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Delhi Wine Club
 
Delhi Wine Club: Celebrating Global Champagne Day with 10 Champs

Posted: Wednesday, 28 October 2015 12:46

 

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Delhi Wine Club: Celebrating Global Champagne Day with 10 Champs

Oct 28: Delhi Wine Club celebrated the Global Champagne Day with aplomb by organising a special multi-course Indian Coastal Lunch (#248) from 7 States with 10 unlimited champagnes exclusively at the Amaranta Restaurant at Oberoi Gurgaon, writes Subhash Arora who conceptualised the lunch a month earlier and also propagated and encouraged wine lovers to celebrate the Day drinking champagne in any manner, making it one of the best wine events in the 13-year club history but also adding two Italian ’Champagnes’ as a twist

Photos By:: Adil Arora

Click For Large ViewWorking on a multi-champagne dinner concept for a year, I had finally decided on the venue last month after discussing the concept with the Sommelier Rakesh Awaghade. He has been revamping the wine programme at Oberoi Gurgaon since he joined them a few months ago, if not the restaurant prices. When I went to check out the Sunday brunch about 3 months ago, they had 6 champagnes + 4 sparkling wines. It was an excellent package but I convinced him to take the number of unlimited champagnes offered from six to TEN. My reasoning was, if one was going to drink champagne, one was going to stick to only the 6 champagnes and won’t drink the cheaper bubblies anyway. But if they increased the labels to 10, it would be an unmatchable deal anywhere in India (or the world) at Rs. 4495+ taxes. For details, visit

I must admit, I also have  a fetish for the number 10-Top Ten Importers, Top Ten Producers, Top Ten WOW (Women of Wine), Top Ten Indian Wines for Cellaring, are all regular feature in delWine- my weekly newsletter that goes to 69 countries. When I rate wines in stars, I also use 10 stars and not the 5 used traditionally by many. So why not 10 champagnes for an incredible buffet lunch! I guess the movie ‘Ten’ left a mark on me.

Rakesh was very receptive to my suggestion for listing 10 champagnes including Rose Brut for the Brunch. I even suggested a few labels that were not in their list but were available easily and were of the quality comparable to the ubiquitous Moet Chandon, by far the champagne brand leader in India ‘forever’. All that remained was to convince him to allow us to shift the champagnes and serve them at our special Sunday Click For Large ViewLunch at Amaranta. Coastal Cuisine is excellent there but it hasn’t been able to compete with the variety and vibrant atmosphere of 361˚ and hence offers an even lower-priced Sunday Lunch Menu with unlimited champagne with service at the table.

Global Champagne Day

Internationally, 23rd October has been designated as the Global Champagne Day-some people had also indicated 28th as the date. But since Sunday is a day to relax and possibly the only day one may binge, my heart was set to celebrate the day on Sunday, the 25th of October and I was adamant on the date despite resistance from many members as they would be out of town or busy in Post-Dussehra weddings or other private functions on that day (the newspapers said there were 30,000 weddings slated for that day). I didn’t want to disclose my intent for organising a lunch instead of dinner and having a 10-champagne event on this day. With rounds of negotiation, persuasion and cajoling I was able to have the restaurant lean towards my way-except the pricing which would make the club lose Rs. 500-600 a head.

I took the unorthodox decision on behalf of the Club and went to town publicising the event in order to inspire others to celebrate the Day with any Champagne. I don’t know how many actually followed my advisory but one group of enthusiasts took the cue and went to the same hotel, same restaurant, same menu, same price in a bid to be the first to hold our Sunday event a day earlier. Rather unfair on the part of the hotel but in a way, since the purpose of my wake-up call was to make people participate in the Global Champagne Day and exhort then go to as many Brunches as feasible, I am glad that the Delhi Wine Club (and our Associates’ page on Facebook-Indian Wine Academy closed group) and I were able to achieve some success in promoting champagne and the Global Champagne Day.

Champagne Day with a Difference

Click For Large ViewI was once again able to improvise in order to make it an extremely enjoyable experience-going well beyond simply drinking champagne, of which we ended up consuming an average of 1.1 bottles per person! Once in a year binge, that (I hope)! I had requested the members to have a designated driver. Even though slowly consumed over a period of 3.5-4 hours, the intoxicating effect of alcohol might not be of consequence but we like to pre-warn members-in any case, the amount of alcohol in a bottle of champagne on a regular basis is positively harmful for the human body.

We had organised the Welcome period in the piano bar and their wine library. The view from this vantage point is romantic or relaxing depending on what mood you are in and your company. Sitting at the plush sofas and looking out at the beautiful blue water body and wide expanse of greenery calls for soul soothing or stirring the teenager in you, The latter created the expected buzz and bonhomie before the third glass was served with the delicious snacks that included fried prawns, vadas, and Chettinad cheese tikkas.  

I had requested Rakesh to have each serving around 60 mL so that if a member had only 1 glass of each label, there would be net intake of 720 mL- almost a full bottle by the end of lunch. I assumed some members might skip a few labels in favour of some of their personal favourites. I had earmarked on a tasting sheet 20 stars; each member was given a pad and pencil to record any comments and circle every star after every Click For Large Viewserving so that they could figure out how much of the bubbles they had consumed.

Each sheet also had the Champagnes listed with a request to write down a score for each champagne. They were at liberty to give higher rating for their personal choice of the label. I had also insisted at the very beginning of talks with the hotel not to include the ubiquitous Moet Chandon Brut-because everyone has easy and frequent access to it. I had selected the Moet Rose instead-my personal favourite though it costs around 15-20% higher. Including Lanson, Moet and Drappier there were 3 Rose Brut variants and the rest 7 were Brut.

Each member was asked to give one of the 10 ratings to a wine (call it my fetish for 10 again!). Taking a cue from the 48 international wine competitions where I have been  judging for about 10 years, I asked them to assign a Bronze, Silver or Gold Medal with a +/- choice as well. The top rating would be the 10th option, a GG (Great Gold). Wine snobs or purists would scoff and smirk at my idea but my purpose was to engage the members fully and focus on the tasting and stay as alert as possible with alcohol increasing gradually but surely in the system.

Italian additions

Click For Large ViewI had also included two samples of Italian ‘champagnes.’  Due to the G I laws, one may not call a sparkler as champagne unless it is produced in Champagne according to the appellation laws (I hope you noticed that the wine description is with a ‘c’ and the region has a C). Franciacorta is a region in Lombardy in Italy where they produce excellent sparkling wines primarily with similar grapes-same is the case with Trentino based Ferrari. Many Italians believe them to be even superior though the producers do not like the comparison.

It was interesting to observe that Bellavista from Franciacorta, which was found delicious by members at an earlier DWC wine dinner, paled here with 10 champagnes staring at it. But the Ferrari Rose found a respectable place in the middle of the pack. Drappier Rose was the popular pick of the pack. Michel Drappier, who was in India a couple of weeks ago, would be proud to know that his ‘saignée’ technique using red grapes by bleeding off the juice after limited contact with the skins, had paid off for the Indian palates- for our members at least.

Taittinger, Piper, Devaux and Drappier-all Brut, found many takers as the top picks-the biggest surprise to me was that my favourite Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin was missing from the Top Three in the Members’ Collective Choice. Other champagnes popped were Mumm’s and Lanson.

An important feature of the Champagne Lunch was Rakesh, the Sommelier leading from the front in serving champagnes and also talking about the two Lanson variants at the Piano Bar earlier and the balance 8 at the Amaranta Restaurant which had been reserved exclusively for us, the PDRs excluded. He went around and interacted with each member, clarifying doubts and discussing their preferences.

The food quality, service and variety at the restaurant  were exquisite - what Oberoi has been known for during the last so many decades. The presentation of dishes was elegant, appetising and portions abundant. Starting from the Amuse Bouche, the dining experience was enhanced by the serving staff (and of course the Champs). A couple of dishes were not a perfect match with champagnes but today was not the day of Click For Large Viewserious matching but giving options to the members to look at having a complete meal with champagne. Moet Rose and Drappier Rose highlighted that with Indian coastal food Rose champagne had a slightly better chance of marriage. I had made sure also that we didn’t push Rose down members’ throats with desserts as several restaurants and sommeliers make the mistake of (mis)matching the two, assuming that Rose is slightly sweet at over 20 gms/Liter.

For me, the crescendo of the lunch was reached with the Main course-everything served earlier was merely foreplay. Banana leaf wrapped lobster (really tender and flavourful), Venchina Mamsam (mutton masala -flavourful and very tender but a tad too chilli hot for the champagnes), Kerala fish curry (melted in your mouth and lovely match with rice and all Bruts) and the delectable bacon and coriander rice, accompanied by ragi upma was a delicious experiment in the food-wine match because I could try various elements with 4 champagnes. I found Rose champagne matched better with the meats from the standpoint of tannins.

A delicious gourmet meal and memorable afternoon, thanks to the 10 champagnes and the staff of Amaranta-led so ably by Chef Rajeev and Rakesh Awaghade and the Restaurant Manager who deserved our standing ovation and applause. A toast to champagne, Champagne Day and to members’ health was a resounding finish to a brilliant afternoon-sunny, pleasant and conducive to plenty of bonhomie.

Cheers or as I would say, Jai Ho!

Subhash Arora

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Tags: Delhi Wine Club, Global Champagne Day, Amaranta Restaurant, Rakesh Awaghade, Oberoi Gurgaon, Franciacorta, Ferrari, Bellavista, Drappier Rose, Taittinger, Piper, Devaux, Drappier, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Mumm’s, Lanson

       

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