The Indian Sommelier Championship, which took place for the seventh time this year, aims to test and award the best wine professionals in the business
THE LAST few weeks have been quite inspiring and engaging for the wine fraternity. We recently saw the conclusion of the Indian Sommelier Championship, which took place for the seventh time, at a gala dinner hosted at The Leela Ambience, Gurgaon. Michel Koopman was the man of the hour and put together a formidable setting for one truly memorable meal.
The idea of this competition was to test and award the best wine professionals in the business and three names stood out (in that order): Atul Tiwari from The Leela, New Delhi; Harish Acharekar from Four Seasons, Mumbai; and Karanbir Singh Gulati from ITC Welcomhotel, Dwarka, New Delhi. The winner will fly to Penfolds in Australia to learn first-hand about harvest and winemaking from the best in the business. The people in the second and third positions will receive a scholarship to study further in the field of wines and a visit to Fratelli Vineyards in Motewadi, Maharashtra, respectively.
Other participants who won in various categories also received awards, including trips to other wineries and a meal for two offered by The Leela group.
The judges were extremely impressed by the talent on display and Aishwarya Nair, the lady behind The Leela and who has judged on multiple occasions, shared her experience of this positive escalation with the invitees. There was also Andrew O’Brian from Penfolds, the general manager for Treasury Wine Estates for the region, who came down for the first time. It is always good to have an Aussie on the panel, for nobody knows how to diffuse a tense setting better than them. And given the propensity of the prize on offer, his playful banter and witticisms were well-timed and much appreciated.
Alessio Secci was the third judge. Interestingly, just a day before this event, he was on stage announcing the launch of Fratelli’s new wines. They have introduced two new white variants in the premium segment (R1,600). Indians are generally more at ease buying expensive red wines, so betting on white wines could be a bit of a risk. But with the oak-ageing in the Chardonnay and the aromatic mix of grapes in the Tre, they could have two potential winners on their hands. I tasted the wines at the winery a few months earlier and they showed a lot more strength then. At the event, I found them a tad too soft, but, mind you, a glitzy soiree is no place to be judging wines seriously. That said, their new Sette is definitely among my current favourites. Piero Masi is a gifted winemaker, especially with the Sangiovese grape. This year, as he continues to shift the blend for their flagship wine towards Sangiovese, he is achieving something that was part of the original Fratelli vision: to make India’s first iconic wine.
Torres, also a supporter of the Indian Sommelier Championship, had their brand ambassador, Emma Llorens Navaro, here on a visit, so some of us were privy to an exclusive line-up of wines with great stories to remember them by.
Then, Rajiv Kehr, India’s undisputed premier wine lover, organised a lavish showcase dinner, where the wines of famous Bordeaux Chateau Gruaud-Larose were showcased next to the delectable food of chef Tanveer Kwatra at Rivera at the Pullman Gurgaon. The evening was curated with such precision that many a F&B professional could take a cue from Kehr’s understanding of such events and benefit from it.
And finally, the Austrian embassy concluded its series of wine showcase with a grand line-up from some of the most formidable houses of its country: from Huber to Leth, Markowitsch to Malat, Tegernseehof, Reinisch, Umathum and Tschida—there were so many stars at this tasting that it was a veritable constellation.
All in all, a fervently active few weeks. One can only hope that it continues all the way to New Year and then on and into the coming months. Wine action is always good action.
The writer is a sommelier