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Guest columnist Brinda Bourhis looks into the boom in wine tourism and hospitality in Bordeaux’s beautiful land of ‘noble rot’


Having lived in Bordeaux for over twenty years, I’ve had the chance to immerse myself in the wonderful vineyards from the Left Bank and Right Bank. I’m always amazed by the contrasts, from the vast lands and majestic chateaux in the Medoc to the smaller family-owned estates in St Emilion.

However when it comes to Sauternes, it’s another world. The liquid gold that is produced there is incomparable – a world apart from making bold reds or dry whites. In some vintages, when the climate does not allow for the development of noble rot, the wine producers of Sauternes can lose their entire crop or produce tiny quantities of wines.

Over the years, with the growing boom in wine tourism in Bordeaux, it has been great to see chateaux in Sauternes and Barsac working to better educate consumers on the wonders of this sweet wine that is not just drunk with dessert!

Hospitality and Wine Tourism in Bordeaux’s Golden Nectar

The appellation of Sauternes & Barsac, 50 km south of Bordeaux city, is home to exquisite sweet wines including 27 chateaux listed in the renowned 1855 classification of Grands Crus Classés drawn up upon the request of the French Emperor Napoleon III.

Chateau Yquem photo©G.Uféras

Today, it is a wine region tha is actively developing wine tourism to attract visitors from around the world who dream of a total immersion in Bordeaux’s golden nectar.

Here are some not-to-miss tourism attractions in Sauternes:

Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey Hotel & Restaurant Lalique

Sauternes made the news just recently on 21st January 2019, when the newly-opened restaurant Lalique of Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey was awarded its first Michelin star. Chef Jérôme Schilling is obviously thrilled.. “The basis of my culinary philosophy is simple: I use seasonal products that are ideally local and environmentally friendly.” He has developed an entirely vegetarian menu (quite rare to find in Bordeaux’s finest establishments) with dishes that pair perfectly with the wines from the estate.

Hotel Lalique Photo credit Anne-EmmanuelleThion

The man behind this venture is Silvio Denz, President and CEO of Lalique, France’s luxury crystal designer. After purchasing the wine estate in 2014, Denz undertook major renovation work to build a hotel and restaurant that opened to the public in June 2018. When I visited this 5-star hotel, I was impressed not only by the sparkling crystal that embellishes the 13 bedrooms but also by the spectacular views overlooking the vineyards practically wherever you are in the hotel. Rooms can be booked on the website and start from around €295 per night for a double room including breakfast.

However, if you just want to book a wine tour then that’s also possible. A private visit for €25 per person includes a tasting of three wines and you will get a chance to see the cellars, the Chapel and the Vinothèque (wine and accessory shop) all decorated by Lalique.

www.lafauriepeyragueylalique.com

Chateau Rayne Vigneau

For more adventurous visitors, Chateau Rayne Vigneau is the place to be with a tasting on a treetop! Instead of tasting the wines in a traditional cellar, here you make your way up a 200-year old cedar tree… rest assured you’ll be supervised by a professional tree climber. Once at the top, you can taste the 1st Grand Cru Classé Sauternes 1855 of the estate with a fabulous view of the Ciron river. If you are scared of heights, but still seeking an original experience, Chateau Rayne Vigneau has options. You can opt to discover their vineyards on horseback, followed by a tasting of three wines in the cellar.

Treetop tasting at Chateau Rayne Vigneau

Details and prices on all activities can be found on www.raynevigneau.fr

La Chapelle de Guiraud Restaurant

The first restaurant to have opened in a Grand Cru Classé is in Sauternes at Chateau Guiraud.
Called La Chapelle de Guiraud, it sits in the heart of this organically-farmed wine estate run by Xavier Planty. He joined forces with Nicolas Lascombes, owner of 10 restaurants in Bordeaux including Le 7 at the top of the Cité du Vin. The food at La Chapelle is brasserie-style with local produce such as oysters and grilled meats. Before or after your meal, you can also visit Chateau Guiraud that has been involved in wine tourism for many years and is open to the public 7 days a week.
www.lachapelledeguiraud.com

Château d’Yquem
Ranked right at the top of the 1855 classification of Sauternes, the Premier Cru Chateau d’Yquem is open for visits. This is a perfect illustration of how the Sauternes area is opening its doors to the public. As to be expected from this exceptional wine, the guided tour is a magical experience. Visits are possible by appointment only through their website or through Bordeaux Wine Trip developed by the Bordeaux tourist office, with three options:
“Discovery” includes a tasting of 2017 Y, their dry white and 2016 Château d’Yquem. The cost is €75 per person.

Chateau Yquem photo©G.Uféras

“Trilogy” offers a tasting of the three latest vintages: 2016, 2015, and 2014 fora price of €150 per person.

The final option is called “From one 5 to another”, three vintages of
Château d’Yquem: 2016, 2011, and 2006 to demonstrate the ageing potential. This costs €200 per person.
I suggest you book early if you don’t want to miss out should you be visiting this part of Bordeaux’s vineyards.
www.yquem.fr

Practical information
Maison du vin de Sauternes
In the centre of the town, this wine tourism office is a good place to pick up maps, find places to eat and stay.
www.maisondusauternes.com


Conseil Grands Crus Classés de 1855
To learn all about the history of the classification including those from Sauternes & Barsac
www.grand-cru-classe-1855.com

Bordeaux Wine Trip
To book your wine tours online, the Bordeaux Tourist Office has developed a wine trip planner which is user-friendly and in English.
www.bordeauxwinetrip.com.

About Brinda Bourhis

After five years working for a major Bordeaux wine merchant, British-born Brinda Bourhis has a solid knowledge and experience of the wines of the one of the finest regions in the world: Bordeaux.
She owns Winevox, a company that provides quality wine education including the WSET course, wine marketing and translations for the French wine industry.
Winevox also runs an on-going ambassador programme in the US for the Crus Bourgeois du Medoc, organising masterclasses at top universities such as Stanford, Columbia, Yale, and staff-training for wine retail stores as well as tastings for private wine clubs and associations.

The post Bordeaux’s land of liquid gold appeared first on Ruma Singh.

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Steven Spurrier has been featured in the movies. In Bottle Shock, he was portrayed by the late Alan Rickman (Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films). He is also currently making wine in India (for Fratelli Vineyards), a country with a tropical climate regarded as almost impossible for winemaking. During his many visits to this country, he has observed the start of nascent wine culture, and as the chairman of the Wine Society of India, influenced many to drink and appreciate wine. No better person to comment on the many complexities that make India and its wine policies. Picking up from his memoirs, I asked him several questions which he answered frankly and directly as only he can.

Read on…..

When you have been part of history, you will be in the movies, and you have been depicted in several stories based on the Judgement of Paris. We know your reaction to the movie Bottle Shock – you were not pleased, not least because of the factual inaccuracies.

Are there any other films or books on the anvil? And hypothetically speaking, if you were to ‘pick ‘an actor and director for a new version, whom would you choose (a more appropriate casting than Alan Rickman)?  

My real antagonism to this movie was the story from the Paris point of view had been completely flipped:  their line was that my shop was doing so badly that I had to hold this event to gain publicity, whereas the opposite was the truth:  the shop was doing very well and the Academie du Vin was so respected that we were able to create this event at our own expense with the sole aim of getting recognition for the quality of California Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.  The background to Bottle Shock is that there was already a movie in the very early stages in Hollywood on the Judgement of Paris, using that as a title, and I was involved as a consultant.  The people behind it were rather flaky but it became plain to the Barretts at Chateau Montelena that this movie would only talk about Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and not about them, so they very quickly financed this script and it began to knock the other movie on the head.  The people behind this got hold of the script and sent it to me, hoping that I would take legal action against it, so they could go ahead. 

Alan Rickman as Steven Spurrier in Bottle Shock

My son’s partner was at that time head of BBC Films and she put me in touch with the top intellectual property lawyers, who got in touch with the lawyers in Hollywood who replied to say that they didn’t know Mr Spurrier was still alive, and were prepared to advise some changes in the script, but not the main story.  There was nothing I could do about stopping it and the original one died a death.

As for being played by Alan Rickman – apart from the 29 year difference in our ages when he played the part and I held the tasting, he and I had already met a couple of times at Castello  di Argiano in Montalcino and spent time together over glasses of Rosso, and he knew that the Spurrier in the script was not me at all, and while he had to play the role as written, he played it in a more sympathetic way had we not known each other.  He said later that this had really helped.  

The movie itself is quite fun and people still talk about it and Bella reminds me that nobody else in the wine world had, at that time had a movie made about them and being played by Alan Rickman was a great honour, both of which I agreed with.  There is actually a documentary in the works on the Judgement of Paris and I know that Warren Winiarski has been interviewed for this. I think it important that the people who were involved are interviewed now, before they die, as it really was probably the most influential wine tasting the wine world has ever seen and it needs to be recorded for history.  I will obviously be a part of this and will play myself!

 Let’s talk about India. You have been described as a ‘friend of India’ when it comes to wine, a well-wisher of Indian wines. How you perceive the path the wine industry has taken since its inception, and do you believe we can reach the standards of other well-established New World winemaking countries?

The progress to success for Indian producers has two strong problems to overcome:  the climate and the Government.  The former needs investigation and research, so that vines are only planted on soils and in regions where they can produce healthy grapes.  Fratelli Vineyards is the standard bearer here.  The taxes imposed in Indian wines are supportable and much, much lower than those on imported wines, but the rules and regulations surrounding distribution makes selling wine very complicated and expensive.  This is as bad for the wine consumer as it is for the wine producer.

David Banford and yourself founded the Wine Society of India in 2006, I think. I was a member myself, and ex-members still fondly reminisce about it … it caught the imagination of Indian wine lovers but had to shut down for various reasons. In your book, you call it a project founded ‘with too much blue sky thinking”. Is there scope for a similar project in India in the future, should circumstances change? Even though you sound doubtful in the book…  what about other initiatives which you feel might help grow the culture of wine in India?

Steven Spurrier at the launch of his memorirs: Wine, A Way of Life

The ‘blue sky thinking’ you refer to was David Banford’s feeling that because it was a good idea to sell wine directly to members of the Wine Society of India, it would be possible despite the rules and regulations concerning the sale and distribution of wine in India, especially imported wine.  It wasn’t.  At the moment, the Government is simply not interested in the wine consumer and until it becomes easier to sell and distribute wine across the country there will be no new initiatives to help grow the wine culture.  

Fake or counterfeit wines, social media promotions, wooing consumers with automation…the business end of selling wine has changed dramatically in the last few years. Which, according to you, is the biggest challenge for the wine world today, as opposed to earlier years?

The biggest challenge is the anti-alcohol lobby, which considers that because wine contains alcohol due to the fermented juice of the grape, it can be considered in the same way for health as can spirits.  Wine is not a spirit, it is an agricultural product that is meant to accompany a meal.  Until this mindset changes, no matter what ‘demystification’ of wine can be done to attract young or new consumers, wine consumption will not flourish in the way it should. 

Is there a follow-up memoir in the works for you, possibly a few years ahead? Given that you are still in full stride, travelling the world and working tirelessly, and to my mind, the wine scene is continuously evolving and changing – climate change being a major contributor here? Maybe there might be a Judgement of Paris Part 2 or a Judgement of  Hong Kong or Tbilisi for you?

There will be no follow-up memoir, but I will be involved in the publication of many more books.  In 2017 I managed to recuperate the brand and logo of l’Academie du Vin, the wine school that I founded in Paris in 1973.  I am in the process of forming a publishing company called The Academie du Vin Library, which will have two lines:
Académie du Vin Collection, for monographs and also the re-issue of classic books long out of print, to bring the literature of wine to a new public.
Academie du Vin Guides, a series of reference books principally for the wine student. 
The first of the AdVC will be the re-printing of Michael Broadbent’s seminal Wine Tasting first published in 1969, with many new additions from Hugh Johnson, Jancis Robinson, Gerard Basset, Bartholomew Broadbent and myself.  This will be out for Michael’s 92nd birthday on May 2nd 2019.  
The first of the AdVG will be Sherry by Ben Howkins, also out in May 2019.

There are many more books in the pipeline and the key difference between the AdV Library and other publishers is that we will not look for bookstores and retailers for sales, but from the very start form our own mail order club and supply this way, which will allow us to create the highest quality books but propose them at a reasonable price.

The post Movies, magic…India! The Steven Spurrier interview, 3 appeared first on Ruma Singh.

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Art, wine and all of life’s good things… on another day, Steven Spurrier might well have become Spurrier the art critic rather than Spurrier the wine expert. He recounts how a single sip of Port changed the direction of his life. Read on to discover more about Steven Spurrier in this Part 2 of his interview

While for many Steven Spurrier is a name synonymous with wine. But not too many know how you entered the field. What drew you to wine and has kept you there for over 50 decades?

 In the Foreword, I recount that I have been inspired by my very first glass of wine, Cockburn’s 1908, at the family home on Christmas Eve 1954.  This was true and I subsequently learnt a bit about wine through my history and geography lessons at Rugby School and joined the Wine Society at the London School of Economics, so by the time I was ready to find a job, I was determined that it would be in the wine trade.  It also helped that I had a private income, so could afford to work in this sector, which was notoriously low-paying.  Above all this was the fact that I loved the taste of wine, enjoyed the alcoholic ‘kick’ and from an early age had always wanted to do something independent, just for me. 

What has kept me in the world is the 3 Ps – Place, where the vineyards are, almost always very good to experience, People, who own the vineyards and make the wine who are almost always good to know, and the Product, which is the result of P1 and P2.  Wine is totally fascinating, not just good to drink with family and friends over a nice meal.  There is always, always, something different to taste and so much to learn, that you can never stop and certainly, once you are bitten by the wine bug, never get bored. 

Another revelation was your keen interest in art and antiques, and how this was your main love and choice of career to being with. A little background on it, please, and has that interest continued to date?

It is true that I was within an ace of joining Christie’s as a trainee had I not been offered a job as a trainee with Christophers Wine Merchants.  My parents were interested in art and antiques in a natural way as we had always lived in big houses with furniture and pictures either inherited or bought to suit their taste.  They used to insist on taking my elder brother and I to museums, art galleries, churches, palaces open to the public and so on, so I was brought up with culture and it has certainly stayed with me. 

Steven Spurrier with winemaker Ian Edwards of Furleigh Estate who makes Spurrier’s Bride Valley wines

I think I have a high sense of visual appreciation and so art is a natural.  It is also a very satisfactory and enjoyable way to spend money if one has it, sometimes even if one has not.  Lately, I have been obliged to sell three paintings and a sculpture to help finance Bride Valley Vineyard, and while I am sorry to no longer have them, I had the pleasure of seeing them over so many years.  Even today I spend more money on art than on wine and I don’t think this is going to change!

Please do give the readers a small introduction about Bride Valley, your own wine project. How and why did that happen? You mentioned to me once about the all-new sensation of being “on the other side of the judges’ table,” as a producer. Certainly a new feeling for you! What did it feel like, and how is Bride Valley doing now?

The first idea of a vineyard on the 200-acre farm my wife bought along with a fine village house in southwest Dorset started a little after the purchase in summer 1987.  Right away I noticed that the soil was very chalky – we are only 25 miles from Kimmeridge, the village after which the chalk in Champagne is named – and I was still in Paris at the time, so put a rule of blocks of chalk in my pocket and showed them to Michel Bettane, the top lecturer at the Academie du Vin

“Michel, where are these from?”

 “Champagne of course.”

“No, from Dorset.”

“Then you should plant a vineyard.” 

Had we planted then I would have gone for Pinot Blanc, just for a still wine, but thank heavens I didn’t!  Time passed and in the mid-1990s I attended the Awards Evening of the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) and on being handed a glass of sparkling wine was asked what I thought it was. 

“Champagne, almost certainly a Blanc de Blancs, probably a Grand Cru.”

  “No, Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs from Kent.”

This put the ball in play and then when Ridgeview from Sussex, whose wine I had always liked, won the Decanter World Wine Awards for Sparkling Wine in 2009, this confirmed that England really had a future. 

The farm is in a large bowl, mostly south facing; and in 2007 I took a dossier to Vinexpo in Bordeaux to present to the Boisset family who were good friends of mine and always interested in new ventures.  They wanted to do a joint venture with about 25 hectares, build a winery and so on, but after lots of analysis and research it appeared that there were only 10 or so hectares that ticked all the boxes and the Boisset advice was, “You plant these yourselves, buy the vines from Pepinieres Guillaume (supplier to the top domaines in Champagne and Burgundy), take the grapes to Ian Edwards at Furleigh Estate (UK winemaker of the year 2012) and if all goes well, we will be your first client.” 

With that advice, we planted in 2009 just over two hectares, then in 2010, 2011, 2012 ending up with 42,000 vines on 10 hectares.  From the start I told Georges Legrand of Boisset that I intended to make only one wine, a Brut Reserve.  He said this was stupid and I should make two or more.  I asked why.  “When you are behind the table showing your wine, with only one, you question can only be “do you like my wine?”, but with more than one the question could be “which of my wines do you prefer?” 

This was excellent advice and the final chapter of my memoirs, Wine a Way of Life, is ‘Poacher turned Gamekeeper’, showing how Bride Valley Vineyard has, for the first time in 50 years in the wine trade, found me on the selling side of the table. 

Read more about Steven Spurrier and his thoughts on the movie Bottle Shock, based on the historic Judgement of Paris, as well as his view on wine in India.

This is the third and final part of my exclusive interview with him

The post ‘Even today, I spend more on art than on wine’ appeared first on Ruma Singh.

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Steven Spurrier, wine expert extraordinaire, has penned his memoirs after 50 plus years in the wine world and it has caused stir and comment alike. I caught up with him for a deep dive into the book and a recap of his career, in this first part of a three-part interview

Jancis Robinson describes Steven Spurrier’s mind as “bright, brave, impulsive, massively energetic and often slightly impish,” and that, in a nutshell, is what keeps Spurrier at age 78, so relevant and so exciting to meet time and again. Add to that his disarming honesty and self-deprecating wit and you have a man who remains a one-of-a-kind legend in the wine world. Robinson adds, “Spurrier is like a Catherine wheel plugged into perpetuity.”

No wonder then, for any student of wine or indeed any wine lover, reading his newly-released memoirs is a must-do. At the intimate India launch of his book in New Delhi by Sommelier India wine magazine for who he has been a long-time contributor, and Fratelli Vineyards, a newer collaborator, I managed to get him to sign a copy for me. The cover shows a sepia-tinted photo of a young Spurrier sitting tall amidst his wines at L’Academie du Vin. To quote a wine professional who was present at the launch, “Doesn’t that photo remind you of Al Pacino in Scarface?”) It does, and safe to say that wine has equally been an addiction for Spurrier through his life.

In this first part of a three-part interview, he speaks with characteristic candour and his usual effortless storytelling skills.

Do give us some insights into how the book happened. You have always been a natural raconteur, how did you recall events and happenings in such detail? Fifty-four years in the wine industry must have been hard to distill into a few hundred pages.

You are correct to say that I am a natural raconteur but much less as a talent than that the stories I have to tell are interesting because of the people involved and the places they happened in.  My original plan was just to write 50 pages or so to give to my grandchildren to tell them something of what my life in wine was like.  My publisher, an old friend from the Paris days named David Campbell, said maybe I should fill it out a little and make it a book and why not send him the first two or three chapters and he could take a view?  I did and he liked it, so I carried on writing.  I started in December 2016 and finished in December 2017. (That is quite a scorching pace of writing! -Ed)

Steven Spurrier at his book launch at Pullman, New Delhi

The early years, growing up and school, were just a series of flashbacks and reflections. The early days after our marriage spent in Provence were much the same as I never kept a diary, but once in Paris, from Chapter 7, ‘Bonjour Paris’ to Chapter 12, ‘Au Revoir Paris’ it was all a bit more detailed as it was a fascinating two decades from the highs at the start – the longest chapter is not surprisingly ‘The Judgement of Paris’ – to the lows at the end, as I was living it day by day.  Once back in London in 1991, I began keeping an appointment’s diary, which reminded me where I had been when, but more importantly from 1994, I had a monthly column in Decanter and very often wrote about my travels around the world.  Writing on a time-line with these supports to hand was quite easy and I enjoyed telling the story. Wrapping it up with the renaissance of L’Académie du Vin in Paris and London in November 2017 made perfect sense.


You became famous worldwide with the Judgement of Paris in 1976. But you have always said it was never your intention to show up French wine, merely to bring focus on how American wine had improved at the time – 1976. Today, 40 plus years on, what are your most important memories of the event? And looking back, was there anything you could or would have done differently?

  The Judgement of Paris was a watershed event for the wine world and it was also an event whose time had come.  The circumstances were created for the recognition of quality coming out of California, which was the main purpose of the event. The result was much more dramatic than I had anticipated.  The scene was wonderfully set:  it was the 200th anniversary of the American Declaration of Independence, which the French had supported against the British; the fact it was held in Paris with nine of the very top palates in France;  the fact that the California Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons were unknown outside the United States and the fact that the white Burgundies and Clarets were classics recognised around the world.

It was an excellent package, but two things changed it from being a low-key event to an international one:  the fact that just two weeks earlier I had decided to turn it into a blind tasting and the fact that George Taber from the Paris office of Time magazine had nothing much on that day so decided to accept our invitation to attend, and that my wife Bella was there to take the photographs. 

There is nothing I would have done differently, but all Patricia Gallagher and I were after was recognition of quality from California and my last minute decision to put in top French wines blind as a comparison was to avoid the California wines being ‘damned with faint praise,’ meant that the tasting just happened as it did, the only surprising thing being the result! 

I have often said that if the same wines had been tasted by the same tasters the following day, the results might have been different, but it wasn’t, so the result was a once-off.  Subsequent tastings in 1986 and 2006 proved beyond a shadow of doubt that for the reds at least, the results on 24th May 1976 were valid.  Patricia always felt that it was unfair on the tasters, who had been invited to taste, not to make judgements, to have turned them from tasters into judges, but they did accept the challenge to do this.  Had they refused, I would not have gone ahead with the comparative tasting, just showing them the California wines as originally planned. 

By far the most important thing for me from the event, apart from it being a ‘win-win’ for both France and California, as the former was resting on its laurels and needed “a kick up the backside” as Aubert de Villaine remarked (actually more picturesquely, “On a pris un coup de pied dans la derriere”-Ed) and the latter needed recognition, was that it created a template whereby little-known wines of quality could be tasting blind alongside well-known wines of quality and it the tasters themselves were of impeccable quality, their judgements would be respected.   This was proved over a dozen years by Eduardo Chadwick in his series of Berlin Tastings

Look out for Part 2 of my interview with Steven Spurrier to be posted soon.

The post ‘The Judgement of Paris was an event whose time had come’: Steven Spurrier appeared first on Ruma Singh.

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The key to a healthy wine industry in India is easy availability of well-priced wines. High taxes on wine and spirits remain India’s biggest challenge to achieving rapid growth like China, says Jude Mullins, international development director, WSET

Jude Mullins, international development director, WSET, in Mumbai during the prowein education campaign

Earlier this year, Prowein, the world’s largest wine trade fair brand made a low-key appearance at a Mumbai-based trade show. In collaboration with the WSET, the world’s best-known authority in the wine and spirits education field, Prowein put together an interesting wine-centric three-day education programme in a specially created 40 seater booth. On all three days, the sessions were sold-out, brimful with wine enthusiasts and trade professionals keenly awaiting every session, whether it be on sparkling winemaking techniques or the suitability of Grenache grapes for Indian soil.

As both an industry watcher and as someone who believes in the positive aspects of formal education, I was intrigued. Was this the beginning (albeit in a small way) of greater interest in wine and spirits education in India? What would international qualifications like those offered by the WSET give to people working in India’s wine and spirits industry? Are there enough jobs out there in India?

At the Prowein Education Campaign run with the WSET, Mumbai September 2018

In an effort to find answers, I interviewed Jude Mullins, Hong Kong-based international development director, WSET, on the sidelines of the event. Mullins had come down to represent the wine school and conduct several sessions and was assessing the possibilities of growth of the WSET within India.

First, let’s get a perspective on the WSET, the best-known wine school in the world.

It is five decades old,  created in 1969 primarily to help the UK wine trade. In these decades, it has grown rapidly and expanded its reach. Today, there are over 700 APPs (approved programme providers) around the world, offering 8 levels of WSET qualifications in 17 languages. That makes it a whopping half-million individuals who have enrolled for a WSET qualification since the beginning. (Data courtesy WSET)

Recently,  the WSET’s biggest success story has been in China. In Mainland China alone, the growth in demand for WSET education in wine and spirits has been 41% year on year. China boasts of 126 WSET course providers in 36 cities today, a few short years after they commenced operations in China in 2006.

Impressive figures, without a doubt.

Picking up from the enthusiastic response to their maiden education campaign in Mumbai, I asked Jude Mullins about WSET qualifications and its role in helping those seeking careers in the wine industry in India; its prospects and potential for growth in India.

(Please see the two-part YouTube video interview below for more details from her.)

The three-day Prowein Education Campaign held in Mumbai was a sold-out success. Can we expect more of the same going ahead, in similar or different formats? 

We were very happy to see the attendance of so many different people attending the Prowein Education Campaign from across the drinks industry sector.  This certainly reflects the desire of trade professional to learn about wines and spirits and the importance placed on knowledge within the industry.   I certainly hope that WSET will be involved in future initiatives with Prowein in India going forward.

Jack Lun, associate director, Moet-Hennessy Academy China, during his session on Cognac in Mumbai

Has the Mumbai experience helped WSET and yourself understand better in any way, the profile and requirements of wine and spirits education in India? 

Certainly!

It was a privilege to meet so many different representatives of the Indian drinks industry, many of whom had already completed WSET qualifications, or who were looking to progress their studies.  From our various conversations, the biggest challenge still remains the availability of a wide range of wine (and spirits) samples at reasonable prices.  Access to a broad range of international wines is vital for any professional who is looking to advance their learning and tasting experience.  This situation is not unique to India but is certainly a deterrent for those who want to progress to higher qualification levels with WSET as the high cost of wine also increases the cost of qualification courses.

During the panel discussion, we spoke of what Levels 2 & 3 can do to help those looking for careers in wine and spirits. What specific additional routes are you looking at to trigger further interest? 

WSET qualifications develop knowledge and tasting experience in a very systematic way, giving students the opportunity to build upon what they have studied at previous levels as they progress.  I certainly believe that there is great potential within academic institutions in India to incorporate WSET qualifications into their degree programmes.  This would not only benefit those students who are preparing to work within India, but also give those who travel overseas for work an international qualification that is recognised around the world.

Karan Vasani of Sula Vineyards during his session on winemaking in India

The China market, for one, has been growing quickly and steadily. What learnings from there can we apply to other Asian markets, especially India? Any anecdotal examples you can share?  

One of the biggest experiences I have from my work in China is the high value placed upon learning about and experiencing wine.  This has also been mirrored by the increasing availability of a wide range of international wines in the market at a wide range of price points.  Whilst initial students were predominantly from the drinks industry (and this remains the case at our higher qualifications) there are increasing numbers of wine lovers studying WSET courses which is really positive for the industry.  Additionally, we have seen a great desire to share knowledge about wine by those of have already completed WSET courses, with many graduates wanting to become educators and offer their courses themselves.

Jude Mullins at a training session. (File photo)

The wine industry in India is relatively small. What job opportunities might exist for those who complete their various WSET levels?  

The wine industry in India may be relatively small, but it is certainly dynamic with lots of potential opportunities in a wide range of different fields.  WSET qualifications provide the backbone of product knowledge and tasting experience that can be used across different sectors of the industry giving great flexibility, whether this is as a sommelier in the on-trade, working in distribution or sales, marketing or even education to name just a few opportunities.  There are certainly lots of new opportunities arising in the industry, not least because India’s own wine production is growing in importance, and this will only continue.

What do you consider the biggest challenges faced by India today, vis-a-vis wine and spirits education? And ideas on dealing with these?  

As I have mentioned, the availability and high cost of international wines and spirits is one of the biggest challenges and certainly has an impact on education.  Students may be limited in the range of samples they are able to experience, or the cost of samples increases the cost of the course to a level that means it cannot be afforded by many who would benefit from this opportunity.  Is there a solution? – well, in live in Hong Kong, where the government took the bold decision to remove tax and duty on wines in 2008!

Watch both the interview videos, below, for more.

Insights: The WSET and careers in wine – Jude Mullins, Part1

Insights: The WSET and careers in wine - Jude Mullins, Part1 - YouTube

Insights: WSET in Asia and the spirits education boom – Jude Mullins – Part 2:

Insights: WSET in Asia and the spirits education boom - Jude Mullins - Part 2 - YouTube

Details on the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) may be found on https://www.wsetglobal.com, including the list of APPs (Approved Programme Providers) in India.

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Indian Wine Academy’s Subhash Arora on why it is important to have a special day to appreciate Indian wine

He peppers his social media posts with “Jai ho!” his own way of saying ‘Cheers!’ in Hindi, India’s national language. And after a very busy November 16 celebrating the newly-established Indian Wine Day, his very own brainchild, Subhash Arora (@wineguyindia on social media) must be raising his wine glass in a toast to greater success ahead.

Subhash Arora and Charles Donnadieu of the LaLit Group at Indian Wine Day 2018 at The LaLit, New Delhi

Indian Wine Day was conceptualized as a day dedicated to Indian wine awareness – which needs a hashtag or two to push the concept of ‘Be Indian, buy Indian’ for the young Indian wine industry. Industry watchers agree that there is a need for an awareness boost with wine drinkers both in India and out.

Since I was travelling on the date and unable to witness first-hand all the merrymaking that took place around the country ( specific metro cities) on the day, I asked Arora, widely known as one of India’s most influential and steadfast supporters of wine, for his take on the event that is currently in its second year.

Excerpts from the interview:

The Bangalore Wine Club at the Indian Wine Day dinner at the LaLit Ashok, Bengaluru

As a supporter and well-wisher of the Indian wine industry for decades,  what made you think of  Indian Wine Day – a day to celebrate Indian wine? 

I have been thinking about an Indian Wine Day for almost five years. My ‘Make in India’ concept happened even before the present government came into power (with their Make in India slogan). I wanted the government to think of the wine industry as a respectable one. I want them to think of wine as part of a healthy lifestyle. I have wanted state banquets to serve Indian wine for many years but I was unsuccessful. To achieve this almost-impossible task I believe we must have an Indian Wine Day. As things stand, there are many countries and regions that celebrate dedicated ‘days’ an international level – think Champagne Day, Malbec Day, Grenache Day. There is even a small part of Burgundy which celebrates Beaujolais Nouveau Day!

Table laid out for the Indian Wine Day dinner. Images: Subhash Arora/Indian Wine Day

So the idea was manifold: to reach the government’s ears, to promote Indian producers making quality wine and recognise them, and finally, to remove the wine snobbery amongst Indians by focusing on quality Indian wines that compare well against their imported counterparts.

For those interested in following the Indian wine story please give a perspective from your considerable experience on the growth of the Indian wine industry over the last 10 years; its challenges and where you feel it has done well. What more needs to be done to raise the image of Indian wine in India and abroad?

The annual growth (in India) has been around 12%. It went as high as 25% in some years and as low as 0% or even negative after the 26/11 mishap. Whereas companies like Sula and Fratelli have had exceptional growth, smaller wineries and even Grover Zampa Vineyards have struggled to grow. Indian wines have to be promoted internationally as ‘Wines of India’ with the active support of the government, perhaps with incentives. Wine tourism in India must be promoted in international markets through Indian tourism boards and by establishing a couple of wine routes.

 Do share insights gathered during your travels abroad on Indian wine from experts outside India. Is the image of Indian wine improving? The increasing number of medals won abroad by Indian producers seems to indicate so.

The knowledge about Indian wines is patchy. In countries like the UK and the US, people are aware of India as a producer, but it is far from being known as a quality wine producer yet. Recently, there have been individual efforts by wineries to change the image, and this has been partially successful. I am glad that the (IWD) event was sold out in the UK, besides in Bengaluru of course, where the unified enthusiasm for the event was the key.

The number of medals won definitely indicate that people are aware of the improving quality and this helps spread the message.

Let’s talk about Indian Wine Day. Describe how the events across India unfolded on the day – 16 November 2018 – and any feedback you might have received post the event.

Principally, we had planned the Indian Wine Day dinner only at Delhi with a sit-down dinner for about 100 people, with similar 5-course Indian menus at all venues. Wine labels served were an issue due to excise policies; Delhi, Bengaluru, and Mumbai had 10 wines. Similarly, wherever Kitty Su/ Kitti Ko (nightclubs of the LaLit Group of hotels) existed, the dinner extended into an after-party with sparkling wines and dessert.

Keshav Suri, the executive director of the LaLit Group has been a big supporter. He liked my concept so much that he decided to expand the concept to some of his other hotel locations until we became six locations, including London, last year. LaLit Sommelier Charles Donnadieu who worked in unison with me even went to London to discuss the event there. Ravindra Kumar, the corporate F&B manager was pro-active as well. The LaLit offered to sell Indian wines at a flat discount of 50% across these properties for three days at all the restaurants, which was very encouraging. This year Indian Wine Day was expanded to nine LaLit properties.

The event went very well this year with about 400 guests attending at all these centres with Delhi hosting the largest number, around 100 people.

Besides this, in an effort to expand the scope, I requested wineries with tasting rooms to celebrate it too by offering 30% discounts on all the wines poured on 16 November- Sula, York, and Soma joined voluntarily. Reveilo does not have a tasting room but hosted a couple of wine dinners exclusively to honour Indian Wine Day. This scope will be expanded next year with more wineries participating and also restaurants.

I hope one day every wine lover will have at least a glass of Indian wine and say ‘Jai Ho!’ as a toast to Indian wine and Indian Wine Day.

What in your mind has been IWD’s biggest achievement? How do you plan to enlarge and improve the concept going ahead?

The biggest achievement has been that people have become aware of Indian wines and are talking about the improvements made and openly discussing their preferences in the top wines category, which is essential to help the quality go up consistently. It also highlights an inherent desire of every genuine wine lover to promote the cause of Indian wines on a medium-term perspective. I was amazed by the fantastic, unsolicited support from the blogging fraternity in the social media before and after the event, which helped us create a greater awareness.

What has been the response from within the wine industry? 

The response has been good in that they have supported the IWD by sponsoring the wines. In terms of getting a step closer to getting directly involved, it has been lukewarm. I guess they are waiting to see how successful it gets in the years to come. Expanding in this format on a much bigger scale is difficult at this stage because the producers cannot be expected to sponsor wines indefinitely.

Any plans for the next edition, 2019? Any changes or add-ons to look forward to?

Indian Wine Academy and the LaLit Hotel Group will continue with similar events next year on the same date, 16 November. We have already announced the date. Last year, we had chosen 16 November because it was the third Thursday in November, the Beaujolais Nouveau Day, but this year it was a Friday and was well accepted. So we decided to choose the same date next year (Saturday) and hope this date will stick in the minds of the people.

Sparkling wine laid out for guests, Indian Wine Day 2018

I hope Indian wine producers will come on board in a bigger way besides sponsoring wines. I would like them to join the initiative as Indian Wine Day by having their tasting rooms offer good discounts and hold interesting programmes on that day. After all, they are the principal beneficiaries.

Through this exercise, I am also trying to get people to appreciate and understand vintage variations and taste every vintage of their favourite Indian wines. I would like to see it filter through to the stand-alone restaurants and even prominent retail stores where tasting is possible. Bengaluru has had an excellent model of complimentary tasting on Indian Wine Day and I hope with the enthusiasm shown by the Bangalore Wine Club, they can spread the message on Indian wines on this special day a lot further.

It looks pretty exciting and promising to me.

Subhash Arora is president, Delhi Wine Club, and Indian Wine Academy; editor, DelWine India and correspondent, Meininger WBI, Germany. He was awarded the Mérite de l’OIV 2011.

The post ‘People are becoming aware of Indian wine and its improvement’ appeared first on Ruma Singh.

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Why India + rosé can be a winner. Irrespective of the season.

I know you must be thinking, “Winter is coming. Why post an article on rosé now?” Surely this is the time for the big reds, or even some toasty mulled wine?

It’s just to prove a simple point: rosé wine is not just a summer sip.

Rosé wine, that pretty pink refreshing summer wine is finally getting its moment in the sun, so to speak. Literally so, because summer is the time when people all over the world reach for sunblocks, flip-flops and bottles of rosé. Judging by the stacked shelves in shades of pink in European and US supermarkets and wine stores, rosé (ro-say) is a­ firm favourite and isn’t likely to lose momentum anytime soon.

Worldwide, sales of rosé are going up. And it is not just about summer sales. Rosé wines are now on top restaurant wine lists and being acknowledged as a sommelier’s delight when it comes to tricky pairings (like with Indian food).

Rosé is dry, usually fruit-forward, crisp and delightfully food-friendly, pairing nicely with everything from pizzas to kebabs. But rarely considered a ‘serious’ wine. IT was only in 2016? that Brangelina’s famous Miraval rosé was the first rosé ever to enter the Wine Spectator Top 100 list of wines. And despite its own impeccable credentials, it is likely that the Brangelina name has played a role in its popularity.

Even in Europe and the US, where rosé is finally being glugged by the gallon when the mercury rises, it is because of its refreshing summer sip profile. Vine Pair, in a recent article, called it “popular and ubiquitous, the Gigi Hadid of beverages.” ‘Nuff said.

Celeb love

Celebrities dabbling in winemaking are making a beeline for rosé too. Following closely in Brangelina’s footsteps is Jon Bon Jovi whose pink, delightfully named Diving into Hampton Water is made in collaboration with noted Languedoc wine producer Gerard Bertrand. Music star John Legend’s wine label LVE also recently launched a Côtes de Provence rosé. Once celebrities give their nod, you know pink is serious business. Understandable then, that there are some very highly rated rosés, like the pale salmon pinks from Provence, France (Domaines Ott being a well-known name) or Whispering Angel (now also available in India.) There are also well-made rosés coming out of Austria and Sicily.

Evidently, pink is in fashion (and we are not talking about millennial pink here).

Colour me pink

So how is rosé wine made?

Rosé gets its colour from contact with grape skins, in a process known as maceration or direct pressing – very lightly – which yields a light, pale pink wine. Another popular method is saignée, while in the case of some pinks, (such as in Champagne), the red and white is blended to make rosé.

Also, unlike red wines and a few whites, most rosés are not often oak-aged. This helps keep its fresh fruity easy-drinking profile.

Almost all top Indian wine producers have rosé as part of their portfolio. The Indian rosé is made to be drunk young. So don’t stash your bottle of rosé in the cellar!

50 Grapes of pink: Rosé can be made from a variety of different red wine grapes. Two of the most popular are Syrah (Shiraz) and Grenache. Others include Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Syrah and lots more red varieties.

Food friendly, yet fun: When in doubt about food pairing, go with rosé, say many pros. While a glass of rosé makes an easy-drinking aperitif, it is notably food-friendly too. This is particularly true for tough-to-pair Asian cuisines. Rosés work well because of their very light tannins, neat acidity and fruity freshness. Try rosé with a malai tikka, Murgh Makhani or baingan bharta and see for yourself.

Ticks all the boxes

Why then does it lag in the popularity stakes in India? At the recently concluded ProWein Education Campaign seminar in Mumbai, Karan Vasani, chief winemaker, Sula Vineyards commented how white and rosé wines had yet to attain the popularity of red wines in India. This despite our hot Indian summers, where a glass of crisp rosé would be just the thing for a summer’s day.

Mysterious perhaps, but in India’s nascent wine culture, awareness of the many positives of rosé are not yet widely known. While doctors tout the benefits of drinking a glass of red wine for general heart health no one says go, try a rosé. Maybe they should.

As summers continue to get hotter, one thing is clear. The popularity of rosé is here to stay.

But if you are interested, here are a few still rosé wines available in India worth trying.

The Source by Sula Vineyards Rs 975, Mumbai, Bangalore

Fratelli M/S rosé Rs 1000, Bangalore & Mumbai; Rs 1170 Delhi

Grover Zampa Art Collection rosé Rs 735 Mumbai, Rs 640, Bangalore

Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap rosé, South Africa Rs2180

Torres Da Casta rosé, Spain Rs1990

(Verify current prices with your local retailer)

The post Think pink: Crushing on rosé wines appeared first on Ruma Singh.

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… And other words of advice from the WSET’s Victoria Burt MW during her recent visit to India. Her advice on how to create a great wine list and what wine drinkers should look for when they order wine in India  

You recently judged the Excellence in Restaurant Wine Programme for the India Wine Awards 2018 with 3 other MWs. Could you give me some insight as to what the experience was like?

When Sonal (Holland MW) offered me the opportunity to judge the Excellence in Restaurant Wine Programme, I felt that it would be a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the wine offerings in some of the top on-trade establishments, and hence gain some insight into the Indian wine scene.

 Sonal had invited me to guide a food and wine pairing masterclass alongside her as part of the awarding ceremony for India Wine Awards. This interactive workshop focused on the ability of wine to pair with Indian cuisine using the principles of the global qualifications provider, the WSET, and was attended by many of the top professionals in the Indian food and wine industries.

The Excellence in Restaurant Wine Programmes recognized and awarded establishments with the best wine lists in Delhi -NCR, Mumbai and Bengaluru. What parameters were used to judge the entries?

The parameters I focussed upon when judging the wine lists were the diversity of wine styles and prices, value for money, the accuracy of wine terminology, logical formatting, and by-the-glass offering. I was pleased to see some excellent lists that performed well on all fronts. However, excellent wine programmes are not just about curating an impressive wine list. I was pleased that a number of restaurants appear to be very much engaged in staff training, with many of their employees having taken WSET qualifications.

Victoria Burt MW at the food and wine pairing masterclass at the India Wine Awards 2018

A restaurant wine list is more than a mere list of wines. So, what makes a good list? I’m sure many hotels and restaurants would love to hear this advice and we, the consumers would be the beneficiaries, finally.

 A good wine list should be adapted to the restaurant and its customers – what will be best in a five-star hotel restaurant is not necessarily what will be best in a small wine bar. However, in general, a good wine list will offer a breadth of wine styles and price points, and be versatile. This does not mean the longest list will always be the best list; but the list should give consumers at least a couple of choices in their style of choice (e.g. dry and crisp white, full-bodied red) at a variety of price points. The wines on the list should pair well with the food offered by the restaurant, but at the same time provide options for all consumer preferences.

Importantly, the restaurant should take pride in their ‘house’ wines as these represent the style and calibre of the establishment as a whole. As much, if not more care should be taken selecting the least expensive wines on the list and the by-the-glass selection, as on the most expensive wines.

The list should be presented clearly and be easily navigable for the customer. It should be accurate, with correct spelling and correct vintages listed, the vintages should also be appropriate for the style of wine – stock rotation is key, especially for fresh youthful styles of wine such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio.

Finally, the sommeliers and waiting staff in the restaurant should be knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the wines on the list; a genuine recommendation can go a long way.

The satisfaction of the customer to me, should come first … What should a wine drinker look out for when looking at a wine list at a restaurant or interacting with the sommelier? Given that wine in India is still a fairly intimidating subject for many?

 My top three pieces of advice when choosing wine in a restaurant would be:

  • Make sure crisp, fruity white wines, and rosé wines are from a recent vintage (i.e. in the last two years). If the wine list doesn’t mention a vintage, ask the sommelier. The fruity flavours that make these wines pleasurable to drink will fade with age, and therefore these wines do not taste better with greater maturity.
  • Drink the wine you want to drink. Do not feel obliged to choose the wine the sommelier recommends, particularly if it is in a style that you know you don’t much like. A good sommelier can help you pick a wine from the list based on your personal preferences, both in terms of wine style and budget.
  • Wines by-the-glass and wine flights can be a great way to try a range of different wines (though do be aware that this may be more expensive per unit volume than buying a bottle). If you are buying a bottle of a wine that is also available by the glass, you could ask for a small sample before you purchase. At worst the sommelier might say ‘no’, but the fact that a bottle of this wine is probably open already makes a negative response less likely.

(I love asking the next question of top wine professionals – no better source for good recommendations!)

Which restaurants or bars have the most balanced wine lists in your experience?

Victoria Burt MW with Sonal Holland MW at the India Wine Awards 2018

I couldn’t possibly do this question justice – however, I can give you my personal choice of restaurants in London that I would always recommend to wine-loving friends. Jancis Robinson MW’s son, Will Lander, has a small collection of restaurants (QCH, Portland, Clipstone), all with well-priced, interesting wine lists. The main lists are concise with a few classics and a few more unusual wines; value comes from choosing wines from good producers but in slightly less well-known wine regions. They then have a ‘single bottle list’, which includes a collection of wines individually picked by the wine team but not available in large enough quantities to be on the main list – this seems like a great way to make their wine selection more diverse and dynamic. Chez Bruce and Gauthier are also favourites. Both of their lists are comprehensive but not excessive, with plenty of by-the-glass and half bottle choices. They provide a balance of classic regions and producers, with those that are lesser known, and have a number of mature wines from good vintages. With all of these restaurants you get the impression that every wine on the list has been hand-picked by a sommelier or wine team, that knows, enjoys and has a reason for stocking it.

 How important is food and wine pairing in the modern context where fixed matches have been substituted with a more relaxed “drink for mood, not food?”

 I think wine and food pairing is still valid. There are food and wine combinations that will taste nice for the vast majority of people, and some that will not taste so nice. This is based on the components in the food (e.g. acidity, spicy heat) and their interactions with components in the wine (e.g. acidity, alcohol), and means that a range of wines will often taste pleasant when paired with a certain food, there is not one perfect wine for a dish. However, I think ‘important’ is perhaps an overstatement, at WSET we teach that the most important thing is to choose a wine that you (or your guests or customers) like to drink.

Victoria Burt MW

What are your honest views on matching Indian food and wine? In many cases, is this sometimes a little forced (or a direct translation of Old World culture, where wine is synonymous with food.) Should we, then leave a wine to be enjoyed in a more relaxed way, even as an aperitif, if so preferred?

 Again, I think people should drink what they want, when they want. But I see no reason why wine should not be drunk alongside Indian cuisine. The spicy heat in many Indian dishes means that a number of people may prefer a wine with some sweetness and relatively low alcohol, which may temper the heat rather than intensify it. Because of the diversity of tastes and flavours in Indian cuisine, and because there is not the tradition of drinking wine with Indian food to provide guidance, it may require a bit more experimentation, at least initially, to find what wines and foods pair best, but this is no reason not to enjoy Indian food with wine!

Victoria Burt MW is the Product Development Manager for Wine Qualifications at the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), where she plays an instrumental role in the continuous progression of WSET’s portfolio of qualifications, most notably the development of student and educator materials. As well as being a WSET Certified Educator, she also organises and presents wine events and has judged at several international wine competitions. Victoria became a Master of Wine in 2015 and constantly seeks to expand and update her technical and product knowledge through wine seminars, masterclasses and travelling widely.

 

The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) is the largest global provider of wine and spirits qualifications, offering courses through Approved Programme Providers worldwide. For more information or to find a course provider near you visit WSETglobal.com 

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A segment at the recent India Wine Awards 2018 was dedicated to discovering the wines that best paired with Indian food. Founder Sonal Holland MW explains why this was an important task

Aloo posto: A popular Bengali potato-based dish cooked with poppy seeds proved to be tricky to pair with wine

It is a topic of great interest with wine lovers and critics – the Indian food and wine conundrum. It deserves focused attention. There are websites devoted to finding perfect pairings, and no matter where in the world you live you might have seen pictures of wine tasting events and people dining at spiffy black-tie dinners and Michelin-starred restaurants, where the gorgeously-plated multi-course repasts are invariably accompanied with a glass of wine or three.

The eternal question of pairing

Have you ever wondered if this would work in India…. maybe a glass of wine at Sunday lunch at home with a nice biryani, paneer tikka or Kerala fish curry?

Wine critics and experts have been asking themselves this question for ages with no conclusive answer yet. One reason for that is that Indians usually enjoy eating their meals family-style, sharing dishes of a variety of flavours and spice levels (often chili or pepper hot) depending on which part of the country they live in. So will a highly-rated oak-rich Bordeaux red wine be a fit with my chicken tikka and dal makhni?

The wine industry in India is still scratching the surface of this subject. Because truly, can wine fit in with this great pyramid of complexity and variety that is our everyday Indian food known as ‘ghar ka khana’ (simple home-cooked food)? According to Sonal Holland MW, the founder of the awards, the simple answer is yes. And the India Wine Awards provided the perfect forum to delve a little deeper – get the home perspective and find a few aha moments, so to speak.

Holland’s argument is simple: “We were keen to bust the myth that Indian food and wine do not pair well. Our success comes if we can place wine on dinner tables at people’s home, proving this is a beverage that can be enjoyed with food.”

So on Day 2 of the jury session, 18 judges were assigned 9 dishes to taste with a total of 120 wines entered for the category. The wines ranged from simple whites and reds to Champagnes and those richly oaked red wines. Both Indian wines and imported wines in India were put up to the pairing test.

Litti chokha from Bihar tested the judges’ palates

Some of the dishes were fairly atypical choices for wine pairing, picked by Holland and her co-chairs of the food and wine pairing segment, Sameer Malkani and Sourish Bhattacharya, both noted names in the food industry. Why these dishes? “We chose food people could relate to – we wanted to keep it real,” explains Holland, “Litti chokhaGoan prawn curry, chicken Chettinad are everyday Indian foods.” To add to the challenge, many of these dishes contained sour or tangy ingredients –  tomato and tamarind – or were spice-rich,  both considered difficult if not impossible pairings according to conventional wisdom. “Then, to add some fun, we added gulab jamun, which most critics would consider way too sweet to pair with any wine at all.”

The session was an interesting one. Our jury table got two tough options – the Goan prawn curry, delicious yet tart and dal makhni, a rich butter-laden lentil dish. You might wonder, but yes, dear reader, we had several “Aha!” moments that surprised us through the extended blind tasting session.

Complicated subject, simple results

The judges debate a food-and-wine pairing

The outcome (complete results here) showed two things, said Holland. “Many Indian wines won the best pairing, though I haven’t yet analyzed why. Perhaps it was the residual sugar that is present in many Indian wines, often made simply, in fruit-forward style.” The second finding related, though no less interesting. “We discovered was that simpler wines paired best with complex dishes (most Indian dishes are complex). Often pairing is far more enjoyable with easy-drinking fruit-forward wines.” This, she believes is “a real opportunity for the wine industry in India.”

Digging a little deeper, I asked how important the practice of food and wine pairing was for India, given our nascent culture of wine appreciation and preference for wine as an aperitif? And given the varied cooking styles, techniques and ingredients in India how decisive or relevant did she think the pairings would be?

“Only important to the extent that its important for us in India to position wine as a food-friendly beverage. We drink it socially, we are aware it is less intoxicating and generally healthier. We should encourage its consumption with food, which further slows alcohol absorption. Plus, wine is best in the company of friends and loved ones.” All these positives needed reinforcement, she said.

For Holland, the food and wine pairing was not meant to be a technical exercise, rather an enjoyable one. “I’m personally thrilled that the simple wines did well. As long as there are no negative pairings, food and wine are meant to complement one another and be enjoyed.”

The wines were tasted blind with various regional Indian foods

To further reinforce this idea, the gala evening was preceded by a masterclass Holland conducted along with Victoria Burt MW of the WSET. Members of the media and the wine trade sat and sipped, a range of wines paired with Indian food like galouti kebab and paneer tikka. “The WSET does workshops across the world, but they had never before paired wine with Indian cuisines and thought it very relevant. We also wanted trade and consumers to understand and experience how these pairings work.”

The response was all she hoped for. “I had wine producers and sommeliers come up to me and tell me they had learned a thing or two at the masterclass.

We had given them food for thought.”

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Dear Wine Lover,

Here are some numbers for your consideration.

At the recently held India Wine Awards 2018 Winners’ Night, 184 medals were awarded from 353 entries.

30 Wines picked up the coveted  Best in Class trophy.

In the now closely watched Best Wine Pairings with Indian Food, 120 wines were paired with 9 dishes, as diverse as the dense and rustic litti chokha (Bihar) and the tangy Goa prawn curry (Goa!). While this doesn’t cover the diversity of flavours that India boasts of, it is a good start and will be of interest to wine producers around the world with the eye on importing to India.

India Wine Awards: the trophy

The first time section, the Excellence in Restaurant Wine Programs segment saw 20 restaurants from Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru being awarded one- and two-star awards. Will this spur some wine list reworking and more entries vying for the coveted three-stars next time? Hopefully, sooner than later. The uniqueness of this segment was that the decisions were made by four Masters of Wine, based on international standards. Besides these, 8 restaurants got the nod for Wine Destination (giving wine pride of place in their restaurants), and 6 got a pat for Best Wine Trained staff – perhaps this might cause more establishments to invest in their staff by giving them more wine training – formal and informal.

Beyond the numbers, there was plenty to see and understand.

-Indian wine is doing better than ever. This means quality is improving, and that is cause for celebration. In some cases, blind tastings saw Indian wine pip imported wines with higher points.

Despite our crippling taxes and dense regulatory system, importers are increasingly looking to India, and that is more good news for us consumers.

There will be more from the learnings of the India Wine Awards 2018, so watch this space (blog) for more.

The wines listed are available in most metro cities, and please get in touch with apurva@indiawineawards.com or check the India Wine Awards website if you need more information or the complete list of Silver, Gold and Diamond winners.

Here is the list of winners:

Best in Class Wines – Indian

Best Red Indian Wine Grover Zampa Chêne Grand Réserve 2015

Best White Indian Wine Sula Dindori Reserve Viognier 2018

Best Rosé Indian Wine Fratelli MS Rosé 2017

Best Sparkling Indian Wine Grover Zampa Soirée Brut Rosé 2015

Best in Class Wines – International

Best Red Wine – Old World Le Volte dell’ Ornellaia 2015, Italy

Best Red Wine – New World Framingham Pinot Noir 2017, New Zealand

Best White Wine – Old World Joseph Drouhin ‘Drouhin-Vaudon’ Chablis Reserve de Vaudon 2015, France

Best White Wine – New World Susana Balbo CRIOS Torrontés 2017, Argentina

Best Rosé Wine – Old World Chateau d’Esclans Côtes de Provence Whispering Angel Rosé 2017, France

Best Champagne Taittinger Les Folies de la Marquetterie NV, France

Best Sparkling Wine (excluding Champagne) Ferrari Brut NV, Italy

Best in Class Wines Indian (based on pricing)

Best Budget Indian Wine – York All Rounder White 2017

Best Mid-Range Indian Wine –   Reveilo Nero D’Avola 2017

Best Premium Indian Wine –  SDU Reserva Syrah 2014

Best Super-Premium Indian Wine –  KRSMA Estates Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Best in Class Wines International (based on pricing)

Best Budget Wine – International Campo Viejo Tempranillo 2017, Spain

Best Mid-Range Wine – International  Zonin Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore DOC, Italy

Best Premium Wine – International Domaine Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) Pauillac, France

Best Super-Premium Wine – International Torres Mas La Plana 2012, Spain

Best Super-Premium Wine – International Boscoselvo Brunello di Montalcino 2010, Italy

Best Wines Paired with Indian Cuisine

Best Wine pairing with Mutton Rahra Sula Sparkling Shiraz 2018, India

Best Wine pairing with Chicken Chettinaad Sula Brut Rosé 2018, India

Best Wine pairing with Goan Prawn Curry Besserat de Bellefont Champagne NV, France

Best Wine pairing with Malvani Fish Fry Grover Zampa Soirée Brut 2015, India

Best Wine pairing with Litti Chokha The Source Grenache Rosé 2018, India

Best Wine pairing with Paneer Khurchan Casablanca Rosé Spumante NV, India 

Best Wine pairing with Dal Makhani (tie) Casablanca Frizzano Semi Dry NV, India and Sula Zinfandel 2018, India

Best Wine pairing with Aloo Poshto Yellow Tail Pink Moscato NV, Australia

Best Wine pairing with Gulab Jamun De Bortoli Noble One 2013, Australia

EXCELLENCE IN RESTAURANT WINE PROGRAM WINNERS 

WINE LIST AWARD – One star award

Rivers to Oceans, Mumbai

The Table, Mumbai

The Wine Rack, Mumbai

SanQi, Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai

Kebabs and Kurries, ITC Grand Central Mumbai

Romano’s, JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar

Fratelli Fresh, Renaissance Mumbai

Artisan – French Bistro, Sofitel Mumbai BKC

Le Cirque Signature, The Leela Mumbai

Luna, The St. Regis Mumbai

Caprese, Shangri-La Hotel Bengaluru

Le Cirque Signature, The Leela Palace Bengaluru

Le Jardin, The Oberoi Bengaluru

The Wine Company, Gurugram

The Hong Kong Club, Andaz Delhi

Dum Pukht, ITC Maurya New Delhi

Pluck, Hotel Pullman New Delhi Aerocity

Two star award

The Chambers, The Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai

Wasabi by Morimoto, The Taj Mahal Hotel New Delhi

Le Cirque, The Leela Palace New Delhi

WINE DESTINATION AWARD

The Wine Rack, Mumbai

Romano’s, JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar

Le Cirque Signature, The Leela Mumbai

Toscano, Bengaluru

Caprese, Shangri-La Hotel Bengaluru

Le Jardin, The Oberoi Bengaluru

Qla, New Delhi

Le Cirque, The Leela Palace New Delhi

WINE-TRAINED STAFF AWARD

The Table, Mumbai

San: Qi, Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai

Dum Pukht, ITC Maratha Mumbai

Dublin, ITC Windsor Bengaluru

The Wine Company, Gurugram

Honk, Hotel Pullman New Delhi Aerocity

The post India Wine Awards 2018: The results and what they mean appeared first on Ruma Singh.

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