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Delhi Wine Club
Bordeaux Beauties Unveiled in Delhi-nay Gurgaon

Posted: Thursday, 31 May 2012 13:58

Bordeaux Beauties Unveiled in Delhi-nay Gurgaon

May 31 : A group of 33 Bordeaux fine wine producers- all members of the powerful trade association, Union Des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB) on their way to participate at Vinexpo Hong Kong Asia Pacific, stopped over in Mumbai and Gurgaon to showcase their Bordeaux beauties, primarily the outstanding vintage 2009. Subhash Arora reports the Gurgaon tasting.

Photos By:: Adil Arora

'I would walk a mile for a Camel,' has been the signature Ad for Camel cigarettes for several years. I would certainly walk a mile or even two for a tasting of this stature, in which a record 33 producers of fine wines from Bordeaux could be tasted at one venue. So despite the 44° C heat, with long lines at the Toll Plaza on NH-8, I would not dream of missing such a historical event, even though it meant delaying my trip by a couple of days.

Never in my living memory has there been an exclusive tasting in India, with so many distinguished producers from one region, though it did bring back memories of a group of Grandi Marchi producers like Gaja, Antinori, Masi, Felluga and Mastroberardino from Italy 5-6 years ago and an interesting tasting at Oberoi Delhi in the late 90s, when Hugh Johnson also came with a group of producers brought in by LVMH, perhaps ahead of its time. An excellent tasting by PFV (Primum Familiae Vini) in Mumbai in 2007 with 11 member-producers including Mouton Rothschild, Sassicaia, Antinori, Joseph Drouhin, Torres, Egon Mueller and Pol Roger champagne in Mumbai and facilitated by Sanjay Menon of Sonarys, also flashed through the mind.

A jubilant Sylvie Cazes, the  first woman President of the 40-year old, 135- member  UGCB was happy to point out that the Association had been mulling over a tasting in India for some time- around 60 of them are undertaken by them annually all over the world; I have been fortunate enough to enjoy a few of them overseas. Obviously, she would not commit if this would become an annual feature but the list of participants would change as ‘we have to give a chance to other members as well.’

‘Bordeaux is the largest heritage city in the world and full of the 18th century. We see a lot more Indians in Bordeaux chateaux these days. The interest for our wines is growing here, ‘she said, pointing out that ‘the economy is booming, middle classes are increasing in numbers and despite the high taxes there are several positive factors.’ She said that the Association would do a lot to improving the culture between India and Bordeaux.

Comparing the programme with China, she said when they first went to China in 2000 there were hardly any people at the tasting.  ‘We wondered if we had made a mistake and whether we should go back again, at all. However, at the next event there were 150 people and there was no looking back- China is our first export market today. ‘

She also clarified that this event was not to increase sales directly, reminding the audience that the sales in Bordeaux are still being conducted largely through the negociants, a couple of whom had also accompanied the group. ‘We provide the tool –it is for the people to explore the possibility of doing business together.’ The group conducts around 60 tastings throughout the event, tasting new vintages and is a highly coveted event.

Wines from all the great appellations of Bordeaux-Saint-Estephe, Pauillac, Saint-Julien, Margaux, Haut-Médoc, Moulis, Listrac, Pessac-Léognan, Graves, Sauternes and Barsac, Saint Emilion and Pomerol were available for tasting.

Oberoi Gurgaon did an excellent and professional job. What was slightly annoying was an insufficient number of spittoons that were too heavy to carry from one table to the other. A fair number were sprinkled around but not every table had one. Though every label merited drinking up, but with so many wines and so little time, spitting should have been par for the course. Besides, it sends a wrong message to the new entrants to the wonderful world of fine wine about the purpose of such tastings. It was nice to see Riedel glasses partnering for the occasion, a perfect example of Franco-Austrian collaboration of matched quality.

While not taking the credit away from Hotel Oberoi Gurgaon for organizing a grand tasting, it’s surprising  that  the organizers could not find a venue in the Capital, which has plenty of competent hotels like the Hyatt, The Taj, Shangri-La, The Park and even Oberoi Delhi which are quite capable of handling tasting of such  caliber. Unless Oberoi Gurgaon had sponsored the event, the only logical explanation could be the exorbitant excise duties on high quality wines in Delhi. Not only would the Delhi government have lost out on the excise duty they could have collected but in future, when business is generated due to the event, more benefits would accrue to cities like Mumbai and Gurgaon. Due to the multiplier effect for hotel pricings, these wines would remain too expensive for the vast majority of wine connoisseurs in Delhi, their love for Grands Vins of Bordeaux notwithstanding.

The time available for tasting was not enough- at least for serious wine connoisseurs. Hopefully, the importers had focused on whom to meet and taste the wines. Unknown to most in the audience, most of these producers are wine celebrities with centuries of winemaking behind them. Bordeaux wine connoisseurs consider it a privilege to meet them and discuss their wines and vintages, whenever they can. It was a great learning experience for anyone serious about fine wines-not only importers but also hospitality industry people, retailers and journalists who want to focus on wines in the future. It was not totally surprising to see people asking for white wine from the hard core red wine producers- Bordeaux is globally famous and a benchmark for fine red wines. 

Sylvie Cazes was quite pleased with the attendance. ‘About 200people in Mumbai and around 100 in Delhi is not bad at all.’ Highly regarded Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande of which she is the Managing Director, was very busy pouring wines. I loved wines from Ch. Lascombes, Figeac, Chevalier, Gruaud Larose and several other chateaux but it would be unfair to make comments since there was not enough time to meet many producers.

It was a pleasant surprise to see Ch’ng Poh Tiong-publisher, writer, lawyer, judge and above all a Bordeaux expert and a decade-old wine friend. It was a compliment to the event that he came especially to attend it. ‘I am so happy to be here for the historic occasion-since this is the first time it is being held in India,’ adding ,’ I am quite impressed to see so many young and dynamic people here. I know your taxes here are very high and it’s a pity that wine connoisseurs are really missing out drinking so many of these excellent wines but I am impressed with the orderly and relatively quiet tasting. If I were to taste in Hong Kong or Singapore there would be too many people and too much noise. I have enjoyed the tasting and meeting several friends here.’

UGCB- The Book Review

If the tasting was Barrhe Miyan, the promo-type of book ‘Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux’ 2012-13 edition, published by UGCB was definitely Chhote Miyan. It illustrates all the necessary details about the 132 producer members (at the time of printing in 2011)-replete with information that includes a brief history, maps, names of owners, grapes and the area of viticulture, labels, average production levels and contact details including the company websites so useful to importers, journalists, hotel managers and restaurant owners, sommeliers and Bordeaux lovers in general.  A glance through the book makes you salivate for the wines and long for a visit to the beautiful historical region that is so vivacious and vibrant after centuries of winemaking. This ought to find a place in the wine library of all importers and senior F & B staff of 5-star hotels and restaurant owners as a resource material.

Enroute to Hong Kong

The event was organized perhaps because the team was enthused about participating in Vinexpo Hong Kong being held a couple of days later-from May 29 to 31. This would be a lay-over in Mumbai and Delhi and an opportunity for some of them to visit the Taj Mahal in Agra. That was the message from a few of them as they cantered out of the tasting hall sharp at 5:30 pm like an Indian babu. However, there is nothing wrong with that plan. In fact, it is advisable to combine such events in India with those happening at Hong Kong, Singapore or Japan as they create fewer burdens on the pocket.

But in the long term interests of Bordeaux wines, such tastings must be biennial, if not annual features, if the bordelaise are serious about the peculiar long term Indian market. 

Subhash Arora

As the event was historical and of great long term significance for our readers, we have covered both the Mumbai and Gurgaon events separately- a first time for delWine-editor




Poh Tiong Chng Says:

Dear Subhash, I enjoyed very much reading your coverage.Looking forward to bumping into you in the next few days.Warmest regards,Poh Tiong

Posted @ June 04, 2012 14:10


Subhash Arora Says:

Thanks, Sidd. Subhash in Vienna

Posted @ June 02, 2012 11:05


Sidd Banerji Says:

What an extraordinary and brilliant depiction of the Delhi section of the French Revolution.It is always a unique experience to run thru such a detailed report with warmth,wit and stats.My salute Subhash.

Posted @ June 02, 2012 10:10


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