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East meets West at Taj International Vine and Food Experience

Posted: Tuesday, 04 April 2017 16:48

 

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East meets West at Taj International Vine and Food Experience

April 04: The International Vine and Food Experience curated by Sommelier Keith Edgar at Taj Lands End in Mumbai on 31st March-1st April 2017 saw the presence of various wines and wine experts from both India and abroad. In a Master Class ‘East meets West, Goes to Nasik’ Subhash Arora and Master of Wine Count John Salvi discussed their impressions about their recent visit to Nashik and how Indian wine is steadily chasing the quality levels of International standards. Rishi Vohra CSW, delWine Mumbai correspondent reports

Click For Large ViewJohn Salvi MW and Subhash Arora drove to Hotel Taj Lands End in Mumbai, directly after making a pit stop at Vallonne Vineyards, marking the end of a 3-day tasting and visit to 7 wineries in Nashik, to participate in the interactive Seminar, ‘East Meets West, Goes to Nashik’ at the International Vine and Food Experience.

Count John Salvi MW, the Brit from Bordeaux, is among the most experienced wine experts in the world today. He has been in the wine trade for 60 years, has knowledge as a winemaker for 50 and has been a Master of Wine for 47. This was his first visit to India and his experience has been so memorable that he wonders why he never visited India before. He says that the mysterious India has woven its spell and ensnared him, leaving him totally and absolutely enchanted. And Indian wines play a huge part in his magnificent experience.

John Salvi came to India a couple of weeks ago on an invitation from Sommelier Keith Edgar to attend Taj Events in Hyderabad, Delhi and Mumbai. But a packed, 12-day program created by Subhash Arora, President of Indian Wine Academy, took him on a journey of taste where he learned that this is a country where wines of International standard are being made and deserve to be recognized all over the world.

Salvi’s journey of taste commenced on the first day itself at a wine dinner organized by Arora for the members of the Delhi Wine Club featuring Nashik-based Charosa wines. He said that these were fantastic wines and had he tasted the Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux, he would not have been able to tell if it was a Bordeaux or a non-Bordeaux wine. He Click For Large Viewexpressed his desire to visit the winery and it was included in the Nashik Trail that the two of them set off after the magnificent 2-day International Vine and Food Experience at Taj Falaknuma at Hyderabad.

John told me after his return from Nashik, “Everybody we met was absolutely passionate about wines. It may take a little time but quality will finally be recognized. And I’m happy to say that I’ve managed to persuade a couple of wineries I visited to send samples to an International tasting competition. I’m looking forward to seeing the results because I think a few labels might very well be forthcoming. Some of the wines are definitely international medal winning standards.”

Arora agrees and says that with passion, hygiene and attention to detail Indian wines will eventually make a concrete mark in the International arena. He believes that Indian wine quality has made remarkable improvements in the past ten years as wine producers have learnt over the years that quality is the key to sustenance and growth, especially in the export market. Talking about his visit to Nashik he says, “Whenever I am in Nashik, I make it a point to visit all the wineries and talk to the producers. I think the problem was that earlier the farmers Click For Large Viewboth lacked training and knowledge. Now they are spending a lot of time, energy and money to train farmers, to make sure that the grape quality is better. I also promote imported wines in India because I think they could be a benchmark as the producers there have been making wine for centuries. I think we need to recognize the fact that we do not need to copy them but instead strive to reach their standards. Wine producers in India have recognized that and are making investments in terms of technologies and finances.”

Referring to the hundreds of people who were sipping wines at the event held at the enchanting lawns of the Taj Lands End, he said, “All these consumers who are drinking wine, they want them at a good price. There’s always going to be a struggle with that because of unreasonable Governmental policies. If the Government helps the wine industry, India can be a great wine exporter. We can provide thousands of jobs to our people, to our farmers, and we have a bright future provided a few things are handled magnanimously.”

Click For Large ViewArora has been an active promoter and advocate of wine tourism in India. Talking about his belief in wine tourism being directly proportional to wine sales, he said, “I think it is finally happening. Sula took a lead many years ago and that’s one of the reasons they are where they are today. Some wine producers had financial restrictions, didn’t quite get there, and today you see the results.” He commended the efforts of the Gateway Hotel in Nashik in doing their bit to further wine tourism, giving credit to the current General Manager, Vinod Pandey, who has created tailor-made packages which include room, transport, visits to wineries, and meals at the hotel among several other programmes.

The Master Class was attended by a good number of people interested in learning about wine. Talking about commencing one’s journey of wine, Arora says, “It is not important to study wine in detail to fall in love with wine. You must simply have an open mind and try different wines. My underlying principle and theory is when you’ve tasted a hundred wines you would want to learn and educate yourself on wine. And that’s very important.” He went on to talk about the various courses available in India including WSET, but both he and Count John Salvi highly recommend the Court of Masters of Sommeliers for those interested in a professional career as a Sommelier.  John admonished those who treat Masters of Wine as demi-Gods. ‘Please remember we have just passed an exam that does not make us ultimate in wine knowledge. Educate yourselves as much as you can,’ to which Arora reiterated that there were no better opportunities than what Taj had offered in terms of wine education around fun and said other hotels must come up with such brilliant ‘patented’ ideas.

Click For Large ViewThe various other Master classes were as interesting and insightful, covering diverse areas such as ‘How to taste wine like a Master’ conducted by Master Sommelier Elyse Lambert, ‘Bubbles India Style’ with Ashwin Rodriques from Good Drop Wines, ‘California Style’ conducted by Marc Bourreli from Diva Wines, ‘Sangiovese’ conducted by Craig Wedge of Fratelli, ‘Over a Barrel’ conducted by Winemaker Kailash Gurnani from York Winery, ‘Mastering the Blend’ conducted by Karishma Grover, ‘Pinot Noir’ conducted by Vishal Kadakia from Wine Park, ‘Super Tuscan’ by Harish Acharekar and ‘Floral, Petrol, Lime’ by Sula’s Chief Winemaker Ajoy Shaw.

The event was grand with wine booths spread all over the lush green lawn of the Taj Property. Indian wineries and importers showcased their Indian and imported wines. Servers behind the booth were generally well-versed in their products and effectively aided people in understanding the wines better, providing unlimited tastings. On their part, Taj Lands End ensured that delicious starters kept floating around throughout the evening, keeping the food and vine experience ongoing side-by-side.

We hope that the Taj extends this event to additional cities in the years to come. After all, where else can one get the best in terms of knowledge from Indian and international wine experts and tastings of both Indian and international premium wines, under one roof, that too at such a reasonable price?

Rishi Vohra

Rishi Vohra is the Mumbai Correspondent of delWine and is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) from the Society of Wine Educators - USA. He has done an MBA in Sustainable Business from San Francisco State University and a Masters Diploma in Environmental Law from WWF-India. He has authored two bestseller fiction novels; ‘Hi-Fi in Bollywood’ and ‘Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai’ which was the only book from India awarded an honorable mention in the General Fiction category at the Hollywood Book Festival. He may be contacted at wineguymumbai@gmail.com

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Tags: The International Vine and Food Experience, Keith Edgar, Taj Lands End, Count John Salvi, Vallonne Vineyards, Charosa, Vinod Pandey, WSET, Court of Masters of Sommeliers, Elyse Lambert, Ashwin Rodriques, Good Drop Wines, Marc Bourreli, Diva Wines, Craig Wedge, Fratelli, Kailash Gurnani, Vishal Kadakia, Wine Park, Harish Acharekar, Ajoy Shaw
       

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