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IVFE 2017: Ethereal Vine and Food Experience at Taj Falaknuma

Posted: Monday, 10 April 2017 12:04


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IVFE 2017: Ethereal Vine and Food Experience at Taj Falaknuma

April 10: The 4th edition of the Taj International Vine and Food Experience curated by Keith Edgar in Hyderabad, Delhi and Mumbai was at its Nawabi best at the Taj Falaknuma Hyderabad where Jancis Robinson MW was the star wine celebrity and the event was too magnificent to better in future, writes Subhash Arora who felt it had a different flavour than the one in Delhi and Mumbai but was a unique, world class event

Click For Large ViewMohan Chandran, General Manager of Taj Krishna and the Director of all the 5 properties of Taj group in Hyderabad including Taj Falaknuma, is a very happy man today. He must have been confident about the seductive charm of the Taj Falaknuma Palace Hotel  and the memory that a dinner at the 101 Falaknuma could be etched in the memory of 95 people having dinner in the enchanting dining room with the world’s largest single table for service. He had successfully proposed this Palace Hotel for the 4th edition that followed the Delhi edition last year at the Taj Mahal and the first two editions at Taj Bengal in 2014 and 2015 when he had been the General Manager and co-promoter of the concept proposed by Keith Edgar, before the current assignment in Hyderabad.

Man with a Vision

Credit for popularising the concept of International Vine and Food Experience goes to K.Mohanchandran (a.k.a. Mohan), Director for the five Hyderabad hotels and General Manager of Taj Krishna. The wine aficionado had the vision 3 years ago of creating a unique wine and food event for the Taj Hotels. Discussing the concept with Keith Edgar, a sommelier from Canada involved in wine and hotel management in Kolkata, who had been staying at the hotel then, he collaborated with him to launch the International Vine and Food Experience in 2014.

An Ethereal Experience

But the Vine and Wine Experience was truly ethereal at Hyderabad thanks partly to the company that included 3 Masters of Wine, Jancis Robinson MW, Count John Salvi MW and Liam Steevenson MW (All from UK though Count Salvi has been a resident of Bordeaux for almost 40 years ). It was a rare sight to see Jancis, the world queen of wine, looking relaxed and inquisitive about India and the current wine scenario.One could freely discuss with Fiona Beckett, an expert writer specializing in Wine and Food pairing, who is considered one of the most influential online journalists in the industry.

Click For Large ViewThe event was ‘auspiciously’ inaugurated at the Gol Bungalow with a Methuselah (6 liters/8 bottles) of Drappier Carte d’Or Brut in the company of Michel Drappier who had come from Champagne especially for the event. The view of the city was simply marvelous from the venue, and got even more captivating after gazing at the millions of stars in the glass.

This was followed by a majestic dinner showcasing Indian wines from Sula, Grover, Fratelli and York, duly represented by Cecilia Oldne, Karishma Grover, Kapil Sekhri and Alessio SecciRavi and Kailash Gurnani. The grandeur of the city was eye-candy from the could be seen from the venue-a Rajasthani garden that wore a festive look, with a qawali group belting out music in the back ground.

101 Falaknuma Dinner

Click For Large ViewThere was an informal question/answer session organised for the participants in the afternoon followed by wine tasting, thus whetting the appetite for the Nizami dinner in the evening. The food was curated by 2-Michelin star Chef Srijith Gopinathan at the Campton Place Restaurant at Hotel Campton owned by the Taj group in San Francisco. Known for his European-Californian cuisine, he had crafted a special menu, interweaving California cuisine in the Indian mould. ‘Since the event is in India, I have given an Indian twist to the Menu and my own interpretation to the cuisine tonight,’ he told me after taking a bow with his team to the standing ovation from the appreciative audience. The presentation was also elegant and chic.

Each dish was deftly paired with wine by Elyse Lambert, the Master Sommelier from Montreal with a long list of additional enviable achievements to her credit. She talked about each wine after it was poured. Service of wine at correct temperature, timing and in harmony with the dishes was par for the course, thanks to her and the trained servers. I had earlier watched the rehearsal with her giving strict instructions to the servers for around 2 hours before the event.

Serving to 95 people in a clock-work precision is not an easy task but true to the Taj’s culinary heritage, the serving staff handled it with aplomb. All the servers dressed in the same black-coloured Indian attire with colourful turbans to boot, were a remarkable sight indeed!  Ritesh Sharma, General Manager of the hotel and his team deserve a big applause.

Taj Falaknuma Palace

Click For Large ViewThe former residence of the Nizam of Hyderabad, Falaknuma Palace is leased to the Taj Group. The guests can now experience, as we did,  the famous Nizami hospitality once accorded only to the royalty. The guest rooms at the heritage hotel property have dove-tailed the conveniences of modernity with the Nizami splendour to offer a unique, memorable experience, preferably when the weather is outside the heat zone as we faced.

Other special invitees include Fiona Beckett who is an expert writer specializing in Wine and Food pairing and writes for The Guardian & Decanter magazine. She is also considered one of the most influential online journalists in the industry. 

There might be just one regret. The celebrity guests like Jancis Robinson MW were not put to good use as much as Indian wine lovers would have liked, perhaps due to the exclusivity of the event. As John Salvi MW put it, ‘we were not utilised as much as we would have liked to or were available to. It is rare to have Jancis around often. I am sure she  would have liked to share more with the people present- same for me and  Liam, I am sure. But Keith knows best. Perhaps he did realize her potential.’ 

The event brought to mind a beautiful Bollywood song of yesteryears:

Zindagi bhar nahin bhoole gi woh Taj ki raat

Falaknuma ke khane ki thi kucch aur hee baat.

(one can never forget that night at the Taj. Dinner at Falaknuma had something quite different!)

What Next

Click For Large ViewThanks to the vision and passion for wine of Mohan Chandran, and the dedication and commitment to India of sommelier and wine educator Keith Edgar, the International Vine and Wine Experience has come of age and taken a firm root in the Taj group. With Oberoi on their heels, with the 100 bottle tasting event curated at Gurgaon  last year and Bangalore later, it appears that the two have established programmes of national reach and, as hotels committed to promote wine and themselves as wine destinations.

When I told Keith that it would be practically impossible to match the event at Hyderabad, he agreed and said he would have to do something different. Perhaps, the original Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai (this year on 31st March of which one of the Articles has already been written by delWine and one more will appear in the next edition) with focus on showcasing and tasting several Indian and foreign wines and consumers might be the right direction. 

Keith Edgar says the venue, or any different concept has not been decided yet for next year though Taj Bengal seems to be keen to host the event again. However, with the maximum reach in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, it makes sense to have at least one of the events in these cities.With the proficiency with which the event was organised last year for consumers, it would make a lot of commercial sense for Taj Mansingh (one sincerely hopes they are able to come out of the legal issues with NDMC and retain the property) to host it again. The consumers in Delhi can then look forward to a great opportunity of tasting and learning about wine.

Nizami Wine Weekend Splurge at Taj Falaknuma Palace

IVFE 2016: Trilogy of Tastings at the Three Taj Hotels

Grand Tasting Experience debuts at the Taj Mahal in Delhi

Glimpses of the Taj Falaknuma Experience

Subhash Arora


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Tags: Taj International Vine and Food Experience, Keith Edgar, Taj Falaknuma Hyderabad, Jancis Robinson MW, Mohan Chandran, Taj Falaknuma Palace Hotel, K.Mohanchandran, Taj Krishna, Count John Salvi MW, Liam Steevenson MW, Fiona Beckett, Methuselah, Drappier Carte d’Or Brut, Michel Drappier, Sula, Grover, Fratelli, York, Cecilia Oldne, Karishma Grover, Kapil Sekhri, Alessio Secci, Ravi and Kailash Gurnani, Chef Srijith Gopinathan, Campton Place Restaurant, Elyse Lambert, Falaknuma Palace, Fiona Beckett, Best Sommelier of the Americas 2009, Best Sommelier of Canada 2015, Wine and Spirit Association of Great Britain, IWSC Greatest Achievement Award 2016, Champagne, Yoav Gilat, Louis Moreau


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