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Delhi Wine Club
Faulty Interpretation faults Wine for Seniors

Posted: Tuesday, 23 July 2013 10:55

Another Wah- Taj by Wine Spectator for its Wine Lists

July 23: Wine Spectator's Restaurant Wine List Awards 2013 announced recently includes 18 awards for Indian Restaurants in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore and Goa, 14 of which have been cornered by the Taj group across all cities with the Leela, Crowne Plaza, Sahara Star and the Village Square, a Boutique Resort in Goa managing one award each and the stand alone restaurants being conspicuous again by their absence, writes Subhash Arora

There are no winners in the Grand Awards (3-glasses) category which sees 73 winners. Two restaurants at the Taj Palace in Delhi-Blue Ginger and the Orient Express have got the second highest ‘Best of Award of Excellence’, denoted by 2 wineglasses. The remaining 16 restaurants have been awarded the single glass ‘Award of Excellenc’e won by 2870 restaurants across the world.

‘Wine Spectator's Restaurant Wine List Awards’ recognize restaurants whose wine lists offer interesting selections, are appropriate to their cuisine and appeal to a wide range of wine lovers. To qualify for an award, the list must present complete, accurate wine information. It must include vintages and appellations for all selections, including wines available by the glass, according to the company website. Complete producer names and correct spellings are mandatory, while the overall presentation and appearance of the list is also taken into consideration. After meeting these basic requirements, lists are judged for one of the three awards.

Award Categories

‘Award of Excellence’ is the basic award for the lists offering a well-chosen selection of quality producers, along with a thematic match to the menu in both price and style. Typically, these lists offer at least 100 wines.

‘Best of Award of Excellence’ gives special recognition to restaurants  having lists that typically offer 400 or more labels and superior presentation and display either with vintage or multiple vertical offerings of top wines, or excellent breadth across several wines.

‘Grand Award’ is the ultimate Award given to restaurants that show an uncompromising, passionate devotion to the quality of their wine program. These restaurants typically offer over 1,500 labels and feature a breadth of top producers, outstanding depth in mature vintages, a selection of large-format bottles, excellent harmony with the menu and superior organization, presentation and wine service.

Wine pricing which is indicated in the Award Lists, is not a judging criterion, it is provided merely as a guide for the reader. Only 5 restaurants out of the Awards for the Indian Restaurants including both the Goa Restaurants have been given the ‘Moderate’ rating. The other 13 fall in the ‘Expensive’ category.

Wine Spectator clarifies that the awards evaluate wine lists and not restaurants as a whole. ‘While we assume that the level of food and service will be commensurate with the wine lists entered by award winners, this unfortunately is not always true,’ concedes WS.

The 2008 Debacle

A fictitious Milan based ' Osteria L'Intrepido' restaurant was given an ‘Award of excellence’ despite the wine list that featured a 1993 Amarone Classico Gioe S. Sofia, which the magazine once had earlier said tasted like paint thinner and nail varnish. A wine critic and author Robin Goldstein who entered the fictitious List from a non-existent restaurant, claimed that the Awards were merely a tool of making money from the participants and advertisements. He claimed to have received the flowing letter from WS on his application:

"Dear Restaurant Award Winner: Congratulations, your restaurant has been selected as a Wine Spectator 2008 Restaurant Award winner! All award winners will be listed in our Annual Dining Guide, published in the August issue of Wine Spectator, and will be mentioned in our restaurant database and online at I am writing to ask if you have an interest in publicizing your award by placing an ad in the upcoming Restaurant Award issue. We will be creating a special advertising section where ads will receive premium positions located in the Restaurant Dining Guide… Special rates start at only $3,090 for a 1/8 page 4-color. The rate card and additional information can be viewed here: (since removed from the website). If you are interested, it's a good idea to contact us as soon as you can to get the best possible position adjacent to your State. If you have any questions feel free to contact me."

The detailed incident was reported in delWine. Getting the award isn't like winning an Olympic medal. 4,500 restaurants had spent $250 each that year to apply for the WS Award. A whopping 4181 (93%) reportedly won at least one of the three awards of excellence netting the organisers over a million dollars in the participation fee alone.

This is perhaps one of the reasons Ritu Dalmia of Diva Restaurant in Delhi has decided to stay away from the Awards, after applying and winning a single glass award for several years and despite Diva being known for its excellent wine list. Referring to the reported scandal, she said, ‘When they don’t bother to check the details and want only the money, where is the satisfaction when I wine an award that I have achieved something?’ she says, adding, ‘I’d rather spend the $250 they charge as application fee, on something more productive. I am happier with my clients being satisfied.’ She must have felt awkward displaying the Award after that incident. In fact Ritu confirms to delWine, 'Nope we did not. After seeing how meaningless it was, we made a decision to stop it.' She stopped caring for the Awards after 2008.

Comparing with the list of 2010 Award winners it would appear that the interest of other Indian hoteliers, barring the Taj group who is a star client for Wine Spectator, has also waned. It is noteworthy that in 2010 when 26 awards were won by the Indian restaurants including 19 by the Taj group, there were 10  Awards in the 2-glass category, with the Taj group cornering 8. Apparently, even their wine lists have been trimmed to fewer than 400 labels to keep the inventories under check, thus disqualifying them and most of the other restaurants for this award. Obviously, since none of the Indian restaurants can hope to have 1500 labels for decades to come, the Grand Award would be out-of-bounds for them.

The complete List of winners will be published in the August issue of the magazine but the summary is available at their website. It would be interesting to see if the Taj group is one of the advertisers in the issue as proclaimed by Robin Goldstein.

Subhash Arora

Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards 2013 for Indian Restaurants


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