, and were simply blown away by its depth of flavour, elegance and length on the plate. The wine got better on keeping, the woody nose subsided and made way for a fruity splendour. This trait is not uncommon in the majestic wines of Puligny-Montrachet that show a similar profile as they age. The biodynamically made 2017 Salem Wine Co, from Oregon and with plush fruit, high acidity and a slight hint of forest floor, the wine definitely stood out. The Sandhi Pinot Noir, 2017 was elegant too but much lighter in style, showing all the characteristics of a cool climate Pinot Noir.

Post our tasting, we got the chance to fire some questions at Mr. Parr, and what follows are excepts from our exchange.

Q. What do you think about the Indian wine industry and scope of the market? 

A. The market is evolving and promising especially in Mumbai. However, the duties and taxes are a problem for the importer and the restaurant. 

Q. Indian restaurant industry and wine industry are a confined space due to certain constraints. Availability, laws, culture and wine education are the key reasons for this. What’s your advice for beverage professionals as well consumers?

A. The students and the beverage professionals need to build an infrastructure and basics. Start from learning about wines, grape varieties and then move to how Pinots or Cabernets taste. Build a group of tasters and taste as frequently as you can. For consumers and guests who are still spirit- focused, organise fun and casual events, soirées and small tastings of 2-3 wines and focus on FUN!! Taste wine to appreciate it.

Q. If not Pinot Noir or Chardonnay what would be the most promising varietal for you? And which is the most promising winegrowing region?

A. Gamay would be fun and delicious addition and that’s something the world should be ready for. Speaking about the wines of the world, Spain is the most exciting region right now. A lot of good things are happening in Ribera del Duero, Galicia and Catalunya. It’s been around for a long time but still exciting changes keep on happening.

Q. Lastly an advice to the young beverage professionals in India?

A. Learn the basics, create infrastructure and stay thirsty. Keep an open mind, keep reading and travel.  It’s important to see how wine is made, talk to people and taste.

Most importantly “Believe in the magic of Terroirs”. 

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