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Royal Suggestion for Indian State Banquets

Posted: Thursday, 10 November 2016 14:36


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Royal Suggestion for Indian State Banquets

Nov 10: Serving as a Royal policy, of the English sparkling wine Gusborn Blanc de Blancs 2007 at the Columbian Royal banquet hosted by Queen Elizabeth II at the Buckingham Palace about a week ago, brings to mind the earlier plea of delWine to the Government of India to consider serving not only Indian Sparkling wines but various other fine quality domestic wines, to recognise their quality and promote them in the world market, writes Subhash Arora who has been propagating the concept for almost a decade

The President Juan Manuel Santos de Calderon and his wife attended the banquet at Buckingham Palace on 1st November where the English bubbly was served as an aperitif wine. When Xi JinPing was in the UK on a 4-day visit on October 2015, Ridgeview Grosvenor 2009 was served, according to Decanter.

English sparkling wine continues to be used for UK diplomatic events. These bubblies have been gaining popularity for their quality and many people believe and it has been confirmed in some of the recent blind tastings that in fact, they defeated champagne in taste even when the French tasted them blind.

Whether the royals use the English wines because they feel these are the best sparkling wines (other wines served are still foreign wines unlike in the White House where President Obama served only fine US wines in a show of solidarity for US wines, indirectly promoting them) or for purely nationalist reasons, the policy has a lesson for India.  

In fact 2 years ago, the White House served wines made by African-American winemakers during the African-American Summit as reported.

Recognise and Promote Indian Wines by Serving at Banquets

If we follow the Queen’s example, we should serve Indian sparkling wines from the Indian producers- currently Sula, Grover Zampa, Fratelli, York and Chandon with Four Seasons waiting in the wings. If we were to follow her lead, not only might the quality of these bubblies improve, there would be more demand for the bubbly-hopefully at the cost of liquor like whisky, vodka or gin. On the other hand if we follow Pres. Obama’s policy, we could serve still Indian wines. This would be a major push to the Make in India campaign for Mr. Modi. Of course, in congruence with the diktat of the founding fathers, there could initially be an internal circular to prohibit the Indian staff to stay away from the glass of wine.

It is quite heartening to note that on the international stage, we have been evolved enough to serve wine at the embassy events. I cannot perhaps take the full credit but I have been sincerely following up with the government at various forums to serve only Indian wines at the embassy events and the response has been positive with several embassies following the system. But the State Banquets have been devoid of alcohol- which is fine except that the dinners are generally accompanied by wine in a majority of nations and to showcase a complete gastronomical experience, fine Indian wines should be served when the government or the President hosts such events.

The problem is that we are a hypocrite nation. A majority of people who oppose wine think of it as an alcohol whereas it is a fruit product-the alcohol generated is only another manifestation of the sugar in the grapes. The alcohol level is generally under 15% of natural alcohol and enhances the flavours of the food, besides being a healthy product. I have even coined the phrase- Wine is not alcohol, it has some.

A majority of the bureaucrats and politicians who oppose the concept drink wine or even hard liquor like whisky (Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the former BJP Prime Minister has been a living example). It is an open secret that he used to drink in the privacy of his home but at State Banquets he had to raise the toast with a glass of water which has been India’s legacy since independence. Needless to emphasise that the government issues license to produce and sell wine and is even helpful in Maharashtra and Karnataka where it controls the sale through a Corporation which might not actively promote but is not seen as a speed-breaker either.

It is also a fact that these rule makers are more of whisky and other hard liquor drinkers with no interest in wine; or perhaps might even feel threatened that wine might become more fashionable than their favourite tipple. At one private party at the President’s Estate, I was invited to give a talk on wine and wine appreciation. There were joint secretaries and higher ranked civil servants- 80% of whom were drinking whisky. Perhaps about 10-15% of the invitees were not drinking any alcohol and the rest were sipping wine and thus were my captive audience for the evening programme.  

Without any offence to whisky drinkers, I would like to stress that we are talking about serving Indian wine only as a food accompaniment. Of course, the whisky drinkers can drink wine or have a glass or two of juice as well.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is a great champion of the Make in India campaign, surely comprehends the impact of such a decision on the campaign and could have the wine industry create several new jobs in the agriculture sector, besides taking Indian farmers to new heights.

If the cabinet approves and President Pranab Mukherjee does start this practice, the whole nation would want to say ‘Jai Ho’ to him and his team, making me the happiest man on earth even though I have no financial interest whatsoever in wine as a product, except as a consumer and promoter.

For earlier article please click

Blog: GIFT for Indian Wines at State Banquets

Serve Indian Wines at State Banquets

Jai Ho!!

Subhash Arora

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Tags : Gusborn Blanc de Blancs 2007, Queen Elizabeth II, Buckingham Palace, Juan Manuel Santos de Calderon, Xi JinPing, Ridgeview Grosvenor 2009, Sula, Grover Zampa, Fratelli, York, Chandon, Four Seasons, Make in India, Narendra Modi, Jai Ho


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