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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Wednesday, 25 August 2010 17:47

Wine Club Dinner: A Taste of InDiya in Diya

At the Diya Restaurant at  the Leela Kempinski Hotel in Gurgaon, the Delhi Wine Club gave a provocative thought to the  question of why more wine drinkers in India do not drink wine with Indian food. Arun Batra who attended the dinner where Indian cuisine was paired with five Italian, German and American wines, shares his experience of the evening.

Photos By:: Adil Arora

Talk to any international wine maker of repute visiting India and before long he would be telling you about which of his wines marry so beautifully with Indian cuisines. So what’s wrong with that, you might ask??  Nothing at all – what the wine maker is doing is simply walking down the well-trodden path of countless international wine marketers before him who believe, and successfully too, that if you position your wines as compatible with the local cuisine of a country, you give yourself more than an even chance to get your wines moving off the shelves.

So much for that macro generalisation but do things in India happen differently? Ask yourself a question as a wine drinker,- do you drink wine with Indian food be it at home or whilst dining out? This was a question which the welcoming Delhi Wine Club President Subhash Arora posed to club members gathered at the 163rd wine dinner held at Diya at the Leela Kempinski on Tuesday, the 23rd Aug evening, while itroducing the wines.

The answer was an eye opener – just around 10% said yes!! Members felt that whilst most folks would choose either Chinese, Mediterranean or Fusion as their preferred choice of cuisines whilst dining out- and that was also when they were most likely to order wine too –something which usually loses out to beer or scotch when pigging out on butter chicken and daal makhani. And, large parties apart, the story doesn’t look too different at home –folks are more likely to open a bottle of wine to go with a pizza or a pasta than with a chicken curry.

So these were some of the issues relating to the  Indian wine drinker’s consumption behaviour being contemplated whilst we sipped our Carpineto Dogajolo Bianco IGT Toscana 2009 – a very pleasant fruity medium bodied wine from Tuscany. Unfortunately the lighting in our get –together room was so dim that we were deprived of our visual sensory input whilst enjoying the melt in the mouth seekh kababs and succulent paneer shashsliks on pass around.

A walk across the lobby brought us to Diya – Leela Kempinski’s signature Indian casual fine dining retarauant where live Indian classical music welcomes you. The impressive custom printed menu for the evening was awaiting each one of us. Looking at the wines and the dishes paired with them by President Subhash, one could make that the four wines were to come to us in two flights so as to enable us to pair a wine with more than one dish – a very interesting concept to enable the drinker to test the versatility of the wine in the glass.

The Amuse-bouche of grilled scallops came artfully presented with a tube of fresh vegetable juice –very flattering but it did not deceive as the scallops were large, juicy yet firm and the hint of mango chutney was a good compliment to the off dry Château St Michele Riesling 2008 from the Columbia Valley with sweet lime and peachy undertones – an adequate everyday wine.

The next Riesling in the pair brought home to me not only the fact that Riesling is a very versatile wine with styles ranging from dry to sweet but that Germany is really the home of Rieslings . The Schloss Vollrads Riesling Kabinett 2007 was a great example of the fine Rieslings coming from the Rheingau province- golden in colour with a lime and lemony nose, lots of juicy fruit on the mouth, medium acidity and a smooth finish. it had the classical petrol aroma carrying into the flavour of a good quality aged Riesling, as Subhash explained to some of us wondering whether it was a good thing or what!

This Riesling went equally well with the grilled scallops ( yes, we did ask for seconds and yes, we got them !!) as it did with the Duck salad, where the slight hint of the vinegar marinade offset the sweetness of the wine excellently, and also with the Gosht ka Shorba.

It was then time to switch gears to the Reds where once again we tried a wine from the United States – the Erath Pinot Noir 2007 from Oregon. This was the first time I had tried a Pinot Noir with Indian food and I have to say that I was very impressed with this wine’s ability to handle white meat with Indian flavours. With its plummy nose and cherry vanilla mouth and the absence of heavy tannins and spices, this wine did not overshadow the spices in the stuffed chicken breast and the curry leaves on the malabari prawns. An excellent varietal choice for Indian food .

I wouldn’t say the same for the Carpineto Dogajolo IGT Rosso Toscana 2008 – being a  Sangiovese wine with a mix of Cabernet it was more full bodied , complex and tannic in structure than the Pinot Noir- but what the Carpineto did go really well was with the mini olive and goat cheese naans !!!

The evening was rounded off with Chenna Payeesh though with a distinctly non- Indian Irish coffee liqueur flavour. I had a sip of the Schloss Vollrads Riesling left and its slight sweetness continued the feeling of being well fed.

A great evening –and after the earlier success at Zanotta, we can truly count the Leela Kempinski amongst our band of dedicated supporters –right from the effervescent Vinnie Narang who coordinated the event to Chef Suman Sarkar who conjured up the delicacies for evening to Gurjit Khera, the Manager under whose direction a flawless table service was conducted –there was a sense of a common purpose of making our evening a memorable one. Given our high standards on wine, we do expect similar standards on food and table service and we are most delighted to welcome the Leela Kempinski into that select band of first choice venues for our wine dinners. It is a bonus that it takes less time (20 minutes to Defence Colony at night) to travel to the hotel in Gurgaon (actually Delhi border) than to some hotels in Delhi during the rush hour.

This delicious dinner with an Indian slant, coming only a couple of months after the Kainoosh dinner, should help widen the horizons of our members to include wine as their quaff with Indian food, keeping in mind though, that not all wines go well with Indian food and that wine varietal choice is of critical importance.

 Arun Batra is a Delhi based  food and wine enthusiast and a long time member of the Delhi Wine Club




Subhash Arora Says:

Congratulations to you and the members of your club, Subhasis. Keep up the momentum. Subhash

Posted @ August 28, 2010 11:31


Subhasis Ganguli Says:

The Calcutta Wine Club also held it's 2nd Annual Dinner at La Cucina, Hyatt Regency, Kolkata on 20th August. Italian wines were matched with italian food and the evening was a great success. Regards, Subhasis Ganguli, President, Calcutta Wine Club.

Posted @ August 28, 2010 11:29


Subhash Arora Says:

My problem and limitation is the same, Avi. We do not take members in the club from wine trade. Perhaps I should bring up to the notice of our executive committe that after 8 years of this rule, we could perhaps relax a little. By the way,I think your chances would have been more if you had threatned us  that you would dance naked at Rajpath, swearing you won't stop until you were made the member of the Delhi Wine club!!! Cheers. Subhash Arora

Posted @ August 28, 2010 11:25



Congratulations, Mr.Batra - a beautifully written article; made the evening come alive for me. More power to your pen !! It's apparent that the Leela Gurgaon is really surging ahead with it's culinary offerings and since the President, at Leela, Rajiv Kaul, is a batchmate from my Oberoi days, I naturally applaud it's success. Must go and try out the food - wish we had Bring Your Own Wine options in this Country !! Now, Subhash ji, what exactly do I have to do to finally become a Member of the Delhi Wine Club? Dance naked at Rajpath? I'm game if you are. Ciao for now.

Posted @ August 28, 2010 11:13


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