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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Friday, October 09 2009. 14:15

Blog: Italian Wines & Indian Customs

If you think Indian Customs Duties are a major deterrent to expand wine culture in India, I should tell you that it also has something to do with the Indian Customs that might inhibit some of the most evolved Indians  to stay away from an evening out with excellent Italian wines they otherwise love.

Photos :: Adil Arora

Here is a case that might be useful to illustrate my point. There was a dinner organised by the Delhi Wine Club on October 7 at I-Talia, an excellent stand alone restaurant owned by the Park hotel, in DLF Mall in Vasant Kunj, where the club had earlier launched the  restaurant when it turned out to be an excellent evening with wines like Barbaresco and Brunello flowing.

Along with a fancy mouth-watering 5-course menu with as many snacks earlier in the evening, there were wines like a delicious, debuting Gewürztraminer, a Chianti Classico and a Barolo Riserva 1998 to boot- special wines all three, not counting the Sicilian IGT Inzolia Chardonnay and a Chardonnay from Elena Walch in Alto Adige. It might be passé for some that the club was serving a Barolo for the third time in a row, but it was a first time for a Riserva to make a presence- from my personal cellar. It was a special send-off evening for a member friend Nicolo Tassoni, the outgoing Commercial Counselor of Italy, who could only give us this date for the evening.

Under normal circumstances, the house-full email would have been out within the first few days-but not this time. This date happened to be Karva Chouth, a day in the Indian annual calendar where the North Indian wives, wherever they might be, keep a fast for the long life of their husbands and break it with the sighting of the moon- there is some social and religious angle to it and (usually) they eat vegetarian food with the husband and the family members.

Initial response to the dinner was good to very fair, going down gradually to fairly poor at the end-with only 2 women deciding to attend with their husbands in toe-and that too when for good measure, they had been offered 50% discount. All other husbands apologized for cancelling. No cajoling, temptation could bring them to the event which went off beautiful otherwise with excellent food coming out from Italia’s new menu, enjoyed outside on their terrace, in beautiful surroundings.

The moon was also visibly smiling on the mostly ex-pat members savouring each and every course, with crescendo building up towards the main course when the Barolo Riserva ’98 from Casetta was served in a perfect Bordeaux glass (that looked like a Riedel or Spiegelau) with the choice of Petto di pollo ripieno di piselli e parmigiano (Pea and parmesan stuffed chicken with truffle flavoured cream), Parmigiana di melanzane, zucchini ed asparagi Parmigiana of zucchini, aubergine and asparagus or Brasati agnello con gambo risotto zafferano e gremolata Braised lamb shank with saffron risotto and gremolata, each pared well with wine and each delicious in its own right.

During my extensive travels people frequently ask me if in India it was the religion that prohibits Muslims (or Sikhs, Hindus, Jains-the questions vary) from drinking wine-as if it were only the christians who were ordained to have the divine sip-which is only a part of the story. Half of the Indian population is completely vegetarian, around half of Indians don’t touch alcohol-at least half of these thinking it is sin to even smell it, metaphorically speaking.

The point is, it is the Indian Customs that are also responsible- for our food habits and drinking habits and I have pointed to just one example where the crème de la crème of society-which the club claims to have in its membership, would pass up the opportunity to have some excellent meal in a Italian-blooded restaurant with delicious Italian wines. They had the basic desire to say arrivederci to a good club supporter and a friend to many, even though some felt it was their Duty to attend this special farewell dinner, but had to miss out..

So when we talk of the Indian Customs Duties as a hinderance to the spread of wine culture for Italian wine-or Indian, Chilean, French, Spanish Germnan or Australian, we need to keep in mind the Indian Customs which will change, but as they say Rome was not built in a day!

Subhash Arora

P.S. – In case you started salivating thinking about the food and wine served so beautifully by the staff of Italia Restaurant , click Menu



Vijay Chopra Says:

I wish to become member of the Delhi Wine Club and wish to know how to go about it. Kindly help.

Posted @ October 12, 2009 17:35


Pritam Says:

Dear Mr. Arora,Just read your article about "Italian Wines and Indian Customs". Very interesting indeed. I would like to know more about Indian Wine Academy, its activities and what kind of wines you taste. I didn't know that wine is becoming so popular in India. I have been in the wine business and wine collection for the last 25 years. Best regards.Pritam Banerji , Houston

Posted @ October 12, 2009 14:26


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