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Posted: Monday, 20 November 2017 12:57

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Passing By: Robert Joseph of Le Grand Noir French wines

Nov 20: Robert Joseph who was in India to promote his Le Grand Noir French labels that were launched during the last year’s maiden edition of the ‘Globe in a Glass’ Roadshow in October 2016, made an unscheduled stop in Delhi after showcasing the wines in the same event held in Goa, Pune and Mumbai, for a quick tasting and a chat with the journalists and a few invitees before returning to UK, writes Subhash Arora who tasted all the four variants and chatted with him briefly

Click For Large ViewIn a long and extensive interview with him at Mundusvini Germany and in Georgia a couple of years ago, I had asked Robert Joseph, the well-known journalist, international wine judge and speaker, author and critic what was his motivation to shift from journalism to wine making as he had started with French wines in the well-known Minervois region in South of France.

Robert Joseph whom I had pet-named as Enfant Terrible of the wine industry (Cambridge Dictionary defines Enfant Terrible as a famous or successful person who likes to shock people)  has views which vary from non-conformist to radically different and he is generally quite vocal about the current state of affairs in wine industry, especially in the Old World. He feels most wine lovers are not interested in reading about wine. ‘When I was just a journalist, I realised that my personal friends and rich people were drinking good wine- but they never read my stuff. So why bother writing about it! I used to go to parties where I’d meet sophisticated and rich people better educated than me and drinking good wine but they had not read my articles either.  My articles were being read by a few people but the same people again and again,’ he says.

Therefore, teaming with two other English gentlemen, Hugh Ryman and Kevin Shaw, the three started production of Le Grand Noir label with the objective of bringing together the elegance of the fine French wines with the friendly approachability and consistency of varietals from the New World. "We wanted to be like chefs creating deliciously innovative dishes rather than slavishly following old recipes. The wines we wanted to produce had to be enjoyable with a wide range of cuisines and also without food,’ he insists.

Click For Large ViewWorking with the 1,200 grape-growers and the winemakers at the Celliers Jean d'Alibert winery, they blended Chardonnay and Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz and the famous GSM, (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre) blend. They planted varieties like Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc and like the master-blenders of the fine Champagnes, blended wines from grapes from different parcels of land to create complex, yet easily approachable styles.

K.I.S.S.- Keep it Simple, Stupid

When Delhi Wine Club was formed in 2002, I went book hunting in Delhi to gift one to all the members -there were not too many labels available anyway. I was able to procure enough copies of the wine book in the popular and simple KISS series. It was uncomplicated but interesting and very useful book for novices and had several simple illustrations. I didn’t realise then that one of the authors was in fact, Robert. He has authored 25 books, including the Complete Encyclopaedia of Wine, The Wine Lover's Guide to the World and the annual Robert Joseph Good Wine Guide since then.

Click For Large ViewWhile addressing those present on 17th November at Lodi-the Garden Restaurant, he repeated the sentiments expressed in the book co-authored 20 years ago-‘to keep things simple’. He said not even 10% of the people who drank wine know anything about it or had any desire to learn about wine. For them it was just one of the alcobev products and they could switch from one category to the other. It was not smart to confuse them with technical jargon and big sounding words. One has to learn to engage with them and connect with the younger generation who are the biggest market.’

No doubt Le Grand Noir’s all the 4 variants which are now available in all major cities including Delhi- Chardonnay-Viognier, Pinot Noir, GSM and Cabernet Shiraz, sell for Rs. 1550. He was quite receptive when I told him the wine should have been priced at Rs. 1490 or Rs. 1495, making it sub Rs. 1500 as many customers perceived wines retailing for over Rs. 1500 were expensive and unaffordable for middle-classes. He said he had made a mental note and would pass it on to Sula Selections, the importer of his labels.

The wines I tasted were just like he had said-simple, pleasant, approachable-with or without food and at that price certainly quaffable and affordable. In fact, Robert felt gratified and had gleam in his eyes when I told him that even before I knew of his plans to visit Delhi, I had already ordered a few cases of his Pinot Noir because they were affordable and offered drinking pleasure for those who were not snobbish about wine.

For erlier articles please visit

Le Grand Noir enters India in Style Sula

Counter Point- ROBERT JOSEPH –Enfant Terrible of Wine Industry

Subhash Arora

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