Thirty-three years ago when Maria was a new bride, not only did she step into a life different from the one she had known in Goa, she also was introduced to the culinary universe her mother-in-law lived in. “It is from her I learnt how to make wine at home,” says Maria who since has made sure she has batches of wine ready for Christmas and Easter, every year.
Today Maria is famous among family and friends for her homemade grape and ginger wines, apart from her other festive treats of cake, kulkul and Christmas roast made only in Goan vinegar.
“My mother-in-law was very meticulous about her cooking and even documented all her recipes. She was nearly 70 when I got married and so asked me to give her a helping hand with the wines she made. Those were my initial lessons in wine-making,” says the 54-year-old resident of Wood Street in Ashok Nagar. Two years later when Maria’s mother-in-law died, she inherited her legacy and till this day continues to make wine on her own, all for house consumption. The recipe is no secret. “It’s fruit, sugar, crushed wheat and water. I just mix them in a plastic container and let it sit to ferment. There is no alcohol added. Over the course of a year it seasons and the taste betters. My method is definitely not as elaborate as my mother-in-law’s who would take care to first wrap everything in a cloth, cool it and then churn the mix every once in while. But I am more like today’s generation, I just whiz it all together and let it be. The wine still turns out fine,” says Maria. Decanting the wine takes some effort but for this Maria enlists the help of her maid Rani.
During Christmas, the wine holds special relevance aside of its place in the Christian religion. “To visitors you don’t say, ‘Will you have a soft-drink?’ you only offer wine. It’s something everyone looks foward to,” says Maria.
While traditionally, Maria only used grapes to make her wine, a few years ago when ginger was coming in cheap she thought, she’d try a variant with it ‘just for fun’. “But the best batch of wine I ever made was for my daughter’s wedding 12 years ago,” Maria says with cheer.
She has no taste for Goa’s famous port wine which she finds funny tasting, other Indian labels fare better on her charts. She’s also liking the bottle of apple-fig wine that she has received for this Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, Maria attends mass at Sacred Heart Church in the evening and then later at night cuts a cake because it’s also her husband’s birthday on December 25. “I have never gone off to celebrate Christmas in Goa, it’s always in Bangalore with my husband,” she says before getting back to arrangements for the grand Christmas lunch and for the next batch of wines. Cheers to that.