India's First Wine, Food and Hospitality Website, INDIAN WINE ACADEMY, Specialists in Food & Wine Programmes. Food Importers in Ten Cities Across India. Publishers of delWine, India’s First Wine.
Skip Navigation Links
About Us
Indian Market
Wine & Health
Wine Events
Retail News
Contact Us
Skip Navigation Links
Wine Tourism
Book Review
Photo Gallery
Readers' Comments
Video Wall
Media Partners
Ask Wineguyindia
Wine & Food
Wine Guru
Gerry Dawes
Harvest Reports
Mumbai Reports
Advertise With Us
US Report on Indian Market Released
Top Ten Importers List 2015-16
On Facebook
On Twitter
Delhi Wine Club
ITC Hotels brings Vega Sicilia's Pablo Alvarez to India

Posted: Friday, 24 July 2015 11:32


If you Like this article, please click

ITC Hotels brings Vega Sicilia's Pablo Alvarez to India

July 24: As a part of its GREAT wine initiative under implementation, ITC Hotels convinced Pablo Alvarez, CEO of the Vega Sicilia group to visit Delhi and Mumbai where he presented 5 wines from 4 of the 5 wineries the group has owned in a short span of 30 years, writes Subhash Arora who had lunch with him and Sonal Holland, the Divisional Head for Wine and Beverages at the ITC Hotels Division at the newly created Prive at ITC Maurya on Tuesday

Photo By:: Adil Arora

Click For Large ViewWhen Sonal Holland invited me for an exclusive, first interview with Pablo Alvarez to be followed later by a private lunch with two other journalists, I did not hesitate to accept both invitations. It is not often that one can meet a rock star of wine in a distraction-free and informal situation like this! It is not often that one can have Vega Sicilia Unico, the wine with a cult status and often cited as the best Spanish red wine and other wines under the umbrella,  with lunch in the company of the owner.

I have met Alvarez a few times, first in Taj Mahal Palace Hotel Mumbai when he was visited with PFV- Primum Familiae Vini, a group of twelve family owned premier wine producers (with currently 11 members-all from Europe), when the group passed through India for a tasting 8 years ago. I had interviewed him in 2007 in Valencia at Vinoelite Wine Show where PFV was participating too. Over the years I met him briefly on various occasions including a couple of times at the annual World Wine Symposium at Villa d’Este, Italy where I am a regular visitor. I have watched the meteoric rise of the Vega Sicilia group as well as Alvarez who studied to be a lawyer but got sucked into the winery only because his father David Alvarez bought Vega Sicilia in 1982, almost by accident.

Visit brings a Visit

Click For Large ViewThe credit for bringing Pablo and his General Manager Antonio Menendez to India for 3 days goes to Sonal Holland, the corporate beverage manager for the ITC Hotels group. Earlier this year in March, she visited the Vega Sicilia winery in Ribera Del Duero. ‘His wife is my friend and is also a fellow MW student. It took a lot of convincing Pablo to visit India and showcase his wines to a select group of people, primarily as his calendar was full. But he made efforts and decided to visit India on way to East.

"At ITC Hotels, our aim is to bring exclusive and world-class wine experiences for our discerning guests. W wish to partner with iconic wine brands and top wine Houses around the world to stage one-of-a-kind events at our hotels," she tells delWine with satisfaction as she adds, ‘there are few names in the world of wines as powerful and aristocratic as Vega Sicilia which is undisputedly one of the most prestigious wine houses of Spain and perhaps the only Spanish brand that continues to hold its own against the best Classified growths and vineyards of Bordeaux and Burgundy,”

Click For Large ViewAfter a long interview lasting an hour and a half (to be reported in the next edition of delWine) the lunch was organised at Prive, the recently opened über chic club at ITC Maurya in the new wing. The Pop up restaurant ‘The India Room’ from ITC Grand Bharat was created by the Chief Chef Animesh who came especially to craft the special lunch and dinner- the most exquisite quintessential European cuisine with wines from 4 of the 5 wineries owned by the Group- Pintia 2008, Alion 2011, Vega Sicilia Valbuena 2008, Vega Sicilia Unico 2007 and  Oremus Tokaji Aszu 3 Puttonyos 2008.

Click For Large ViewThe tone of the lunch was set by the Amuse Bouche-Porcini Cappccino with black olive powder and truffle essence was so flavoursome that I unabashedly requested for one more portion which the alert wait staff immediately obliged. All the wines were outstanding by themselves but the flavours got accentuated when served with the matching cuisine. Morel Symphony with grilled asparagus and saffron foam had just the right texture with the asparagus balancing the brown colour of the two big morel pieces filled with foam. But it was an excellent match with the iconic Unico 2007. Despite the confusion it created (Unico is supposed to be aged for a minimum of 10 years but the bottle ageing time of almost 3 years must have been reduced to make it available for India), it was a classical match for the vegetarian Royalty. Later, I found Valbuena 2008 a great match with the Soufflé with paprika sauce-as well as with the Morels.

Click For Large ViewBut another surprise was waiting when the dessert was served. The traditional Queen’s Pudding with baked Meringue was no match for the Oremus Tokaj. Perhaps it was because I had just watched Shashi Tharoor’s deliciously brilliant speech at Oxford Union about the UK government owing us Reparations for the forceful ruling India on YouTube. Perhaps the acidity level was a bit high for the sugar level which was relatively low in the 3 Puttonyuo Tokaj (without getting technical, let’s say 4 and 5 P are sweeter, more complex and more popular). I had a sudden urge to try with a pineapple pastry. The lovely people at the Prive were in a mood to oblige and a couple of pastries were picked up from the patisserie downstairs. My hunch was right. It was again a perfect match- even Robert Parker won’t hesitate to give 100/100 for both the combos. What a memorable experience curated by Sonal!

GREAT Wine Programme

ITC Hotels GREAT Wine Program is under gradual implementation- based on Good quality wines, Reasonable prices, world-class and exclusive Experiences, Attention to Detail in terms of storage and service and Trained competent staff.

ITC Hotels already has the single largest pool of WSET certified professionals. A programme that was initiated earlier by the corporate Beverage Manager for Wines, Niladri Dhar, has been accelerated with the induction of Sonal Holland who is a wine educator and working on her MW programme before joining the group and is still pursuing it along with her job.

With 75 persons already qualified as WSET Certificate holders of different levels ) ITC Hotels has become the undisputed leader in building competency in-house as Approved Program Providers of WSET courses in India. ‘We have a group of a dozen trainers authorised by WSET -UK to conduct courses up to Level 2 and I conduct Level 3,’ says Sonal who is WSET-4 Diploma, the top WSET qualification. We have about 60 WSET-3 qualified people and around 15 as Level 2. We will continue with more Level 1 and 2 in August and another round of WSET-3 starts in October,’ says Sonal.

Wine Selection and Private Labels

Click For Large ViewITC Hotels is currently renovating its Wine Lists. ‘We are in the midst of rejuvenating our wine list selections which will represent classic regions as well as exciting blends from around the world. We aim to have a world-class wine selection which will show ambition, diversity of styles and price points,’ says Sonal, assuring that there will be something for everyone from a wine enthusiast to collector.

After experimenting with the private labels- ITC Hotels has strategized to focus on private labels. Mr. Dipak Haksar, COO and Mr. Ranvir Bhandari - Senior VP- Operations of ITC Hotels have given me a mandates to embark on a private wine label program which will be unveiled over the course of the next few months. These will be partnerships with wine brands that represent class, excitement and personality,’ says Holland while stressing that the concept is not to promote entry level wines but mid range good quality wines that our serving staff is familiar with and is proud to serve.’

‘Our Hotels across India are now destinations for wine paired menus, wine social evenings, wine-maker dinners and educational workshops where wine-minded guests network and spend their time. Our culinary excellence particularly for Indian cuisine is well documented, but we are now aiming to augment hat strength with excellence in wines. ITC Hotels is gearing up to be the most exciting and leading wine destination in the country,’ says Sonal.

Click For Large ViewIt was great to see Pablo Alvarez again and break bread with him over their wines. It is nice to see a GREAT wine Programme planned by ITC Hotels and being executed by Sonal. It will be great to see the wines listed at a more decent level after the refurbishing is complete. Focus is needed on more and more of Wine-by-the-glass programme with affordable prices for at least some of the labels. Indian wines need to be present in a bigger way than only Fratelli Vino de la Casa (Sangiovese blend with Cabernet), included as the House Vino last year. It was also good to know that ITC already has Pintia, Alion and Oremus on its List and will now consider adding Valbuena and Unico to their top ended Cellar Selection.

Otherwise, only a small class will get the benefit of such programmes and the hotels will miss out a huge potential business in the medium and long term. After all, many more people who come to the restaurants need to have the urge to drink a glass of wine at any time of the day before we can say that wine culture has become a part of our daily life.

Subhash Arora


Video Unplugged-   Vol 1         Vol 2

If you Like this article please click on the Like button   


Want to Comment ?
Please enter your comments in the space provided below. If there is a problem, please write directly to Thank you.

Generate a new image

Type letters from the image:

Please note that it may take some time to get your comment published...Editor

Wine In India, Indian Wine, International Wine, Asian Wine Academy, Beer, Champagne, World Wine Academy, World Wine, World Wines, Retail, Hotel


Copyright©indianwineacademy, 2003-2020 |All Rights Reserved
Developed & Designed by Sadilak SoftNet