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Posted: Monday, 19 July 2021 23:43

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From Archives (2011): Sprouting Wine Clubs Nuts about Grapes

July 19: The potential of wine to offer enjoyment is slowly being appreciated in India with more and more people taking up the pleasures proffered by Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. Part of the credit is due to sprouting wine clubs in India , says an article in the national daily, Times of India with Subhash Arora claiming confidently that despite heavy taxes and archaic laws, the growth of wine culture is unstoppable as the arrow has left the bow and it's just a matter of time before it finds its mark

Based on the true account narrated by Subhash Arora, founder President of the Delhi  Wine Club which had served the iconic Gaja Barbaresco 2007 at its exclusive Gaja wine dinner in August at The Oberoi Gurgaon a couple of weeks earlier, the article pictures the members when  ‘Their eyes light up as they spot the bottle of wine - a full-bodied Gaja Barbaresco from Italy. "Beautiful, beautiful," one of them murmurs as the cork is unscrewed (a minor observation-one does not unscrew but only uncorks a Gaja wine. You may unscrew an Aussie, NZ bottle or millions of other bottles but never a DOCG Italian wine –editor) and the blood red liquid cascades into long-stemmed wine glasses. With an ease that comes with practice, some of them gingerly twirl their glass - a process called oxidizing the wine to release the aroma fully - before expectantly sniffing at it. "Heavenly," they exult, almost in unison, as the full force of the famous Nebbiolo grapes of Italy - a hallmark of the Gaja red wine - bursts out. Almost trembling with excitement, they take their first sip of the liquid, rolling it gently in the mouth before letting it slide down the throat with a lusty sigh.’

Referring to the sprouting of the wine clubs and formation of the wine clubs, the article in Times of India says, ‘At the Delhi Wine Club founded in 2002, for instance, membership is steadily rising. But its founder Subhash Arora is quick to point out that this has nothing to do with Delhi's (in)famous "sho-sha" culture of aping an emerging trend. Instead, he insists, the club is careful to screen all potential members, only admitting those who have already been drinking wine regularly and who are interested in learning more about it. Also, and it is one of the cardinal rules of the club, no other liquor is served at their gatherings. This insistence has its roots in one of the first dinners hosted by the club at an upscale restaurant, when a group of invitees went over to the bar and started ordering beer and whiskey. "The whole point of their coming to a wine dinner was lost," says Arora. "But now we have a few informal rules that ensure only those who genuinely enjoy wine attend. In fact, we even discourage people from smoking during the dinner. Also, our dinners are pre-plated affairs, where the wine is served as per the course. This is to ensure that people can enjoy wine with food and not just drink it for the sake of getting drunk."

The Delhi Wine Club had to discard a few members very early on to keep its structure, balance and longevity way back in the first year, 2002. The club does not permit serving of any soft drinks either. Wines are served in a pre-set order and the members are encouraged to taste all the wines- there have been opportunities to taste over 1300 wines so far, claims Subhash Arora. No smoking is permitted during dinner. Although frowned upon, cigars are allowed after coffee is served.

‘The process of savouring wine is also taken quite seriously at the Pune Gourmet Club, founded by a group of culinary enthusiasts who meet at least once a month. At these meets too, the only drink served is wine. "Our main idea is to cook and serve food not available in a restaurant. And where there is good food, wine must follow," says B Shankaranarayan who formed the club in 2006.’

‘A few like the Bangalore Wine Club go a step further and hold sessions on topics like investing in wine, besides organizing movie screenings where the theme of the movie is - what else, wine. With so much wine talk flowing around, doesn't it give members of these clubs a heavy head? "On the contrary," says Heemanshu Ashar, president of the Bangalore Wine Club, "most people are so passionate about the subject that they can discuss the merits and demerits of different wines - and participate in the ever-lasting epicurean debate of which food goes well with which wine - for eternity."

‘Not all clubs get into such nitty-gritty although the focus of all is to maximize their enjoyment of wine. Most of the clubs currently are in bigger cities, but the smaller towns are catching up fast. However, a number of bottlenecks still remain for wine lovers - like high duties and taxes, archaic storage laws and sporadic availability of good wines. But that doesn't deter the Indian wine lover, ever so upbeat about the future. "The popularity of wine is definitely going to increase. With the burgeoning middle class, more women and well educated youth taking to it, the growth is unstoppable. The arrow has left the bow. It's just a matter of time before it finds its mark," says Arora. ‘

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