Dec 06: The 5th edition of Indian Wine Day-16 November, conceptualised and organized by the Indian Wine Academy, made progress this year, with more producers and restaurants on board, even as the original collaborator, the Lalit Group of Hotels opted out, writes Subhash Arora who attended the Dinners in Chennai and Delhi NCR though Bangalore, Durgapur and Mumbai also saw action and feels it is only the tip of the iceberg and visualises it as big, Pan India wine festival to celebrate Indian wines, with wineries directly involved
Indian Wine Day kicked off with a big bang, a day earlier on 15 November at ITC Grand Chola Chennai. It was organised by Chinmaya Arjun Raja, an avid wine lover who had founded Chennai Wine Club over a decade ago. The date was moved forward so that the special guest, Subhash Arora, President of the Indian Wine Academy and founder of the concept in November, 2017, could be present.
The evening started in the presence of Zubin Songadwala, General Manager of the hotel and about 40 guests in the bar, with Ghungroo - the house- bubbly from Fratelli, accompanied by hot snacks being the protagonist. After Chinmaya welcomed the guests and Arora gave the genesis of the Indian Wine Day there was an impromptu tasting of Kiwi wines from Naara Aaba winery in Arunachal Pradesh where two variants- the 2016 and 2020 were tasted; it is one of the objectives of Indian Wine day to promote fruit wines as a subset of wines in India.
Avartana Restaurant, the flagship restaurant at ITC Grand Chola was an excellent choice by Chinmaya. A 10- course Menu was awaiting guests with wines from Fratelli (Sauvignon Blanc, followed by red wine –a Sangiovese /Cabernet Franc/Syrah blend), and Sula Rasa Shiraz and Fratelli M/S Rose paired with the dessert, made it a unique evening.
The fabulous Tasting Menu of South Indian cuisine in a contemporary avatar, crafted by the brilliant Chef Nikhil Nagpal would cost upward of £120 in London without wine; at Rs. 4,000 a plate it was extremely reasonably priced for this iconic restaurant. Chef Nikhil had postponed his trip to Kolkata for another event by a day -to be a part of this historic event where he had 4 separate Menus (Non-veg, vegetarians, fish eaters and Vegans) to choose from. The brilliant but modest Chef deserves Michelin Stars but gives credit to the whole team involved in conceptualising the Menu.
It was heartening to see Chinmaya raring to expand the Indian Wine Day next year ambitiously to more hotels in Chennai and add Madurai and Pondicherry in his repertoire, to make the Indian Wine Day more popular.
The dishes were well paired with wines- and there was plenty of choices from the evening wine list to match with each dish. The dry Rosé was unfortunately not the best match for me with the Coffee ice-cream. But as I always say, food and wine are a matter of personal taste.
No matter where I am on November 16, it is imperative that we have Indian Wine Day in Delhi on that day, so I had to rush back the next morning to attend the event in Delhi NCR Gurgaon. It was the first time when The Lalit Hotel was not the venue at Delhi or any of their other previous sites, because of the situation created by CoronaVirus.
In fact, the venue had to be changed from the planned Venue-Chutney Restaurant at the Metropolitan, a preferred hotel for Delhi Wine Club dinners several years ago, because of a sudden announcement by the Delhi government that all wine orders in Delhi had to be placed before November 3. With only half the wines in stock, we had no choice but to shift the venue to The Wine Company, Gurgaon which had organised the event in 2019 and were happy to repeat, thanks to the wine loving partner Ashish Kapur.
This turned out to be a blessing in disguise with the well-known Delhi Chef Megha Kohli rustling out an excellent Mediterranean-based Menu with wines from Grover, Fratelli and Sula. While we had the premium mid-priced range of The Source Sauvignon Blanc Reserve and Grenache Rosé from Sula, Grover saw its Soiree Brut start the evening with Fume Blanc and the new variant of La Reserve with Syrah Grenache following and ending up with its Grand Reserve Chene as the top end wine. Fratelli Sette has already established its mark with Sette as its premium wine but J’Noon, their top label was also there to serenade the palates of the full house of around 40 members and their guests.
As Arora underlined in his impromptu speech, the objective of such a dinner was to recognise the increasingly improving quality of Indian wines and to celebrate its ascending status in the world of wines. Indian Wine Day started in 2017 as a vehicle to promote our Indian wines and be proud of them, never missing the thought that wine was a borderless beverage and we must be at liberty and have access to wines from all over the world to satiate our palates.
Both these events in Chennai and Delhi pointed in that direction. We will continue with the other events in the next issue of delWine and hope that we shall continue to celebrate this Day with greater gusto in the coming years.
Genesis of Indian Wine Day
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