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Delhi Wine Club
Olé to Wines from Spain and the Ambassador

Posted: Monday, 29 April 2013 18:05

Olé to Wines from Spain and the Ambassador

April 29: An evening with 19 quality wine producers from different parts of Spain, each with 5-7 labels, totaling around a 100 wines, and an enthusiastic Ambassador Gustavo Manuel de Arístegui y San Román behind the Show, was the highlight of wine events in Delhi last week, writes Subhash Arora who was impressed with several of the wines, service and the general ambience

Click For Large ViewH.E. Gustavo Manuel de Aristegui has been a year in India and not even finished getting his credentials in all the countries where he represents Spain, besides India; he is going next week to Kathmandu for the Nepal accreditation. But he is so passionate about wines that he planned the visit of Spanish wineries at his embassy residence with Isabel Mijares, one of the most respected enologists of Spain, even before coming to India. He gave her the mandate to organize a grand tasting from wineries covering the whole of Spain. The event kept on getting delayed though initially it was planned for around October last year. Finally, everything fell into place and April 25 was the day when Wines from Spain offered wines from 19 producers to a select Delhi audience.

Based in the Cava capital, Sant Sadurini d’Anoia near Barcelona, Agusti Torello Mata is perhaps the top Cava producer of Spain though another company, Gramona, that made an attempt to enter the Indian market earlier, would also stake their claim to the Top Spot. Their bubblies compete with Champagne, with Gran Reserva made from 100% local grape Macabeo, equivalent to a vintage Champagne in terms of quality and finesse. Made from the oldest wines their Kripta (not available for tasting here, unfortunately) is the ‘Don Perignon’ of Cava. However, their prices also rub shoulders with Champagnes-only a couple of notches lower. ATM could be a great selection for the cava connoisseurs in India. I have been to their winery and was amazed at the passion, innovation and the local identity of the producers.

Click For Large ViewMatarromera Group makes wines in Ribera del Duero, Cigales, Toro and Rueda and recently appointed Delhi-based  Advanced Life Sciences Pvt.Ltd as the importer. I met the owner Esperanza Castro at a wine show in Mumbai a few years ago where the poor guy did not have the wines released through customs due to paperwork, apathy and inefficiency of the organisers. He was twiddling his thumbs when I met him at his stand with no wines to taste. Luckily, he had hand-carried a bottle of Eminazero, a wine he claimed was the first wine with absolutely zero alcohol. If our government were not hypocritical, it is my personal opinion that the wine should be allowed to be imported as a food product with lower duties; it would have a good demand. But unfortunately, nobody has been able to push the government on the issue of zero or low alcohol wines (0.5% which even Torres makes). He did not bring samples of Eminazero but there were 9-10 others. Cigales Crianza being imported is good value, though I did not care much about the Toro wine except Cyan Prestigio.

Enate is back to square one after breaking off with Sanjay Menon of Sonarys. Muga from Rioja is a well-known producer already in India through NBD Wines. Felix Solis is the biggest Spanish producer of still wines with over 23 million cases sold annually-this Castilla La Mancha winery has many awards to its credit especially for Viña Albali Reserva that was available for tasting. It was Click For Large Viewgood to see them return after almost a decade when they had participated in the now defunct IFOWS, if my memory serves me right. The biggest sparkling producer using double bottle fermentation.

The credit of making Spanish wines popular in India justifiably goes to Miguel Torres which has been present here for over a dozen years and already has a Pan India presence through Prestige Wines-a Torres JV. It was nice to see Torres present not only to show solidarity with the other producers as Spain but bring out some of the interesting and uncommon wines in their armoury of 8 labels-like Gran Vinya Sol, Fransola, Ibericos from Rioja and Mas La Plana Cabernet 1996. Freixenet has been the workhorse cava supplier for a decade in India through Global Tax Free. Elysia Pinot Noir Rose Reserva sparkling was a delicious bubbly to start the evening; although with a cautionary note that ‘Reserva’ has no legal significance for cava in Spain and it is more of a marketing hype.

Not many people know that Alejandro Fernandez, the owner of Pesquera is one of the most respected winemakers of Spain and his Ribera del Duero wines have attained almost an iconic status for quality. He was also in India once before at a wine show. His wines have now made a small entry in India; it is only a matter of time that knowledgeable jewelers will recognize the value of this precious diamond.

The Spanish embassy might not have been able to create the party atmosphere of the island of Mallorca, one of the most fun places in the world for tourists, but the Ambassador and Isabel had ensured the presence of fun and unique wines from the island. The Mediterranean character of Mallorca’s wines was provided by Bodega Ferrer. In her Spaniglish, Isabel explained with excitement, ‘we wanted to showcase wines from as many parts of Spain as possible, including Sherry from Bodegas Estevez  from the sherry making town of Jerez .The red wines made from the local grapes Callet and Mantonegro were light-to medium bodied, distinctly mineral, slightly salty in taste with soft and juicy tannins. Best served at cooler temperature, I found the taste very refreshing and would have loved to have a glass at the end of the evening with never-before-tasted grapes. Moll grapes in the white blend made an interesting wine too and added to the 300+ grape varieties I have tasted so far.

Click For Large ViewA complete set of delicious wines were being poured by Bodegas Viyuela from Ribera del Duero.  Laura Gonzalez who helps her father in the winery that he started a decade ago,  was serving and explaining about her Viyuela Joven (pronounced hobun=young), Crianza, Reserva and Seleccion labels. She also works with Isabel in Coto Pelayo, the international promotion agency for Spanish food and wine exports that was the organizer for the event. She looks after their marketing and PR.

Veronica Samper, The Economic and Commercial Counselor was very upbeat but seemed a bit exhausted though triumphant after the organization of the evening despite several hurdles. Emboldened by the success of this event, her husband and boss in the office, Carlos Jimenez, the Chief Economic and Commercial Counselor of the Spanish Embassy, was already talking about another similar but bigger visit from a delegation in October or November this year. Those who missed the opportunity of tasting some good-to-outstanding Spanish wines would do well to pencil in the dates as soon as they are announced because the Spanish folks are really into the action phase and nothing would faze them at this point.

Click For Large ViewA special mention must be made about the catering service organized by the embassy. Not only were the Tapas of excellent quality, the service was quite generous and the waiters kept coming till you got tired of eating and could only shake your head with ‘No, thank you.’ But the wine glass service by the caterers was so impressive and impeccable with the correct Bordeaux glasses replenished regularly with such speed that I was compelled to find out who the caterer for the evening was. I ran into Ritesh Choudhary, the young dynamic F & B Manager of the nearby Vivanta by Taj-Ambassador. Besides glass replacement, he was also busy ensuring that the Smoked salmon rosettes, Chicken Satay with peanut sauce, Kadhai mutton seekh kebab, and assorted cheese platter, Tapas size Tacos with salsa and Pita stuffed with falafel were served generously to all the guests.

Subhash Arora

The only other Ambassador who could be credited with such passion and pro-active attempts in recent times is the Ambassador of Portugal, H.E. Jorge Roza de Oliveira, who not only visited several wineries interested in exporting to India before taking over as the current assignment, but also visited  opinion makers and experts at their residence for informal meetings. He has planned quite a few tastings of Portuguese wines at his residence-the next one is on Friday, May 03, 2013-editor 

Participating Producers

Tags: Gustavo Manuel de Arístegui y San Román, Isabel Mijares, Cava, Ribera del Duero, Crianza, Pesquera, Freixenet, Bodega Ferrer, Felix Solis, Agusti Torello Mata


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