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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Friday, 13 August 2010 10:18

Blog: From the Heart of a Wine Evangelist

Over the years people have addressed me as a wine journalist, writer, judge, Cavaliere, sommelier, vino, wine promoter, importer, educator, consultant and some even think I am  from the hospitality industry, with a recent journalist even dubbing me as a wine warrior. But I would best describe myself as a wine evangelist- with a difference.

The FreeDictionary defines an evangelist as an occasional preacher, sometimes itinerant (one who travels from place to place, especially to perform work or a duty) and often preaching at meetings in the open air. Shifting the thoughts away from the gospels, it also defines an evangelist as any zealous advocate of a cause- and this precisely defines my role and vocation in the wine space.

Many times people mistake me for a sommelier-which I am not. I have not undergone any formal wine training and do not profess to know the difference between tar and sweat of leather in wine. I am even uncomfortable when sommeliers talk of cat’s pee for describing Sauvignon Blanc as it reminds me of our late Prime Minister Morarji Desai who besides drinking his own pee, was also a prohibitionist. With an electrical engineering degree from one of the most prestigious engineering colleges- IIT, Delhi with work experience and Master’s Degree in Industrial Engineering and an MBA from the University of Minnesota in USA, I hardly had time to pursue such vocation.

However, I did a lot of self-study and indulged in wine as a hobby, passion which seems to have become a religion; interestingly, I was a teetotaler before. I made several visits to wine shows, tastings, read books, mags and even catalogues and surfed the newt a lot and with over 10,000 wines through my palate, not to mention a taste of over 250 grape varieties and over 30 visits to many wine producing countries, I did pick up the basics of wine and the excitement that it bring to life and the lifestyle, not to mention the healthy impact of moderate drinking.

I have my nose into most aspects of wine except the business of buying or selling- past, present and future. I do not profess to know much about beer or liquor and while I have nothing against the consumption or claims of these alcohol segments, my focus remains on wine and its promotion and I don’t make any apologies for the same. You could call me an evangelist in the true sense- a wine evangelist.  

But I am an evangelist with a difference. Despite my strong belief in the health and lifestyle aspect of wine, I never ask anyone to start drinking wine only for the health reasons and I totally believe that a person who abhors alcohol has an equal right and should be respected for his belief. My only suggestion is that if one starts drinking alcohol- and there is a huge population of youth, women and middle classes in this category, one must consider drinking wine-preferably only wine, and I am unabashedly focused with blinkers - although I am for low alcohol in wines.  

I do not specifically promote any producer, region or a country. Despite my being knighted by the Italian government and my personal preference for all things Italian, I am an equal proponent of wines from India, France, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Germany and the US (not in that order) and a host of other lesser known nations in India like Austria, Portugal, Hungry and Bulgaria.

The producers may not be happy that I advocate drinking less but better quality wine. It is a cliché that life is too small to drink bad/ cheap wine-but when the doctor advises you to drink only two glasses a day (drinking more alcohol regularly is positively harmful to the body), why not drink better quality. And wine has so much diversity in its flavours and character that one ought to enjoy the excitement because of different grapes, styles, soils, regions, countries. And for that reason, I believe that the Indian government should give a level playing field for different foreign wines to come in the country -and not only for the reason that the competition will help improve the quality of Indian wines.

I like to discourage people drinking too much and then driving. Though various experiences are evidence that a wine drinker usually does not get sloshed ( an MW friend confides that he used to get drunk at times in parties, but does not remember getting sloshed even once after he switched to wine) I do warn people of its potential harm not only to their own body- but others’ lives too with drunken driving.

No matter how we look at it, wine marketing in India is difficult for importers, foreign and Indian producers and even consumers don’t have it easy in terms of availability, pricing etc. Our government has still not seen the light yet (of course there are various other extraneous factors too) and the policies are incoherent, controversial and inconsistent. Some people tell me it is counter-promotional to write about such negatives.

My objective is to provide a true picture and not a rosy picture. A couple of my journalist friends in the US tell me that the rules and laws in the US are perhaps even more dogmatic than India. But they are so well defined that one can work well within the system! We know we are a nation of paradox and frankly nascent in the world of wine. There will be bumps and unexpected s and arbitrary speed breakers. But with proper knowledge we can have better control of the situation and I feel it is important to give proper and unbiased knowledge, making me an evangelist- with a difference.

For the same reason, I feel it is important to keep a check on hotels and retailers going off track in their policies, importers who are not playing a fair game and producers who are off the quality wagon. It is equally important to relay the genuine problems faced by the importers and producers in India alike.

A wine warrior, someone said? Maybe. At times it does seem like a war, an uphill battle. But mercifully, we are a democracy where one is allowed to express one’s views freely and hopefully the war being fought in various quarters would eventually be a victory for wine and health.
A true evangelist would perhaps be far removed from discomfitures but I am sensitive and still get disturbed when people refer to wine as tipple or sharaab, the palate as palette, and wine making as brewing and not fermenting and referring to the wine lover or connoisseur as a vino, a term used routinely in the US as a radio journalist from the US told me recently. So I am an evangelist- but with a difference.

It has become a fashion recently to say drink what you like and drink whichever wine you like with food while the blogosphere is full of food and wine matches and tasting notes of hundreds of thousands of wines. I do not tire of telling people that before they decide on which wines they prefer, they should let the palate go through the experience of tasting diverse wine. If you have tasted a hundred different wines and end up liking the cheapest wine on earth that is fine. But, in my book the possibility of tasting the infinite range of wines available through one’s lifetime is an exciting preposition in itself.

Same goes with the wine and food match. Wine should give synergy to the food taste. But if you are happy with red wine and fish and don’t like a slightly oaked Chardonnay or a great Sauvignon Blanc, you might be missing something but that should be fine for you. But, we ought to learn the basics of food and wine pairing to enjoy the gastronomical experience.

Therefore, address me by whatever name, but I’d rather be known as a wine evangelist-with a difference.

Subhash Arora



Subhash Arora Says:

Hey Thanks, Asha. No one called me a Wine Hero before!! Subhash

Posted @ August 26, 2010 15:20


Asha Singh Says:

I'm looking forward to working together Subhash....I think I might call you the Wine Hero, if I may!

Posted @ August 26, 2010 14:40


Subhash Arora Says:

Thanks for the compliments, Maureen! Subhash

Posted @ August 18, 2010 17:59


Maureen Kerleau Says:

All of the descriptions seem to fit Subhash. However to me wine warrior seems the most fitting - you are so incredibly tenacious, and just never say die. As you know I have been slogging very hard with wine in India for over five years now and agree that the government has not moved (forward) at all in that time. The one great positive step to me is the overall awareness to wine, largely thanks to the commitment of a few Indian winemakers and yourself. As far as I'm concerned, I played a minute part and wish you and all the Indian winemakers well !!

Posted @ August 18, 2010 17:58


B.Shankaranarayan Says:

Somadasa Subhash Arora

Posted @ August 17, 2010 11:43


Subhash Arora Says:

Thanks for the encouraging words, my friends. And to me it is a dream and I hope it continues for as long as I live! Subhash

Posted @ August 16, 2010 17:23



Dear Wine Evangelist - with a difference; you rock !! The thing most likeable about you is that you are far,far away from being PRETENTIOUS which, unfortunately, is not the case with an INDIAN SOMMELIER whose name I will not dignify by mentioning. Knowledge does not come merely from FORMAL EDUCATION; sometimes PASSION and PRACTICAL LEARNING have a far more profound role to play. As someone who has vastly enjoyed your Wine Presentations, especially at the OPERA MEETS I can only say - more power to people like you who realise and express that the Price Tag alone does not define the TRUE VALUE of a wine. Keep up the good work as, in this Country, to paraphrase another famous Independence Day Speech (and, ofcourse Robert Frost) you "HAVE MILES TO GO BEFORE YOU SLEEP".

Posted @ August 16, 2010 17:20


Subhash Arora Says:

Great idea, shankar. Now let's look for the right word for wine! Subhash-Capetown

Posted @ August 16, 2010 17:16


B.Shankaranarayan Says:

The closest equivalent to evangelist in the Indian context that I can think of is "dasa" like in Purandaradasa. Itinerant, preaching, singing, loving, passionate and zealous advocate of a cause. So how about Wine Dasa Subhash Arora! Wine Ho.

Posted @ August 16, 2010 15:13


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