The delWine Excellence Awards, a spectacular event, first-of-its-kind in India, dedicated to wine professionals across business verticals, culminated on Wednesday night, 14th September, 2016 at The Pullman New Delhi Aerocity.
The Awards were co-organised by Subhash Arora, Editor of delWine, a weekly wine, food and hospitality industry e-newsletter that goes out to more than 30,000 subscribers in 70 countries, and President of the Delhi Wine Club; Sonal Holland, India’s first and only Master of Wine, and founder of the SoHo Wine Club, Mumbai; and Sourish Bhattacharyya, renowned food journalist and blogger (www.indianrestaurantspy.com).
The event opened with a Wine of the World Showcase where 120-plus wines were presented by 12 leading producers and importers. The awards evening at the Pullman New Delhi Aerocity was choc-a bloc with attendance of the who’s who of the wine world. From Grover, his co-promoter Ravi Jain, daughter and winemaker Karishma Grover, and CEO Sumedh Singh Mandla, Rajeev Samant, Founder and CEO, Sula Vineyards, Ravi Gurnani, Co-Founder, York Winery, and Abhay Kewadkar, Director, Four Seasons, to the country’s leading wine importers — Aman Dhall (Brindco), Vishal Kadakia (Wine Park), Jackie Matai and Arun Kumar (Aspri), Sumit Sehgal (Torres) and Sanjay Menon (Sansula), this event saw fantastic participation.
A run down to the event was voting for the Popular Perception Awards, which was open to wine enthusiasts across the country on www.delwineexcellenceawards.com. The jury, besides Arora, who also holds the distinction of being the only Indian to judge 50 international wine competitions, Holland and Bhattacharyya, comprised of Tristan Beau de Lomenie, General Manager Delegate, Pullman and Novotel, New Delhi Aerocity; Yasho Saboo, CEO, Ethos Watch Studios, and Founder, Chandigarh Wine Club; well-known drinks journalist Rojita Tiwari; the Commercial and Agricultural Counsellor at the Embassy of Spain, Juan Antonio Obergon; Goa-based hotelierRadhika Bahl; tour operator and senior Delhi Wine Club member Ranganathan Parthiban; and seasoned hospitality industry professional, Rifaquat Ali Khan Mirza.
The awards presentation took off with the felicitation of Sonal Holland, who was just recently made a Master of Wine, an honour she shares with only 353 others in the world. Responding to the citation presented to her, Holland said: “I carry with me a heavy mantle of responsibility, ensuring that I represent India as your ambassador, with great pride at various forums; and I will continue to make sure that India always has a voice at the table.”
Holland used the occasion to announce that the Mumbai round of the delWine Excellence Awards will be held towards the end of January. It will be followed by the India Wine Awards, which will see for the first time ever a panel of international experts converging in Nashik to blind taste and rate the wines made and sold in India.
The recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, Kapil Grover, Chairman, Grover Zampa Vineyards acknowledged the government and the industry for having extended all possible benefits to wine grape farmers, “without whose support we cannot succeed and grow”.
The spectacular event saw Sula Vineyards walk away with the voting-based Public Perception Awards (Wine Producer, Winemaker and Wine Tourism Winery of the Year). The Wine Company (Cyber Hub, Gurgaon) picked up four awards in the standalone restaurant category — two each in the Jury Awards (Wine Destination of the Year-NCR and Best Indian Wine Selection-NCR) and Popular Perception Awards (Wine List of the Year-NCR and Best Wine Service-NCR).
On a winning streak was the Leela Palace, New Delhi, the jury award-winners for Delhi’s Wine Destination of the Year. They also picked up the Best International Wine Selection trophy for Le Cirque, and Masala Library) and NCR’s Wine Destination of the Year (The Leela Ambience Gurgaon, which was also commended for having the Best Indian Wine Selection among five-star hotels in the NCR). In the standalone category, Diva Italian (M-Block Market, Greater Kailash-II) got the top prize for its International Wine Selection and the delWine Editor’s Choice Award for the Best Value-for-Money Wine List. Gulati’s Spice Market (Saket) got the award for the Indian Restaurant with the Best Wine Selection.
Commenting on the overwhelming response to the event, its co-founder Subhash Arora said, “Amit Arora of The Cellar, who took home the Retailer of the Year (Delhi) trophy gave us the kindest compliment ever. I met him on the podium for the first time. He could not believe he got an award without anyone from delWine coming to meet him. ‘I have never seen something like this ever!’ he exclaimed,” Arora said. Spencer’s, incidentally, got the award for the Retailer of the Year (NCR).
The evening’s high point was the moment when three young beverage managers/sommeliers were hailed as the best in their category. They were: Ankur Chawla (JW Marriott, New Delhi Aerocity), Kriti Malhotra (Pullman, New Delhi Aerocity) — the two tied for the top spot in the five-star hotel category — and Prateek Arora (Qla, Mehrauli), who broke into a jig on the stage with his chef and restaurant owner.
To quote Kriti Malhotra, “The journey has just started.” It’s true for both the event organisers and the trophy winners. There’s no resting on early laurels now.