India is an upcoming wine market; not a day goes by without hearing about just how many countries want to export wine to us and how, next to China, we are their only hope of sending their kids to school.
And we too wear these feathers with (false) pride, for in spite of the high taxes that shackle us, we seem to try and indulge in some cocky calisthenics, ignorant to the blinding reality that wine in India is too expensive to be affordable or even a meaningful drink. Furthermore, brace yourselves for this, China is way ahead of us, and the patience of the prestigious people from the world of wines waiting for India to open up as a lucrative market is wearing thin. Add to that the hoard of cheap consultants and agents who hawk their services to these visiting and unsuspecting winemakers and we have something that is worse than vine rot.
But recently, a few good things have been happening. First of all, Rajiv Singhal, the man who epitomises Champagne’s mission in India, the person who managed to bring in an adapted version of a very fine international wine magazine and conducted some super events around Champagne and vintage Port, is now also the person who gave Union des Grands Crus the Bordeaux (UGCB) their maiden Indian visit.
Sure they were on their way to Hong Kong and India may only be a stopover but it wasn’t mere transit lounge facilities that had them here; if you have used the transit lounge, you will know why. To be able to gather such an exclusive group and bring them to India is a big feat and kudos to UGCB with Ms. Sylvie Cazes and Rajiv for putting it together. The venue was The Oberoi, Gurgaon and the distance in the Delhi heat was still worth the wines. Mumbai was fortunate to even have a dinner and that is something that remains
on the future agenda for Delhi.
For me, I had a gala time, getting as much Bordeaux into me – no not just wine, information. If anything, I was rather notorious for walking about with a spittoon, something that wasn’t really on most people’s agenda, given the prized selection being showcased here.
2009 was a great vintage in Bordeaux and wines will take some time to show but the fact that the winemakers stepped forth for such a showcase is cheer and respect enough.
And then, as if this wasn’t enough, we had Miguel Torres, Frederic Drouhin, and George Grant in town, almost inconspicuous but I still managed to gather them around for a lovely meal with Prestige Wines. Prestige is a partnership with the afore-mentioned-gentlemen and it just shows how much they believe in the Indian market. No conversation with a man like Señor Torres can be one without a plethora of information to take home. Among other things, I learnt that
if I ever see carrots at a dinner table, I should know that the man will be joining in at that dinner for they are a pet favourite with him, wine aside.
Frederic Drouhin shared the philosophy of organic and biodynamic and how it makes the vineyard stronger and self-sustained. He didn’t have to say much, his wines, especially the Puligny-Montrachet, made the point only too clear. Spicy, nutty, crisp, complex, ponderous: it was my favourite that evening,
for what it’s worth.
And then, to wrap it up, we had an affable Scotsman amidst us, who brought along a 21 year old to go with the dessert, frankly, I didn’t much care for the dessert. While it pair with the whisky, the trouble was that the malt was too important to not require utmost and entire dedication to tune in and listen to what every sip had to say. Robert ‘Glenfarclas’ Grant, a man of clear fundamentals, when asked what he thought of the trend of various wood-finished whiskies, quipped that if you have to ‘finish’ your whisky with some wood or another, then chances are you didn’t start off right! Another reflexive response he had was to the question just how should a malt be truly enjoyed: “Through a straw, if needed!” But he did share that temperature control helps and some ice is not sacrilege, especially in Indian conditions. But with a dash of lemonade with malt is a typically local thing to do, but that left us all even more dumbfounded!
All in all, a productive week, faith in the interest of the world of wines apropos India restored. Lots eaten, even more tasted, and if I had a calorie counter it would be spinning faster and harder than a slot machine in Vegas!