The birth of Indian Wine Academy was quite accidental and unplanned. As an IT entrepreneur dealing in internet hardware (I had pioneered the import of modems which are now a commodity) and software to make websites and e-commerce sites, I had founded the Delhi Wine Club as a passion a year earlier to promote the wine culture in Delhi and gradually India. Fully aware that a club with a membership of 100-150 would hardly help in inculcating wine culture, I had made a website for the club. In fact, the purpose of the site was to write about various aspects of wine and help the novices understand informally about wine. We decided to number the events and post every detail transparently (I have conducted 210 such events and not a month has gone by when we did not organize a wine event.)
One day in 2003, sometime in April, I received a call from London. Someone was organizing a wine show and could I help them with looking after the wine tasting part of it - including a seminar, getting the F & B people and the importers? Why not, I said. After discussing the details, I told the caller that the work would involve a lot of my time and although I was doing everything wine related for passion, this called for a small payment. He agreed and asked me the amount. Unprepared, I gave him a ridiculously low figure (later on he told me that his company was prepared to pay four times that amount). He accepted it immediately. Since Delhi Wine Club had no commercial activities I decided to keep such activities totally isolated from the Club and the Indian Wine Academy was formed.
The objective was similar to the Delhi Wine Club except that this company and the website would be devoted to bring news that was India-centric, i.e., it would help outsiders know about the Indian wine industry as it evolved. Importers and Indian producers would be at par. The consumer was my basic interest and everything was aimed to help the wine consumption increase in India. DelWine came later in 2006 but the Indian Wine Academy focused on this objective-by holding seminars and wine events at various places in India, helping with wine shows and tastings, visiting Indian and foreign wineries and writing about them. Since commerce was not the main objective, it was easy to maintain objectivity - at least whatever was humanly possible. Not being a journalist by profession, I did feel a bit awkward and nervous initially but was very encouraged by everyone who read the articles that my passion for wine was visible.
The website kept on looking up and helped by delWine, that now goes to over 27000 subscribers in 41 countries, Indian Wine Academy became a benchmark in education through the web. We never claimed to be a formal wine education institution as the name unfortunately suggests, but I could not think of a better way of reaching the target audience throughout the world. The best compliment was given to me recently by the Prince of Piedmont, Angelo Gaja whom I met accidentally in 2002 and who has now become one of my best wine friends. He told me at Vinitaly 2013, ‘whenever we talk about India, your name comes up on top. Not only do you know the subject well and are on top, but you take care of the whole world's news and are on top of what is happening.’
We feel elevated when Federico Castellucci, Director General of OIV wonders how come he reads the news about some Italian wine news on the IWA website before it is published by the Italian print media. We take pride when Leonardo Frescobaldi, President of Marchesi Frescobaldi (importer- Brindco) says that he reads every bit of relevant news and gives a lot of respect. We feel proud when we learn that an impromptu interview I conducted with Joseph Helfrich, the multi-millionaire owner ofLes Grands Chais de France in Alsace,is circulated to the whole of the senior staff of the €783 million company (some of its brands are imported by Hema Connoisseur). We feel happy that our article pleading the government to allow 6 bottles of wine in lieu of 2 liters of hard liquor (for the same amount of alcohol) is doing the rounds of various relevant departments. Of course we feel very elated when a prestigious Comitato Grandi Cru d’Italia gives us an award for being the Best Website in the World.
That is in fact the essence of Indian Wine Academy-to educate people through information on wine and a bit of food, as it is an integral part of any gourmet experience. We stick to wine and only wine - no beer or hard liquor. We are the unabashed supporters of wine culture in India and elsewhere. I must confess my preference for Italian wines but this is because of much larger exposure to Italian wines. I am equally impressed with a glass of good Chilean wine, a Saperavi from Georgia or a Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre, Marlborough or Casablanca. I love a glass of Indian wine and strongly believe that domestic wine production is the backbone of any wine drinking and producing nation.
However, wine is a beverage that should know no boundaries and every citizen should be able to drink what he likes. Indian Wine Academy is dedicated to that objective-for the past decade and the future.
Tags: Indian Wine Academy, Piedmont, Angelo Gaja, Vinitaly, Federico Castellucci, OIV, Marchesi Frescobaldi, Comitato Grandi Cru d’Italia