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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Wednesday, 11 August 2010 14:18

Wine Warriors

‘How to become a wine connoisseur, without sounding like a kick worthy snob’ is what Leher Kala, a free lance journalist with the standing of over a decade, writes giving the example of the Delhi wine Club and its President Subhash Arora,, after she happened to attend a dinner at the club’s historic wine weekend at Beleza Beach Resort in Goa recently and enjoyed the evening.

Photos By:: Adil Arora


The contemporary jargon surrounding wine that one occasionally overhears— “full bodied yet delicate” or “sensual and aromatic”— has fuelled my suspicion that Delhi has virtually no oenophiles but many masqueraders who, in a test, would be hard put to differentiate between red and white wine.

I should add I would be the first to fail the red and white test: at 34 I still can’t differentiate between Coke and Pepsi. Another confession, I know absolutely nothing about wine and even less about cheese. (Wine and cheese snobs are usually the same.) But being fanatically calorie and health conscious, I opt for a glass of red wine if I’m out since my favourite drink, beer, is more fattening and there’s some unsubstantiated information out there that suggests red wine might actually be good for health.

Last weekend I happened to attend a wine dinner hosted by the Delhi Wine Club in Goa. The president, Subhash Arora, a sprightly 64-year-old usually dressed in flowery Hawaiian shirts was determined to break down the mystique around wine when he started this club in 2002. An IIT engineer, Arora ran an export business and while traveling abroad would try different wines. He attended a party in Delhi in 1993 where a wine served had turned into vile, poisonous vinegar, yet guests were drinking it thinking that’s how a great wine tastes. After he forced the host to discard it, he became the wine guru among his friends who’d call him for advice on what to buy.

Berkmann Wine Cellars India Pvt Ltd

The Delhi Wine Club’s dinner (162 so far, they meet once a month) in south Goa was held at Tentação, a restaurant at resort Beleza By The Beach, a sprawling estate of lush green gardens blazing with crotons and coconut trees, wildly beautiful, especially in the monsoon. Resort owner, a charming 26-year-old, Bhavna Bahl, is also an enthusiastic chef and assisted Arora in pairing appropriate Goan cuisine with the Spanish wines chosen for the evening (Rs 2,000 per head). Amidst thunder and torrential rain, the 30-odd Wine Club members settled down to taste eight different wines with a 5-course meal. Arora’s main accomplishment has been to weed out the stuffiness associated with wine. Instead of a table full of stiff aesthetes, the members I met were casually dressed regular folk from Delhi, people in advertising, lawyers and businessmen, brought together by their common fascination for wine.

However, Arora turns into a benign tyrant when it comes to wine etiquette at the table. Nobody is allowed to smoke (it interferes with the aromas of the wine), and there can be no juices or soft drinks on the table, or any other form of alcohol. Soda is permitted but discouraged. The order of the wines cannot vary: first the aperitif, two white wines, a rose, then two reds, and finally a desert wine. “Our first wine dinner turned into a bar brawl with people demanding whisky. I sacked eight members the next day,” recalls Arora. If you get drunk, you better not be expecting another wine club invite. God forbid, if he catches a male member leering at a female: that calls for immediate ouster. Arora makes his rules crystal clear, like it or lump it. He makes no money off his website, but he tells me that the wine club has Rs 2 lakhs in the kitty collected from membership fees, which is Rs 4,000 per couple. No one seems more startled than Arora at his transformation from exporter to an authority on wine, quoted routinely by The New York Times and Washington Post . “I’m just following my passion,” he says. There’s hope for the rest of us.

Leher Kala

Leher Kala has been a TV anchor for the India Today group for several years till she switched to print media and joined the Express India. Recently, she quit the full-time job to start a film company making specialty event films-in a ‘hut kay’ style. She is still a free lance journalist and writes a weekly column ‘On the Loose’ in Express India. Coincidentally, she had also covered the story on ‘Aaj Tak’ TV channel when the Delhi wine Club was launched in 2002.  Leher may be contacted at  -editor
For the article on Express India Click HERE

For an earlier article on the wine dinner by Prahlad Kakkar, click

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