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Posted: Tuesday, 05 October 2021 23:43


Californian Wines Dance on Indian Palates at the US Embassy in Delhi

Oct 04: The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in conjunction with the Office of Agricultural Affairs at the US Embassy, organised ‘Wines of California’ Tasting at Roosevelt House last Thursday, with about 35 wines from wineries in California besides the seemingly infinite, delicious snacks and a lot of bonhomie as a condiment, making the guests mingle with the embassy staff, as if it was an informal declaration of the end of Pandemic, writes Subhash Arora who liked the wines and an informal atmosphere but would prefer a serious tasting in quiet environ to evaluate- a practical impossibility

The wines were from Napa Valley, Sonoma, Central Coast, and Lodi etc with streaming snacks provided by the gracious hosts, giving the invitees-importers, sommeliers, journalists, retailers and bloggers a wide option. It was also an opportunity to pair wine with food besides tasting wines which ranged from around $10-$100 in terms of CIF value and offered many hidden gems.

The wines included two well-known bubblies from the Schramsberg Vineyards stable-including the Blanc de Blanc used by Pres. Richard Nixon to raise a Toast to the Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in 1972 when he opened the China-US trade corridor in a big way, giving a big boost to the Chinese economy. These wines are served by every US President at some State Banquet (for the record, Indian government prohibits serving wines at any State Banquet or any formal government function whereas the US government serves American wines only). Mirabelle Brut Rosé with almost equal proportions of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, had many takers.

Other well-known wines (for the author) were from Hahn Family Vineyards, Jordan Vineyards and Winery in Healdsburg in Sonoma County and St. Supéry Napa Valley wines from Rutherford. Here is a list of 10 wineries represented:

Ballard Lane, Hahn, Jordan, Lange Twins, St. Supéry, DAOU, Oak Ridge, Schramsberg, Ménage à Trois and Carmel Road.  

With some 35 labels and streaming delicious snacks with the positive vibes from the hosts offering warm hospitality, it was a Tasting to enjoy! The Pinot Noirs were pretty but I was also happy with the variety of Cabernet Franc, Petite Sarah, Grenache Rosé and Rosé Brut. Schramsberg Mirabelle Rosé Brut and St. Supéry were my top favourites, though I must confess that with so many friends meeting for the first time after various Lockdowns, it was also an occasion for exchanging pleasantries and to know that all of us were alive.

Personally, I like the Tastings to be a serious business but I suppose the organisers had done their homework and figured an environment of   informality would be the best format. California (especially) Napa Valley wines are pricey even though the producers may harp on high PQR. But overall most wines were very good quality at reasonable prices.

Talking of the Prices, the organisers had also handed out a List of prices for all wines. Surprised by a few in the List to be extraordinarily cheap, I decided to later compare these with those in Wine-Searcher. While a few seemed to be correct and many in line with the market reality (where Wine-Searcher has the prices at 2 times higher), many had a difference of 4-5 times!! Obviously, there must be some error.

Here are a few of the prices given as CIF in US dollars, I observed: (Wine –Searcher average Prices are in parenthesis).

Hahn Santa Lucia Highlands (SLH) Pinot Noir  

30 (22)  website shop shows $30

Hahn Smith & Hook Cabernet Sauvignon

25 (19)

St Supéry Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2020

24 (23)

St Supéry Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2020

48 (38/28)

St. Supéry Andrew Jackson Dollarhide

100 (98)

DAOU Paso Robles Chardonnay

10 (19)

DAOU Paso Robles Rosé

10 (20)

DAOU Paso Robles Sauvignon Blanc 

8.5 (16)

DAOU Paso Robles 

14 (26)

Now look at the prices below

Jordan Vineyard and Winery Russian River Chard


Jordan Vineyard and Winery Alexander Valley CS

5 (60-64)

Ménage a Troi Lavish Merlot 

2 (11)

Ménage a Troi Gold Chardonnay

2 (9)

Carmel Road Monterey Chardonnay

7 (15)

Carmel Road Central Coast Pinot Noir

7 (19)

Surely, the potential importers would sort it out with the producers during negotiations. A very well organised event and as I always tell foreign producers, the best way to promote your products in India is with the embassy of your country and nobody could do it better than USDA. The other important factor is that such tastings should be done on a regular basis- for instance ‘Wines of California’ must be present for a similar Tasting every year –perhaps continuously from 3-5 years for positive results, miracles excepted.

Another factor the embassy and USDA should consider is participation in wine shows like Prowein in Mumbai in November 2021 or Vinexpo India 2021 in New Delhi on 9-11 December 2021. Vinexpo India runs concurrently to SIAL India, giving the country an excellent opportunity of food and wine matching. Also, in Delhi, if the wines are imported within the quota by the embassies, there are reportedly no duties involved and many more people can be invited to taste the wines, with the possibility of conducting Masterclasses.

Doing business in India is not an easy task (I am told in many countries the problem is similar) but with the focus of countries like the US, France, Spain, Italy and Australia they can hopefully cross the humps and win the wine race which is not an ordinary race but a Hurdle Race that needs better strategizing. As a wine lover, nothing would give me more pleasure than to see more Californian

Subhash Arora


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