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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Monday, December 21 2009. 10:53

Blog: On Wine Clubs and Wine Journalism

I was foxed on reading a news item on Saturday in the Central Chronicle which mentioned that ‘the Four Seasons Wines will open a wine club in the city similar to the one in Kolkata and that the company currently has three clubs, each in Bangalore and Delhi and one in Chandigarh’.

Here is the excerpt from the news item and I quote:

‘Four Seasons Wines Limited (FSWL), a subsidiary of United Spirits Limited, will open a 'wine club' in the city as part of its initiative to promote 'wine-related tourism' across the country. Launching 'Four Season' wines here, FSWL Business Head and Director Abhay Kewadkar said the wine club in the city would be opened in three to six months time, similar to a recent launch of a club in Kolkata. The company currently has three clubs, each in Bangalore and Delhi and one in Chandigarh.’

I was so incensed by the article that I wrote to my friend Abhay Kewadkar to ask if in fact these clubs existed and I was caught napping, as it were. To the best of my knowledge, the clubs in Bangalore, Delhi and Chandigarh are independent. I know because the Delhi Wine Club founded by me in 2002 with 152 events under its belt has been independent of any winery, country or a region, although we have occasionally worked with Abhay when he was with Grover and now in UB; we had even organised a wine dinner last  year with the Four Season wines sponsored by them.

I had helped form the Chandigarh Wine Club and it is still independent to the best of my knowledge. The Bangalore club was, to my understanding founded with the blessings of Grover Vineyards, and Abhay had been a President a few years ago when he was the Chief Winemaker there, but currently, I believe it is quite independent. So what was happening here?

Abhay clarified immediately saying ‘it was a press meet, not a one to one. I merely said we will help to form a wine club in Kochi on the similar lines other cities have, in order to create awareness of the wine as a category, the latest one being in Kolkata.’

With regards to Bangalore, he clarified, ‘to another query I said we are starting a wine Bar in Bangalore.’

The status of the recently formed Kolkata club notwithstanding, it would appear that the news item has been erroneous in its report. Unfortunately, a lot of incorrect reporting of this type has been taking place with increasing and predicted interest in wine with no checks on the authenticity of the contents-this could be unfair and dangerous for the wine industry as well as journalism.

I remember a few years ago I told a senior journalist in a one-to-one interview that I had been a teetotaler till I took to drinking wine and now I drank only wine. He conveniently forgot to mention that I drink only wine and instead reported  that I am a teetotaler, leaving many of his readers known to me wondering and sniggering how a teetotaler could found and run a wine club successfully!!

In another instance, I had told another senior journalist that the consumption of wine in India then was 6.4 mil liters. With no feel for the figures or the industry, he reported the figure as 64 million liters in his article which was syndicated and was widely picked up by several important dailies in the US. I was left to clarify the anomaly. It was not difficult for me, but imagine the plight of the producers in the US who might have read the article and booked plane tickets to the exploding Indian wine destination!
There are innumerable instances of journalists reporting a Tuscan wine from Piemonte or a Valpolicella from Tuscany. I have come across journalists asking and fumbling through the spellings for the complicated grape varieties and still mis-spelling in their articles. There are the rookies who give their expert opinion on wines at the events tutored by the organisers. Some even come across as being on the take from the wine producers they are writing about. But that could perhaps be a trade norm in the traditional journalism. But as a senior journalist friend tells me, ‘we are generally so short of staff that at times we are obliged to send the junior correspondents to cover the wine events when they can barely spell wine.’

Be as it may, the journalists who want to write about wine must have a feel and preferably taste for wine before they are unleashed to write about wine articles. Only then will they be able to question the Kewadkars of the industry intelligently, that it is one thing to sponsor a wine club (which essentially would mean giving free wines for all the events and promotion), but it is not easy or feasible to run a traditional wine club which is essentially a consumer club formed by wine lovers to enjoy and learn more about wine in an informal and imperfect atmosphere.

There are several wineries overseas that have their own wine club where the members can buy their wines at discounts and be a part of the fan community of that winery. We have a Mumbai Wine club run by Vishal Kadakia who is also an importer, FWM Club run by Dharti Desai who owns the importing firm of FineWinesnMore, and not to forget the Wine Society of India which is a sophisticated model of considered wine retail.

But surely that is not the essence of the news report from Kochi about the wine clubs and UB Wines.

Subhash Arora

Disclosure- Four Seasons Winery is an advertiser on delWine. However, it is the policy of delWine and Indian Wine Academy to keep its copy objective and unbiased and I have freely expressed my thoughts on this blog-editor.



Maureen Kerleau Says:

I was pleased to see the comments from Abhay and Alok putting this right. As the President of a different kind of wine club - The Bangalore Overseas Women's Wine Club, I am constantly striving to remain impartial and give every wine company equal exposure, despite pressure from all sides. Thanks to good interaction with the Bangalore Wine Club we manage to keep things on a clear course.

Posted @ December 29, 2009 13:10


Dr Yashoda Devi Says:

Subhash, Very well written article which should serve as a reminder not only to journalists to exercise caution prior to putting the interpretations of their interviews in writing, but also to the people who are being interviewed to henceforth keep in mind that they are dealing with novices and hence should be able to put their thoughts on a matter as clearly and simply as possible.The BWC as far as my knowledge goes was formed by a group of winelovers like Chipee Ganjee,Vijayan Menon,Rekha Menon,Sunil Chainani,Alok Chandra and Nina Kanjirath.Cheers!

Posted @ December 25, 2009 11:28


Subhash Arora Says:

As I have said, the buzz in Delhi when I formed the DWC a year later was that BWC had been formed with the blessings of Grover Vineyards. Personally, I always found it independent, and if I may add, more democratic than DWC.Thanks Alok and Abhay for instant clarification.Cheers. Subhash Arora

Posted @ December 24, 2009 18:30


Abhay Kewadkar Says:

Subhash, On a personal note,I have always respected the independent stature of wine clubs in the country.This is the only way that a club can be objective.We can only help in the formation of the club,and support whenever requested.This remains our committement. Let me clear here that Bangalore Wine Club has always been an independebt identity and Grover Vineyards had nothing do in the formation of BWC.Not even blessings.I can say this with Authority as I was working for them that time. Issue you have raised is far reaching. Regards, Abhay Kewadkar

Posted @ December 24, 2009 17:05


Alok Chandra Says:

A correction: Grover Vineyards had nothing to do with the formation of the Bangalore Wine Club - indeed, at our first event (Jan-2001) Rajeev Samant turned up with a bottle each of his just-released Sula wines.

Posted @ December 24, 2009 16:40


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