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Pinot, ma'am ? Will that be bottle or tap?

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BYE BOTTLE: Lodi-The Garden Restaurant in Delhi has installed a wine dispensing machine

Ordering wine is a complex affair even if you know your pinot noir from your tempranillo. Should you go with an entire bottle which is not only a tad difficult to finish but also forces you to stick with the same wine through the entire meal? But then if you choose to order by the glass, chances are you might be served wine that has spent too much time in a re-corked bottle and lost its flavour.

Here is where a wine dispensation system becomes indispensable. A new way of drinking wine that is making its presence felt in hip eateries around the world is the wine dispensing machine. It looks somewhat like a sophisticated beer tap and the precise amount of wine is vacuum-pumped into the glass so there's no wastage and the wine can be kept fresh for longer.

It's also a great way to encourage people to try different wines. Short pours can tempt people into trying a more expensive vintage.

Lodi-The Garden Restaurant, one of the few standalone restaurants in the capital to install a wine dispensing machine, now offers 16 wines by glass with different measurement options. We wanted to make winedrinking as common in India as beer and whiskey are, " says Inderpal Singh Kochhar, managing director of Sewara Hospitality that runs Lodi.

At Lodi, patrons can choose from eight whites and eight reds in measurements of 50 ml, 100 ml and 150 ml. The restaurant has also introduced a new menu, 'The Grapewine', that pairs food with wines. All the paired wines are available by glass from the 'wine machine'. "More and more people are not only open to drinking wine, but have begun to acquire a true appreciation for it. So we've designed a special menu that lets you taste a lovely Muscat 2009 as well as a Merlot and Sangiovese. We want to constantly rotate the wine menu so guests can experiment with new ones, " adds Kochhar.

The wine-on-tap machine is already there at most five star hotels like Shangri La and The Oberoi chain.

But isn't wine on tap a sacrilege for wine connoisseurs who don't even like the traditional cork being replaced by screw caps? Sommelier Magandeep Singh is all for it. "It's a fantastic concept, " he says. "It's basically a system wherein you take a regular bottle of wine and the machine enables wine preservation where nitrogen - an inert gas - keeps the oxygen out. The technology is great. "

But why would anyone want wine on draft? The main benefit for consumers is freshness. Restaurants often keep an opened bottle around for hours or days, and the resulting oxidation plays havoc with the personality of the wine. So, no more tossing out halfused bottles and no more racing against oxidation.

But don't go as far as kegs, says Magandeep Singh. Kegged wine, a popular trend in the US, is dispensed through taps connected to plastic tubing containing inert gas that pushes wine through the lines. This inert gas also protects the wines from oxidation by occupying the empty space in the keg. By taking the bottle out of the equation, concerns about bottle variation, bottle shock and faulty corks are eliminated. "I don't like draft wine at all. The flavour is compromised, " says Singh.

Chef Mayank Tiwari, who's currently heading the kitchens for the new bistrostyle of cafes that AD Singh's Olive group is planning, feels that selling wine on tap like beer is definitely going to catch the attention of the youth. "It's a quirky way of selling a product that supposed to be sophisticated and generally for older people. It will definitely get a lot of young people interested in trying out wine, " says Tiwari.

Next time you're ordering wine in a restaurant, keep an eye out. For, chances are it won't be coming out of a bottle but a spigot.

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