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Delhi Wine Club
WWS: Dönnhoff from Nahe Recognized as Lord of Wine

Posted: Wednesday, 14 November 2012 17:57

WWS: Dönnhoff from Nahe Recognized as Lord of Wine

November 14: Helmut Dönnhoff, who owns the Nahe based iconic winery, was awarded the first ‘Lords of Wine’ recognition at the recently concluded 4th edition of the World Wine Symposium at the grand, luxurious Hotel Villa d’Este in the presence of over 200 of the delegates attending the prestigious international conference on wine, including Subhash Arora who partook for the third time.

Click For Large ViewWhile announcing the Award, Francois Mauss, the untiring organiser and founder of the WWS in 2009, said the award, The Lords of Wine, had been instituted by Lalique and Villa d’Este to honour a wine personality for exemplary contribution to the industry and yet staying away from the limelight, barring the professional press. Although he claims it to be the equivalent of a Nobel Prize in the field of wine, there is no monetary award that goes with the coveted annual award.

The Award is an appx. 18-inch round plaque from the famous French glass house Lalique, and stunned the veteran, modest winemaker. He was emotionally so choked that he requested to be allowed to express himself in his native German when Mauss asked him to express his thoughts in English. With so many well-known French, Italian and Spanish producers at the Symposium, he was dumbfounded to be chosen as the first ever recipient of the prestigious award.

It wasn’t easy to keep from him the announcement which surprised everyone else in the audience as well.  Later at the Gala Dinner that included some of the outstanding wines from several producers, Dönnhoff Riesling Auslese 2003 was also a part of the wine list. A sweet wine from a difficult, hot year, it was extremely impressive with a balance of sweetness and acidity and lively freshness on the palate. Mauss had talked to his winemaker son Cornelius to arrange a Riesling Auslese 2003 which turned out to be an awesome wine.

The Dark Horse

Many people might have been even shocked to see the first award go to a non-French (incidentally, French seems to be the international language at the Symposium though every seminar is beautifully translated in several languages) or non-Italian producer. But Joel Payne, editor of the German version of Gault Millau, who arrived at the WWS after the Symposium had started as he had launched the 2013 edition of the wine guide the previous night, was not surprised and was visibly happy. ‘As far back as I remember, we have always rated his winery as 5-star, the topmost category. Helmut is a fine wine maker who believes in growing the finest grapes and then sitting back and relaxing (metaphorically speaking) and getting a fabulous wine every vintage. He is such a humble and unassuming person - I think the organisers are fully justified in honouring him as the first recipient of the prestigious award.’

Another person who was very pleased when I broke the news to him after coming back to India was Vishal Kadakia, owner of the Wine Park in Mumbai. He is the importer of a couple of his labels and has placed the wine in ITC, Taj, Leela etc. in Delhi and several hotels and restaurants including Indigo in Mumbai.

Seminars and Workshops

The seminars included some technical topics like winery design and the role of WTO in wine marketing laws within member states (India for one). But there were also interesting marketing-themed seminars like the Russia market, the happenings in the China Market in the last one year, internet marketing and the seminars on wines from Friuli, Venezia and Giulia which could be enjoyed by even non-technical people. The seminar on eProvenance was an eye opener for most people who have not focused on the wine transfer and storage problem. This is a new product that helps measure the temperature of wine during the transit and storage and is extremely useful in determining the provenance of fine wines.

Tastings Galore

Food preparation at the hotel is always extraordinary with the chefs and waiting staff appearing extra charged and spirited to take care of the guests, some of whom are top guns of the wine industry. But what takes the cake above all is the possibility of tasting a multitude of wines at WWS. There are not many occasions where one may taste Cheval Blanc or Domaine Romanée Conti wines. Burgundy, Bordeaux, Tuscany and Piemonte are but a few of the premium wine areas represented at such tastings. Friuli-Venezia-Giulia is a north-eastern region in Italy known especially for its whites and there were over a score of producers to enthrall the participants’ palates.

The premium optional tastings are a special draw for a specific segment of wine connoisseurs at the WWS - the extra cost would have set you back by € 2100 for the three verticals of Masseto, Chateau d’Yquem and DRC-Richebourg and Grand Echezeaux (covered in next issue). But there is perhaps no other single place under the sun where the similar opportunity would be available easily (you had to reserve in advance as they would be sold out before the start of the conference).

Every producer participating in the conference is invited to pour his wines for the delegates. This adds value to the event and is also beneficial for the producers, giving them a huge opportunity to showcase their wares to a captive, knowledgeable and opinion-maker audience.

Historical presence by Indians

India had not been represented at the event so far. Determined to introduce Indian producers and wine aficionados to this world class event where top quality wine stakeholders come from as far away as Chile, Argentina, China and Hong Kong, Subhash Arora had made concentrated efforts to get  a couple of producers - Four Seasons and Fratelli - and 3 members of the Delhi Wine Club to participate; Arora had already  participated as a journalist during two of the past three editions.

Four Seasons and Fratelli Wines

Alessio Secci, the Tuscany-based Italian partner of Akluj-based Fratelli Wines was very exhilarated and happy with the participation. ‘Villa d’Este is a dream destination even for us Italians. Besides the gastronomical excellence and tasting top quality wines and the ambience, I am glad we had a fantastic response from the participants.' Many journalists including Enzo Vizzari of L’Espresso, a part of the National Daily Reppublica  and the wine columnist  from Corriere della Sera took keen interest and were going to do a story on the winery. Their Sette and Sangiovese 2012 were instant hits - there were plenty of surprised faces after tasting the latter. It had been a spontaneous decision by the astute Kapil Sekhri, one of the Delhi-based partners, to take part and he was proven more than right. With an Italian distributor appointed and also attending the show, the company is expected to reap early benefits.

Four Seasons is already a well-established winery and at a number two spot, took a few days to decide because of the corporate-like structure. Abhay Kewadkar was visibly a very happy man. Besides meeting several top winemakers like Stéphane Derenoncourt, the flying winemaker who consults with 90 wineries including Alpine Wineries in Karnataka, he enjoyed pouring for a diversified set of delegates. It appears that women and non-French and non-Italians, especially women, loved their Viognier and Rose, whereas the Barrique Reserve had polarized takers, with equal honours going to both their reds - Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Passionate Delhi Wine Club Members

Parag Tripathi and his wife Neelima are both Supreme Court lawyers and active members of the Delhi Wine Club. So is C.S Vaidyanathan, who was also present for this historic occasion. Congratulating Mauss for the wonderful hosting of the prestigious event, Parag Tripathi says ‘it was like a great vintage year’. "The place is fantastic, the ambience great, the seminar sessions outstanding and the food and wines amazing. And the wine tastings - Mamma Mia!!" he said, referring to the two vertical tastings of Chateau d’Yquem and DRC-Richebourg and Grand Echezeaux. Overpowered by the number of back to back seminars, he did however suggest that one afternoon ought to be kept open for a cruise which would include a wine tasting. He has of course already booked for himself and his wife Neelima Tripathi, who was a teetotaler till she became active in the Delhi Wine Club events and has indicated her desire to attend a couple of the premium tastings next year for the 5th edition to be held on 7-10 November, 2013 - fortunately post-Diwali.

Click For Large ViewC. S Vaidyanathan, a senior Supreme Court lawyer and another member of the Delhi Wine Club whose son had to cancel out at the last minute due to unavoidable circumstances, had jumped on the wine wagon on the recommendation of Tripathi. ‘I thoroughly enjoyed the ambience, experience and tastings. It was indeed a great effort put in by the organisers to provide a delightful and enjoyable experience to all participants. The palate had a delectable and delicious feeling all through. Most important, you made it a very pleasurable and unforgettable experience,’ adding, ‘I shall, of course, be there again next year’.

The Lalique- Villa d’Este Award was the last event before the gala dinner that left everyone spellbound. Before leaving the beautiful property next morning, one complaint everyone had was that the time had been too short and folks were promising to see each other next year on November 7-10, 2013. The WWS may not have solved many problems facing the wine industry but issues were discussed and a few kilos were added. One could claim to have left wiser and heavier but generally pleased with the experience of attending the 4th edition of the World Wine Symposium.

Subhash Arora

Gallery- Tasting with Producers

Niladri Dhar Says:

Well deserved recognition for Donnhof. Had the privilege of personally interacting and sampling a range of wines with Helmut a couple of months back. Was not only extremely impressed with the wines but more importantly to learn his wine-making philosophies. The wines, although quite different from their Mosel counterparts, had the stamp of a very high quality producer.

Posted @ November 16, 2012 10:56


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