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Delhi Wine Club
IVFE 2016: Trilogy of Tastings at the Three Taj Hotels

Posted: Monday, 28 March 2016 18:03


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IVFE 2016: Trilogy of Tastings at the Three Taj Hotels

March 28: After a successful run for the third year at the Taj Bengal and debuting at Taj Krishna in Hyderabad, about 400 people enjoyed the first International Vine and Food Experience (IVFE) in Delhi at the poolside of the Taj Mahal Hotel where the Grand Tasting offering over 200 wines including champagnes and Proseccos at 60 stands awaited them, writes Subhash Arora who has emphasised the need for such an event for a decade and suggests this should become an annual 2-day affair including Lunch and Masterclasses and Gala Dinner on the second day

I remember being invited to a wine tasting in the late nineties at the Oberoi Hotel, where there were about 15 international producers showcasing  over 50 wines to taste, with a stream of snacks. I loved the wines from Trefethen Family Vineyards from Napa, whose owner John Trefethen poured wines and talked to a novice like me with patience. His answer to one of my questions stoked the fire of passion further and the instance stuck in my mind forever. I said, ‘John, I love your Cabernet Sauvignon 1995. But frankly I can’t tell whether it tastes like blueberry or blackberry, liquorice or leather, cedar or cigar.? He gave me a smile with a wink and said, ‘Neither can I! As a winemaker I produce the wine and know whether it is good, great or bad. Let’s leave that to the wine geeks who write tasting notes and let’s simply enjoy the wines!’

International Vine and Food Experience

Curated by Keith Edgar, a restless Canadian Sommelier and a wine educator currently living in Kolkata, Canada and the USA, with 20-year experience in curating a similar programme in Beijing, the first edition of the International Vine and Food Experience (I can’t figure out why twist wine into 'vine' when it’s all about wine) held at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Delhi was spread over two days. March 25 focused on the Grand Tasting in the evening and was a class apart from what has been seen so far in the Delhi wine scene while March 26 had a Lunch followed by a Masterclass and a Gala Dinner that was organised by the Taj Mahal as a grand finale.

Grand Tasting in grand style

In my living memory, never has there been a wine and food evening for the public in Delhi at a 5-star deluxe property like the Taj, with over 200 wines, plenty of snack food and a few Masterclasses  where you could get answers to the simplest of questions from the importers and producers, many of whom were present themselves (Duccio Corsini, Kapil Sekhri, Arun Kumar, Sandip Parsan, Amit Aggarwal and Vishal Kadakia) and many had their winemakers (Karishma Grover) and sommeliers (Magandeep Singh, Gurjit Singh Barry, Craig Wedge) including a Master of Wine (Liam  Steevenson MW) and another one in line (Ajoy Shaw-Chief Winemaker of Sula) and a specialist educator (Keith Edgar).

They were all keen and willing to help you understand various nuances as you tasted wines or attended the Masterclasses. It’s a pity my icewine idol Don Ziraldo (co-creator of Inniskillin) who I met 14 years ago at Vinitaly and who initiated me to the fine world of icewine though I used to have an occasional fling with them earlier, had to cancel his planned trip due to a medical emergency.

I kid you not when I say that any person above the age 25 years (the archaic excise laws in Delhi prescribe this legal age for even wine and beer drinkers), even a non wine drinker could come in and go back enjoying the evening, tasting some of the wines. Wine novices could become a Zero to Hero within one evening and perhaps enthused enough to begin the exciting, endless journey through the wonderful world of wine, eager to learn and experiment more. And all this for a mere Rs. 1500, less than cinema tickets for a couple at a deluxe theatre. You could spend the evening in 5-star luxury, ambience and class, enjoying over 200 wines with over 70% being imported - including 4 champagnes and 2 Proseccos and a few that are available only in the hotels and restaurants.

Mercedes-Mumm Welcome

The success of an event like this depends upon sponsorships and the 2 Mercedes C-220 sporty cars took a bow as you entered the poolside where the event was organised-suggesting subtly that wine is an aspirational drink and it’s nice to drink fine wine but wouldn’t it be lovely if you also aspire to own a Mercedes, if you already don’t own one! On the left side was a beautiful stand of ‘SIBARITA -the pleasure principle’ owned by a charming Spanish lady Patricia Emma Fernandez Ortiz who co-sponsored the event and launched her avant-garde style of furniture at the fiesta.

On the right side were a couple of waiters with trays holding flutes of G.H. Mumm champagne from Pernod Ricard. Unfortunately the champ was so bad and flat that it almost shook my confidence in the tasting. Totally flat, it tasted like the South-of-France version of the ubiquitous Jacobs Creek. I didn’t even believe it was champagne and sneaked into the room where the wines were being poured. It was honestly a Mumm. Beyond that I will remain mumm!

So the first thing I did was go to the stands of Nicolas-Feuillatte being imported by Aspri and the Drappier being distributed in India by Ace Beveragez, to taste the real thing. Thank God-champagne felt refreshingly good once again. Even the Chandon Brut in the adjoining stand was nicely chilled and tasty with the traditional millions of dancing bubbles, thank you. The move to change to Drappier Brut the next day on February 27 as a welcome drink before dinner when the Navy Band played enchanting tunes, restored my faith both in Champagne and champagne once again (for the uninitiated, former is the name of the area, the latter being the bubbly).

Inviting the trade, sommeliers and journalists for a walk around tasting a couple of hours earlier was a wonderful idea. When I visit overseas, I notice that producers regularly drink wines of their competitors to keep a tab on the improvements and how the style quality may be improved further.

The whole area was divided in two physically distinct segments-it appeared that the right side focused only on the imported wines while the left side was heavier though not exclusively reserved for Indian wines. As a logistics exercise or for reasons known to the organisers, there were several small stands, each representing a different county and the region, but many by the same company. So the 60 stands were set up, as announced by the organisers but one producer or importer had rented 4-5 stands, each paying a nominal rent for the evening. The top Indian producers Sula, GroverZ, Fratelli, and Four Seasons (now limping back to normalcy) and Chandon were a part of the ‘Make in India’ campaign whereas Sula and Fratelli had organised their Indian as well as imported portfolios.

Pernod Ricard, Aspri, Prestige, Wine Park (Vishal Kadakia, the owner is a big supporter and has been participating since the Experience debuted at the Taj Bengal in 2014), Ace Beveragez and Hema Connoisseurs were some of the importers participating. It was a great opportunity for Keith Edgar who is a wine educator teaching in several branches of IIHM-Kolkata, and is CEO and brand ambassador of the relatively new import company Vinesse India with portfolios including Le Corti Chianti Classico and other wines including Astrolabe of New Zealand, Ziraldo icewine and Senhora do Convento Port etc., to interact with the people of Delhi.

Man with a Vision

Although the Taj Hotels are decentralised and the prerogative of for organising such events at any property is the exclusive domain of each General Manager, the credit for popularising the Experience goes to K.Mohanchandran, Director for Hyderabad and General Manager of Taj Krishna. He had the vision two years ago of accepting the proposal by Keith and collaborating with him and bringing the International Vine and Food Experience to Kolkata. Now he has moved on to Hyderabad so he ensured that the event debuted there, reflecting on the success of the programme in Kolkata. He was apparently able to convince Satyajeet Krishnan, the General Manager of The Taj Mahal Hotel, Delhi as well for the maiden edition.

Thanks to him, one might say that the next year's event has already been confirmed at the Taj Falaknuma Palace Hotel in Hyderabad. World famous for a 101-seat dining table carved out of a single piece of wood, a Gala dinner there will surely create ripples around the world. Mohan rightly believes one cannot afford to ignore Mumbai for long. Taj Lands End Hotel is apparently already convinced. One certainly hopes that there will be an encore at the Taj Mahal Hotel. Taj Bengal is where the concept was first executed and they would like to host it again. But to manage the event in 4 hotels in a week is not an easy task, says Keith Edgar, curator of the Experience. He and Mohan would obviously love to make it happen but will have to work at the dates before taking a final decision.

Unsatisfactory Audience attendance

Talking of the dates, it was a difficult time in Delhi with the longest weekend ever. The city was shut down for 4-5 days including even the banks. Many people were travelling, making the attendance thin. At 400-500people attending, it was much below the numbers I had anticipated (1000-1200). But this was a blessing in disguise. With a few minor glitches, it worked out as a successful rehearsal to handle much bigger numbers next year.

Those renting the stalls were quite satisfied as the people that came were either professionals or genuine wine lovers who did not come merely to enjoy a mela (festival). On a personal note, I believe that at such low prices the low public participation was shameful and reflects the Delhi culture; the loss was not of the hotel or the exhibitors but the people who were in town and did not bother to come. But to a wine enthusiast like me, it was a rude awakening that perhaps wine is still a subject to be discussed at a cocktail party or banquet, with all its fineries, health benefits and style discussed, while holding a glass of whisky and we are still years away from saying it is here, after all.

It was a landmark cultural event where not a single person was seen drunk, out of control despite free wine flowing for almost 4 hours. Genuine wine lovers know not to get drunk- a hypothesis that was successfully proved, if any government officials were interested to know. Kudos, to the Taj Mahal Hotel, Mohanchandran, Satyajeet Krishnan and Keith Edgar and their respective teams for a very successful culinary 2-day experience.

For further details about the event in the previous delWine, please click:

Subhash Arora

Disclosure- I was not involved in any capacity to organise the event. The Report is as unbiased as possible. There was also a Lunch and Masterclasses followed by a Gala Dinner which were as impressive but the best flavour of the event and good value-for-money, was seen at The Grand Tasting -editor



Keith Edgar Says:

Three cities was definitely a challenge this year. There are layers and layers of planning that needs to happen in each city. Making sure all the wines are there and all the wine minds arrive and on time. First challenge was finding dates where all 3 hotels had availability, start with a busy wedding season add Holi, Easter and the india Pakistan cricket final, a few dry days and you find dates getting shuffled around even last minute. Really needed our Vinesse team along with its parent company IIHM and the great support of Mohan Chandran, the 3 taj teams and the other wine companies.

But having said all that, yes lots of challenges and unexpected situations which will alway pop up in India we did manage to pull it off. 3 cities, 7 events over 9 days, 20+ wine companies 1200 + guests 70+ wineries 350+ labels 1000 + bottles opened 10000 + wines glasses used, doing the biggest international wine event ever yet in india. priceless. And if you think this was amazing just wait till next year "cause baby you ain't seen nothing yet"
​. Keith Edgar​.

Posted @ March 29, 2016 10:50


Tags: Taj Bengal, Taj Krishna, International Vine and Food Experience, IVFE, Delhi, Taj Mahal Hotel, Trefethen Family Vineyards, John Trefethen, Keith Edgar, Duccio Corsini, Kapil Sekhri, Arun Kumar, Sandip Parsan, Amit Aggarwal, Vishal Kadakia, Karishma Grover, Magandeep Singh, Gurjit Singh Barry, Craig Wedge, Liam Steevenson MW, Ajoy Shaw, Sula, icewine, Don Ziraldo, Mercedes, SIBARITA, Patricia Emma Fernandez Ortiz, G.H. Mumm, Pernod Ricard, Nicolas-Feuillatte, Drappier, Ace Beveragez, Chandon Brut, Sula, GroverZ, Fratelli, Four Seasons, Aspri, Prestige, Wine Park, Hema Connoisseurs, Taj Falaknuma Palace Hotel, Taj Lands End Hotel

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