"Storage is extremely important for computer hardware as well as for wines." With these words, Indian Wine Academy President Subhash Arora introduced the subject of wine to IT heads who had gathered at Taj Lands End in Bandra, Mumbai, on August 30.
They had been invited by EMC, the multi-billion-dollar US company that is the world leader in data storage, to discuss ways to increase sales.
A day later, addressing a similar group the InterContinental The Grand in New Delhi , he started with the comment that in his dictionary EMC stood for Expect More Cash. But if people made a lot of cash, they would also have to find better ways of spending it. Wine definitely offered them that option. They could spend their hard-earned money on good wine, or on investing in vineyards - the way the wine industry is steaming ahead in the country, this is the time to invest in it.
At both dinners, organised by the event management company Sercon, the Indian Wine Academy had paired the food and wine, introducing the novel concept of a buffet dinner served course by course so that the guests did not mismatch the dishes and the wines. For the guests, it was a novel experience - unwinding with wine after spending an evening talking sales figures.
Speaking in Delhi, Indian Wine Academy Executive Director Sourish Bhattacharyya recounted what a business head had told him at a dinner. He, Mr Moneybags, had said that he let his executives do the preliminary talking, but he made it a point to seal his deals over food and wine. "People open up, they let their guard down and are more receptive to your point of view across the dinner table," Mr Moneybags had said.
Wine dinners may soon replace golf as the great corporate lubricant. At least Manoj Chugh, President, India and SAARC, EMC, appears to believe in this philosophy, although he's a committed teetotaller. Happy salesmen deliver the best results, he believes. And a good dinner experience is one way to keep people happy.
In Mumbai and Delhi, Arora and Bhattacharyya took them through a short journey through the wonderful world of wine, sharing their knowledge of ways to maximise satisfaction out of a wine drinking experience. The wines came from Australia, Chile, France, Italy, New Zealand and Spain. For many of the guests, it was their first exposure to the idea that countries other than France also produced wines.
The best compliment we could have got was when a gentlemen told us in Delhi that from now on, he would ask his relatives from Australia, who come often to India, to bring only wine for him. One of the guests even showed keen interest in going with the Indian Wine Academy to Singapore for the Wine for Asia 2006 in November. David Elliott, EMC head honcho for the Asia-Pacific region based in Sydney, couldn't help noticing the diversity in the wine offering. He was especially happy to see his country on the list.
Both hotels rose to the occasion, but we'd particularly like to compliment Executive Chef Francis of the InterContinental, who conducted some adventurous pairing to drive home the point that red wine needn't necessarily go only with duck, lamb or steaks. What matters more is the way a dish is prepared than the colour of the meat.
Francis had paired a Chianti with pan-seared chicken on a bed of mashed potatoes served with a robust brown mushroom sauce. The complementary option was steamed river sole and crunchy vegetables glazed with oyster sauce. The matches were heavenly. As was the seafood platter that came before. A Chablis makes a perfect pair, we discovered, with steamed oysters on a bed of wasabi rice. The white asparagus that came with the salad was a heavenly bonus. The buffet ended with a lamb cassoulet with lots of beans and asparagus for the health-conscious.
The evening was a novel experience for most of the participants. One of them in New Delhi even told us that he now regretted not having drunk wine when he had gone to France for training some time back. The next time, he said, he wouldn't repeat the mistake.