The list has been made out of a short-circuited list of around 50 women living in India. One of the criteria has been that those selected should have been active in the wine trade at least during the last five years. If their sphere of influence is not exclusive in wine, they should be making special efforts to the wine activities and have a national impact.
An effort has been made to keep a balance (the same key ingredient as in wine quality) in the areas of wine production, sales including export and import and through retail or restaurants, and journalists, keeping in view the international exposure, educational background, corporate/business experience.
The purpose of this Series of articles, the first ever of this kind in India, has been to highlight that the wine industry is not a male bastion. We need to encourage women to enter the industry and recognize them for their contribution in the increase of wine consumption. Wine may not still be a full time job for most women at this point of time. We have considered those with passion for wine and devoting a majority of their time to wine related activities. In most cases, the figures and facts have been taken to be the truth since they are given by the women-we assume that they are women of integrity.
Also, it being the maiden attempt we have not kept the list in order of merit, rather generally in alphabetic order. There is bound to be some criticism but we have tried to be as objective as possible. The readers are welcome to send their suggestions and any glaring omissions after the complete list is out–in fact we encourage and appreciate such inputs.
In the third article of the Series we bring you the author, TV presenter and the celebrity restaurateur, Ritu Dalmia-owner of several restaurants anchored around the Italian Diva Restaurant know for its excellent wine list, prices and service. We shall consolidate in a single article when all the ten WOW have been listed.
Ritu Dalmia - the Diva
At a wine dinner in 2002 organised by an importer at her Restaurant, there were 4-5 interesting wines from a Piemontese producer, that included a Barolo. Naturally, when a group of novices asked my opinion I told them that Barolo would be the best wine of the evening. As she recalled later, they insisted on being served the Barolo and more Barolo only, throughout the evening - their main course had been some typical fish preparation. They had apparently gotten very aggressive and a tad rude but she finally handled them with a pacifier.
Ritu has been in the field of wine education through Diva Restaurant which serves Italian food. A chef by profession - not the first one - she had gone to Italy earlier on family business but was so enchanted by the Italian cuisine that she bolted and took training as a chef in Sicily instead. This was to be beneficial for the wine lovers eventually as in Sicily food and wine are like tea and milk or even our roti and subzi.
After experimenting with a restaurant in Hauz Khas Village she decided to open the Diva Restaurant in 2002 in the up market Greater Kailash II. ‘The opening night was tough and the following months proved to be even tougher given the rate of staff attrition and reluctant suppliers. Nevertheless we endured and soon established ourselves as the first trendy stand- alone restaurant, which was not only a gastronomical delight but also harnessed a full-fledged wine list unlike any other restaurant in the country.’
Those were not the days of wines and roses. The importers were limited, the labels even more so and the taxes even higher than today. ‘I started with a compact list of 20 labels that covered the basics – Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah etc; offering at least four options of wine-by-the- glass as well.’ This might not have been her ideal wine list, but this was an era where the stand-alone restaurants labeled their wine list as Indian or Imported wine with white and red being the sub-categories. Her closest contenders were the 5-star hotels.
‘I knew Delhi’s palate was ready for my food, my style and of course my selection in wines! Yet, one needs to engage and seduce their clients to keep coming back for more. I kept my prices competitive and invested heavily into educating Delhi about wines and their pairing with Italian cuisine. Offering of wine flights and regular wine dinners, an example of which you read above, started way back in 2000 and the tradition continues’. She also designed a separate air-controlled wine cellar which was the first of its kind for stand-alone restaurants in 2003.
Over the years she shifted focus to a more Italian-centric wine list. ‘We dug deeper into Italian wines, sourcing from regions such as Sicily, Sardinia, Campania, Puglia & Alto Adige to name a few. The objective was to not only become the pioneers in Italian wines but also to constantly revamp the collection for our regular clients.’ This was not surprising- she had her first taste of Tignanello in Florence when she was only 18! Her repertoire has increased to over a thousand labels. At any given time she has around 370-400 labels with a wide choice for her clients to match food and wine.
Realising that the wine training would be linked with more wine sales and was necessary because of continuous attrition, Ritu started an in-house wine training programme which is now a regular part of Diva, 'not only for our sommeliers or managers but any member of Diva interested in wines,' she says. This policy also helps her train her staff for all the five restaurants where she serves wine-the 6th one will start within a couple of weeks.
As an author of various books and the protagonists of several TV food Shows focusing on her cuisine and travels to Italy and other countries as well, Ritu talks about the pleasures of wine as a gastronomical experience for her viewers and motivates them to drink more wine and more often. She drinks limited wine herself but likes to drink the best - a motto that ought to be adopted by more wine connoisseurs.
Ritu says with confidence that her wine collection at Diva is the best in the city and the variety by-glass, and the value is incomparable elsewhere. That is only one of the ten probable reasons why delWine has included the restaurateur Ritu Dalmia, in the WOW Top Ten List of 2013.
WOW: Top Ten Women of Wine in India 2013 -Dharti Desai of FWM
WOW: Top Ten Women of Wine in India 2013 –Violet d’Souza of Terroir India
Tags: Indian wine industry, Ritu Dalmia, Diva, WOW, WOW Top Ten List of 2013