In a world of fluidity, the Delhi Wine Club stands out as a shining example of certainty. It came into this world like an uncertain toddler, and there were cynics who laughed at the idea or simply rejected it as yet another club of wannabes, but it has grown into a vibrant five-year-old, radiating the energy and excitement of a growing child.
To continue the celebrations of the milestone, which started a couple of months ago at the Orient Express, Taj Palace, the Hyatt Regency pulled out all the stops to lay out a truly inventive dinner – Indian with an international twist – on July 29 evening.
For Subhash Arora, President, Delhi Wine Club, it was an emotional occasion, for it was on July 29, five years back, that his dream of bringing wine lovers together took shape at the Spirit restaurant in Connaught Place.
It was a special occasion for the club also because it was the last of the many send-offs for Jorge Heine, who firmly put Chile, the farthest piece of land from India, on Delhi’s social map. He’s trading the privileges of an ambassador’s position for his first love – academics.
As the acclaimed political scientist, and former Stanford professor, goes to the University of Waterloo in Canada, we won’t forget how H.E. Heine successfully deployed wine diplomacy to keep his country in the news, which is quite a challenge in our cluttered media environment.
The South African High Commissioner, Sehloho Francis Moloi, who spreads joy through his sheer presence, and his charming wife, Misiwe, joined the club to bid goodbye to the outgoing ambassador.
In a show of Latin American solidarity, Imelda Tirilocchi, Charge d’Affaires at the Embassy of Uruguay, uncorked her country’s wines for the occasion. H.E. William Ehlers, who is a member of the Delhi Wine Club, was still abroad on this day.
It was also an occasion to showcase fine Burgundies with Indian food. In fact, there were two wines from Joseph Drouhin, the biggest Family owned brand in the region- a Pommard 2001 and a Gevrey Chambertin 2002. Frederic Drouhin, the Managing Director and a friend of the Delhi Wine Club would be pleased to know that both enhanced the flavours of Tawa scallop and mint marinated tandoori prawns with green apple chaat and tamarind dressing very well; though the vegetarians hooted for the Gevrey with their Crispy rice pancake filled with morels, potato and cashew nuts.
It was Delhi’s first exposure to the wines of the South American nation famous for Tannat grapes and we learnt more about them from Imelda’s crisp presentation, where she made the point that though her country is part of the wine’s New World, it has been producing wine since the 16th century.
True to her promise, the star of the evening, apart from the vivacious champagne Laurent Perrier Brut (which is a favourite of the club members, and why not?), was the Don Pascual Tannat Reserva 2005 from Juanicó. This medium- to full-bodied wine with a sunny, sweetish aftertaste was a perfect match for tandoori chicken breast filled with spinach, cottage cheese and almonds, served with a potato barrel oozing a scrumptious morel ragout.
The occasion was also special because of the addition of two new members – the media power couple Mala Sekhri and N. P. Singh. Mala has been responsible for the runaway success of the India Today Group’s lifestyle publications, most notably Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping. Nippy, as N. P. is famously known, after transiting from the comfortable world of boxwallah companies to the uncertainty of the media business, is managing the business side of The Indian Express with the same meticulousness with which he approaches his game of golf.
The club’s media contingent, which includes Chintamani Rao, who has scripted India TV’s remarkable story, is growing, and how!
It had all the ingredients of a perfect night. A delectable meal that succeeded in delivering an impossible promise (familiar North Indian food presented in an unfamiliar yet visually appetising style), intelligent wine selection in sync with the food, and flawless service orchestrated by Hyatt’s Abhijit Mukherjee, all happening under the watchful eyes of Roger Lienhard, who took us on a guided tour of China Kitchen – the hotel’s new gastronomic offering that should be up and running on August 14.
There’s something about the Delhi Wine Club. It makes great things happen.