The three together, at a media briefing at the Pullman New Delhi Aerocity yesterday announced that the delWine Excellence Awards are going national with a Mumbai edition planned for January 2017.
Sonal Holland is ostensibly India’s most qualified wine sommelier and beverage consultant. She's one of the only five Indians who have qualified for the Wine and Spirit Education Trust-WSET Dip and was one of the early-birds to enrol for the prestigious Master of Wine Programme. She is in the advanced stage of achieving the coveted title bestowed on around 350 persons in the world.
The Delhi-NCR round of the Awards will be held at 6 pm. on September 14, 2016, at the Pullman New Delhi Aerocity. The highlight of the programme will be a 'by invitation only' Wines of the World (WOW) Showcase, where guests will be able to taste 120-plus wine labels, including the best from the Indian wine producers and their leading international counterparts, such as Gaja, Louis Jadot, Penfolds, Torres, Marchesi di Barolo and Joseph Drouhin.
The Showcase will lead to the glittering Awards ceremony, which will take place at a sit-down dinner for 300 invited wine professionals, journalists and connoisseurs, where eight premium wines will be served, paired with the dishes crafted by the Maestro Chefs from Pluck and Honk. Explaining the logic of keeping the Awards Ceremony strictly on an ‘invitation only’ event, Arora explained that the space and service becomes a challenge beyond 280-300 people for a sit-down service and regretfully the numbers had to be limited.
Jury for the Awards
The 11-member independent jury for the inaugural delWine Excellence Awards has been already selected. The names of the members will be announced on the first of the two days being devoted to the judging process towards the end of August. The jury panel will be chaired by Arora, who holds the national record of serving as a judge in 48 international wine competitions and counting. It will be co-chaired by Holland, who has recently quit as the Divisional Head of Wines and Beverages at the ITC Hotels. The roles will be switched at the Mumbai round of the Awards.
India Wine Awards
The trio also unveiled plans for the India Wine Awards, which will be based on blind tastings in each of the country's wine-producing regions by a panel of experts. These Awards are being planned for February-March 2017 and will be held in Mumbai and Bangalore on alternate years.
"With the two awards, we will honour India’s best wine professionals and cover 360 degrees of wine experience -- from wine service, imports, retail and tourism to the quality of wines being produced in India, from consumer-driven industry awards to tastings-led expert awards," said Arora, who has been editing since 2006 the global wine trade and hospitality industry weekly e-Newsletter, delWine, which has about 32,000 subscribers in 70 countries. Hailed for its bold and objective reporting, 708 editions have been sent out since its inception.
Holland, whose wine academy has been training young sommeliers around the country, said the delWine Excellence Awards would make hotels and restaurants take wine more seriously, pay greater attention to their wine lists, and incentivise their front-of-the-house staff to work harder to promote a wine culture in India., Holland added that by being "aligned with the most stringent global standards" the India Wine Awards, would raise the bar for wine producers and inspire them to continually reset the quality benchmarks for Indian wines which have been improving their quality consistently during the last few years.
"Everyone's taking note of the need for training," Holland said. "These two sets of awards will get both the wine and the hospitality industries to invest seriously in them. We want the wine business to get bigger, better and more exciting. At the end, it will be the consumer who will benefit."
The media briefing also saw the organisers describe how the delWine Excellence Awards will be judged and given out. The Awards are being divided into three categories.
The first, the hospitality industry awards, will honour Delhi-NCR's best wine destinations, best wine lists (both Indian and international), best Indian restaurants service wine, and best beverage managers / sommeliers / wine custodians.
Aspirants for these awards will have to first fill up a questionnaire and the way they answer it will determine whether they make it to the jury stage. The shortlisted aspirants will appear before the jury for an interview. After this round, the jury will announce the final shortlists for the voting round, and finally, members of the Indian Wine Academy and Indian Restaurant Spy Facebook communities will vote for their favourites among the final list of nominees. By limiting the voting to the two Facebook communities, the organisers wish to eliminate the possibility of restaurants organising mass voting for themselves.
The popular award categories are:
1. Delhi's Best Wine Destination (Five-Star Hotel)
2. Delhi's Best Wine Destination (Stand-Alone Restaurant)
3. NCR'S Best Wine Destination (Five-Star Hotel)
4. NCR'S Best Wine Destination (Stand-Alone Restaurant)
5. Best Beverage Manager/Sommelier of the Year (Delhi-NCR/Five-Star Hotels)
6. Best Beverage Manager/Sommelier of the Year (Delhi-NCR/Standalone Restaurants)
7. Best Indian Wine Selection (Delhi-NCR/Five-Star Hotels)
8. Best Indian Wine Selection (Delhi-NCR/Standalone Restaurants)
9. Best International Wine Selection (Delhi-NCR/Five-Star Hotels)
10. Best International Wine Selection (Delhi-NCR/Standalone Restaurants)
11. Indian Cuisine Restaurant with Best Wine List (Delhi-NCR/Five-Star Hotels)
12. Indian Cuisine Restaurant with Best Wine List (Delhi-NCR/Standalone Restaurants)
The second category will be based on a perception survey carried out among wine professionals in the hospitality industry, wine entrepreneurs, wine makers and marketers, wine importers and retailers. This will be the round where professionals will judge their peers and those who get the majority votes will get the awards for the following categories:
1. Best Indian Wine Producer
2. Best Indian Winemaker
3. Best Wine Tourism Company
4. Best Wine Importer
5. Best Wine Retailer (Delhi)
6. Best Wine Retailer (NCR)
7. Best Wine List (Delhi-NCR/Five-Star Hotels)
8. Best Wine List (Delhi-NCR /Standalone Restaurants)
9. Best Wine Service (Delhi-NCR/Five-Star Hotels)
10. Best Wine Service (Delhi-NCR/Standalone Restaurants)
11. Best Wine Events (Delhi-NCR/Five-Star Hotels)
12. Best Wine Events (Delhi-NCR/Standalone Restaurants)
The third and final category will be the three delWine Editor's Choice Awards. The one that will be watched and commented upon closely will be the Lifetime Achievement Award and the other two will one of Arora's pet concerns -- the Best Value for Money Wine List (five-star hotel) and the Best Value for Money Wine List (standalone restaurant).
"After this event, there will never be a dull moment in the wine business," declared Arora, while shifting the venue from Pluck Restaurant to the Pling Bar where canapés and pass around were waiting to be served with a red and a white wine from Grover Zampa. That sounds good for the wine business.