Sep 16: Delhi Wine Club celebrated Five Years with a bon vivant's afternoon at the Orient Express Restaurant, in the Hotel Taj Palace on May 20. H.E. Jorge Heine, Ambassador of Chile, who was present with his wife Norma, writes about his experience.
a voracious reader, I was brought up on Agatha Christie's
mysteries. Hercule Poirot held a special fascination
for me, as did my imaginary train rides on the Orient
Express. After a long hiatus, during which I read few
mysteries, I have now rediscovered them. P.D. James,
the "queen of classic crime", is holding a
special sway on me these days, and I await with eager
anticipation each one of her books. Commander Adam Dalgliesh,
her Scotland Yard poet detective, is a Poirot for our
times, and both his riddles and his complex love life
make for fascinating reading. Her latest book, The
Lighthouse, was a special treat. I also like Ruth
Rendell, Dorothy Sayers (the founding mother of them
all) and Elizabeth George. Ian Rankin, so widely praised
for his psychological insights, I have found more difficult
to crack, but I will keep trying. It would seem then,
that, for me at least, it is English women writers who
hold the key to that apparent oxymoron, "an enjoyable
It is for that reason, among others, that I was so delighted
when Subhash Arora, the founder, mentor and driving
force of the Delhi Wine Club, kindly invited me to attend
the fifth birthday of the DWC at The Orient Express,
the famous restaurant at the Taj Palace Hotel, so widely
praised for its European cuisine, and so evocative of
the fabled world of European trains in the twenties
and thirties so well captured by Christie in her 1934
book, and later in the 1974, star-studded Sidney Lumet
film by the same name featuring Albert Finney and Ingrid
Restaurants, invented in France in the eighteenth century,
serve a purpose quite beyond the ostensible one of selling
food. Sitting at the right table in a good restaurant
means creating a world of your own, one in which nothing
matters but the food, the wine, and the conversation.
Not to have to worry about anything else is what makes
dining out so different an experience from dining at
home. It is also why mobile phones have wrought havoc
As trains create a self-contained world of their own
as well, the idea of a restaurant in a train is a tried
and tested one, and one of my best memories of restaurants
in Ann Arbor, Michigan (a great college town, though
not particularly known for its gastronomic landscape),
where I spent a glorious summer in 1976, is one of another
variation on the same theme, an establishment by the
name of The Train Station, set up in the refurbished
remains of an abandoned railway station.
Though I had heard much about it, and I visit the Taj
Palace frequently, I had never actually dined at The
Orient Express, and I must say it lived up to its
reputation. Albeit somewhat delayed because of a little
domestic accident of my wife Norma, we made it in due
course and enjoyed every minute of it.
It was especially gratifying to see my colleague Francis
Moloi, the South African High Commissioner, and his
wife Misiwe, and so many loyal members of the Club,
though we missed Sourish Bhattacharyya, who I am told
was in Hong Kong on vacation with his family. To have
the restaurant exclusively for ourselves was also a
prawn soup (in the fancy language of menuspeak, "Fumet
of Langoustine enriched with coral butter and cognac")
was the best I have had in a long time, and the rest
of the "journey" was certainly up to par.
The "Spotted Tiger prawns with mint and bergamot
oil" was given the 5-star rating by Norma who,
I must confess, is a shellfish expert. She found them
crisp and succulent.
The five wines we had were not only delicious but also
pared very well with the food. Chablis Premier Cru from
Long de Paquit was dry, crisp, fresh and well balanced.
I noticed everyone loved the Cabernet Franc from Zorgvliet.
But the piece de resistance was the last wine,
the Super Tuscan Promis from Gaja. With rounded tannins
and a good balance it was smooth on the palate and I
noticed members leaving only after finishing off the
bottles organized by Subhash. If one has any doubts
about preferring a white wine in summer, this was a
fine example of how much difference proper selection
and serving temperature can make to the flavour of red
wine. It was a perfect match for the main course, the
and I travel quite a bit, so that to be able to spend
a quiet weekend in Delhi is something we treasure. "Quiet",
however, does not mean locking ourselves up at home.
We enjoy lunches and dinners with friends, perhaps more
than the week-end sight-seeing one is supposed to engage
in while posted in India—by definition for a limited
time, in a country-cum-continent where there is so much
to see, and where every minute should be taken advantage
for those purposes, or a least so the reasoning goes.
It is not something easy to convey to others. When my
son Gunther, living in faraway Chile, asks me what I
have been doing with myself, the response, "I went
to this great lunch on Tuesday" does not impress
him, and he keeps asking about what he would presumably
consider more exciting endeavors. I still have to do
a tiger safari, and I suppose that would count among
the latter, but in the meantime, recharging the batteries
by spending a few week-ends at home and socializing
is fine by us.
space created by the DWC, in which one is able to savour
fine wines with good food and stimulating company is
thus much appreciated. A key challenge for New Delhi
as it gears up for the 2010 Commonwealth Games is to
create a truly world class city. Delhi has the history,
the size, the architecture and the cultural and intellectual
underpinnings to make such an aspiration a legitimate
one. Nonetheless, it has much to catch up on other fronts,
including its infrastructure and the availability of
many amenities that are taken for granted elsewhere,
like a glass of good wine, when and where one wants
it, at a reasonable price.
There were 75 wine clubs in Johannesburg, a city half
the size of Delhi, when I served in South Africa in
the nineties, so there is much room to grow in this
field, but the main point is that it has started. Harold
Wilson famously said that a week is a long time in politics.
Five years is a short time in the life of a club, but
not an insignificant one. The fact that it has grown
from strength to strength shows that it has filled an
important need in a city that is already the capital
of the Global South.
Happy birthday, DWC, and keep up the good work!
Jorge Heine is the ambassador of Chile to India,
a wine lover, and an honorary member of the Delhi Wine
Club - editor.
(His Excellency missed out on tasting a couple of very
pleasant aperitif wines with finger foods as he got
delayed. Viña Cascarela Verdejo 2006 DO Rueda
from Bodegas Alberto Gutiérrez was a perfect
wine for the afternoon. Very fresh, crisp and with citrus
flavour, the Verdejo varietal has been a true find in
NW Spain during the last 20 years. Judging from members'
reaction and my own assessment during the last 2-year
tastings, this varietal and label will satisfy many
thirsty palates in India.
Silver Myn Rose 2005 from Zorgvliet had been gifted
by the South African High Commission for tasting. Rose
has not been members' favourite in the past. But this
wine was polished off with instant refills even before
I had a chance to have a sip. But, from my previous
tasting, I remembered the strawberry and spicy nose
carrying through into the flavour. The cleverness with
which, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc
and Merlot have been blended in this dry wine show well
on the palate.)
Subhash Arora Photos
The Delhi Wine Club was founded by Subhash Arora in 2002 and had celebrated its 300th event in January, 2020 when he took a voluntary retirement and passed on the mantle as President to Sourish Bhattacharyya. Arora was made the Chairman Emeritus. This Article from the Archives of Indian Wine Academy was penned beautifully by H.E, Jorge Heine, the Chilean Ambassador at the time and an Honorary Member of the Club, after he attended the 5th Anniversary celebration in May 2007 at the iconic Orient Express Restaurant at the Taj Palace Hotel-editor
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