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Delhi Wine Club
Riesling Revelry at Shangri-La

Posted: Tuesday, 24 July 2012 11:04

We Recommend: Riesling Revelry at Shangri-La

July 24 : Inspired by a campaign created in 2008 in one restaurant in New York to promote Riesling in summer that proved so successful it has expanded throughout the US, Hotel Shangri-La Delhi has started a programme- Summer of Riesling, with over a dozen Rieslings in different styles and origin by the glass at attractive prices, writes Subhash Arora who recommends a few visits to get to know and enjoy the noble grape better.

Click For Large ViewDuring my visit to Vienna last month to attend the biennial wine show Vie Vinum, I was foxed by so many people walking around with ‘RIESLING’ tattooed in the same style as if by using a template. It was only a day later that I discovered you received a free T-shirt with Riesling inscribed on it if you got tattooed. Whether it was for the love of the T-shirt or the Riesling varietal, the momentum kept on picking up.

As I passed the ‘Riesling’ stand I could not help noticing the man with a Ho Chi Minh type of beard sans stache. I also learnt later that he was Paul Grieco, a self proclaimed Riesling revivalist Canadian who owned a restaurant called Hearth, and Terroir wine bars in New York. He is an avid fan of Riesling; one of the noble white grape varieties, the other two being Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc according to ampelographers.

His passion for Riesling made him create the ‘Summer of Riesling’ campaign in 2008 at his establishments where the white wines served were only Riesling. It was a radical and risky move but it paid good dividends with 222 restaurants signing up for the event last year. The event starts on June 20 and ends on September 22, signifying summer. Each restaurant signing up must undertake to offer at least 3 Rieslings by the glass even though Grieco insisted on serving only Riesling. He even organised a concert cruise where nothing but Riesling from various countries and styles would be served.

Shangri-La for Riesling in India

Therefore when Harshal ‘Sommelier’ Shah, wine consultant with Shangri-la Delhi informed me late last week that the wine-friendly hotel had also organised the ‘Summer of Riesling’ and it was the only Asian property taking part in the campaign, I immediately decided to visit the hotel and check out the programme.

Harshal says he had been trying to organise the fest since last year but getting a number of wines from different parts of the world through the existing importers was an arduous task. ‘I have spearheaded and tried to get off the ground for the last 12 months. Along with Amit Gupta, we finally were able to pull it off,’ he says.

Paul Grieco believes Riesling is the best white grape on the planet and is the only grape that expresses terroir well. But Riesling has been misunderstood and quite confusing for the Indian palates who have got a wrong notion that all Rieslings are sweet- probably due to the earlier popular onslaught of Blue Nun Liebfraumilch and other cheap sugar infused Rieslings.

The campaign began last Tuesday evening and apparently has had an excellent start. An excited Harshal says, ‘the response in the first three days has been phenomenal. I suppose our attractive pricing is a draw, but it’s amazing to see that people actually LOVE Riesling, especially Indians. They are thrilled to discover that Rieslings are not all sweet.’

Click For Large ViewHe is right on both counts. The prices of wines by the glass are very reasonable. Although the hotel has been astute enough to reduce the serving portion from 150 mL (5 glasses to a bottle) to 125 mL (6 glasses a bottle) on its wine list, this is acceptable and even commendable as the lower prices per glass make the prices look more reasonable and wines become more affordable for novices and the new converts. There is a better opportunity to taste two glasses of different wines and perhaps even three, if you are in an adventurous mood and the driver is waiting in the car outside. 

Unlike the pricing by hotels like Oberoi Delhi, the pricing is honest at Shangri-La. Based on the bottle price, wine-by-the-glass is only 5-10% more expensive which is quite reasonable; in Oberoi they pour 5 glasses out of a bottle but charge you based on 4 (25% higher) – like a casino where one glass out of a bottle would go to the ‘house’.

‘Of particular interest is the fact that we have the Sula Riesling on this list – we might be the only hotel in Delhi/Haryana listing this wine,’ adds Harshal. In fact, delWine cross-checked with Sula; Shangri-la is actually the only hotel offering it on their wine list. Each 125 mL glass costs Rs.350. Other Rieslings from Germany, Austria, France, Australia, New Zealand and USA cost upwards of Rs.550 with the dry ‘First Growth’ Dönhoff Felsenberg Riesling from Nahe costing as high as Rs. 1050 a glass. There are 13 variants one could taste, as of today.

Flights of Fancy

One can also choose a flight of 3 different Rieslings- 50 mL each, for Rs.700. By ordering 2 flights of 6 different wines, one can taste 300mL of 6 wines (presumably one cannot order more than 1 variant in each flight). Ideally, one should try a flight of New World and another one with the Old World wines. Other alternative could be tried out but the Dönhoff 'Felsenberg' 2 should be the common wine in each flight-if you are looking for your buck to go farther. It would also dismantle any misgivings that all Rieslings are sweet. Of course, the two gems from Mosel- St. Urbans Hof -2010 and Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, Piesporter Goldtropfchen 2009 are fabulous examples of how seductive Mosel wines can be with a perfect balance of sugar, acid and minerality -their natural affinity for spicy Indian food might be a revelation to some, the low alcohol an added bonus with meals.

Unfortunately, there is no food or munchies served during the tasting although these wines are available in all the restaurants. According to Harshal, the Japanese Chef is working on 16 dishes in phase two to match with the wines, 13 of which were currently on display.

‘The package is on till at least August 15, but we might extend it, depending upon response,’ says Amit Gupta, the F & B Director of the hotel, who has been very supportive of the concept. ‘We wanted to start it earlier but the supply position was not comfortable enough to have all the variants we wanted. It is another matter that we are not getting any special pricing from the importers either. With these prices, we do not make any profits but we like to encourage these excellent wines for summer,’ he adds.

Click For Large ViewSo, next time you visit Shangri-La, order a glass or two and enjoy the Summer of Riesling. Or better still, visit Shangri-La to catch a flight or two of the wines of this white noble grape and taste, as Paul Grieco says, the best white grape on the planet.

And if you want to try the only Indian Riesling in the pack- it’s best to buy a bottle of Sula at an air-conditioned store nearest to you- maybe at a shopping mall, for Rs.750 a bottle. The off-dry variant would be a good companion for the Indian cuisines or the spicy chicken kebabs or tandoori chicken. If you are a vegetarian, this might even turn out to be the best Indian wine you have ever tasted.

For some of the earlier articles on Riesling please visit
Rendezvous Highlights Riesling's Past and Future

Riesling is Riesling...unless it is from Mosel

Urbans-Hof : Saint Riesling from Mosel

The Ambassador of the Republic of Riesling

To get to the heart of the phenomenon that has caught the fancy of New Yorkers and Americans during the last four summers and the restaurants that joined the campaign, visit

Subhash Arora



Niladri Dhar Says:

Following the overhaul of the lists late last year, a total of 15 Rieslings were chosen for the ITC Hotels master list. I ensured that we have representation from every region around the world which brings out the best from this grape variety. ITC Maurya has nine of these and most of our large hotels will have similar numbers. Given the signature cuisines ITC Hotels specializes in, these Rieslings have been big hits with our guests...the more knowledgeable ones recognizing our depth in variety (regions, styles & price points). Although the Indian restaurants are leading in terms of Riesling consumption, Pan Asian outlets have shown tremendous growth too. Lastly, the wine trainings have also helped in a big way. Cheers, Niladri

Posted @ July 25, 2012 14:30


Subhash Arora Says:

Terroir does wonders to this grape-I have seen it in Mosel, Nahe, Rhinegau and Austria. But unfortunatley it does not find many takers while ordering in retail or restaurants, Niladri. How is Riesling doing at ITC properties generally? Subhash

Posted @ July 25, 2012 11:10


Niladri Dhar Says:

Good show! I've hardly come across anyone who doesn't love the seductive characters of of the most versatile grapes in my view.

Posted @ July 25, 2012 10:20


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