President's Message

It’s Adios and Not Goodbye

Welcome to the 300the meeting of the Delhi Wine Club, this 11th day of January, 2020 at Pluck @Pullman Newdelhi Aerocity. A special occasion and a momentous one and if I may say so, historical one for the Club. I have decided to take voluntary retirement and step aside, making way for a new President and his team full of new ideas and bubbling with energy.

When I founded the Delhi Wine Club in 2002 I had no idea we would be celebrating 300th wine event one day. I was not even sure about the 30th or the 3rd event or how we would organise the events. The very first dinner at the Spirit Restaurant in Connaught place got a bit unruly with people wanting to have the 5 wines in any order, some even preferring to order beer from the bar on their own. At the end, some drank and liked the wines so much they wanted to have the bottle kept on the table. A few had even the audacity to ask for whisky. Fortunately, sacking of 4 members next day and enforcing a strict code of ethics steadied the ship and we cruised along with class, elegance and the dignity required for wine culture to thrive.

That did not mean, however, that we had to have formal dinners with black-tie. It’s been about fun around different wines and only wines-4-5 each event. I believe in making the evening experiential with wines from different countries, levels of quality, varieties and cuisines in various restaurants; all the events are numbered with details of wine, menu and the event. If we are noisy its good, but when noisier, it means the evening has been more memorable and wine better received. Of course, it has always been education in the back of my mind-including the basics. The best compliment we get has been from restaurants which thanked us for the dinners and asked us when next? This despite the fact that we are not very generous customers.

Over the year, one thing I always valued so much, proved to be the backbone of our success. We provided a platform to the restaurants, chefs, wine importers and Indian producers and this helped us keep the prices under check-never expecting free meals. We gained the respect of the restaurants, importers and producers, though I always kept the interest of the members ahead. Even today when a glass of champagne costs Rs. 1500-2000 we are charging our members Rs. 3000 for unlimited food and top quality champagne-Devaux D.

Explicitly speaking, we did not let the commercialism creep in our events. We chose not to have importers as our members. Today, our events undeniably offer the best value for the money spent. And Delhi Wine Club has become an international brand-highly respected for its role in promoting wine culture in India through the website {www.delhiwineclub.com) and the events with transparency and integrity.

We have also kept good relations with several embassies like Chile, South Africa, Greece and Italy inviting all members on occasions for their events; sometimes the event exclusively with the Club. We maintain neutrality and choose restaurants with different cuisines; mostly sticking with 5-stars or top quality restaurants- though I must concede my personal love for Italian wines.

We have also on occasions organised trips out of Delhi. Two trips to Nashik, a wine week-end in Goa and Westin Sohna included. Trips to Bordeaux and Singapore have been memorable- were the highlights. Two restaurants- Setz and Lavaash were launched at the club dinners. Many wine labels were also launched the same way.

I am thankful for the Delhi Golf Club which gave me an instant idea of naming the Club. But the roots go back to Rotary Club of Delhi Chanakyapuri of which I was the president in 1997-98. Besides, learning about organising a club efficiently I picked up the concept of numbering each event and promising myself to have at least one event a month although informally, we propose 9 events a year. We have averaged 16.5 events a year which is enviable. Whenever I was a bit lax I made sure I managed at least one event a month-sometimes I came back from a foreign jaunt in the morning, organised a dinner and went overseas on some other project the same night. The same zest made me stay on my toes by the way and send out so far 835 delWine eNewsletters since 2006 since I started sending them out.

Many old members joined the club as novices and today are drinking wines better than we can offer for club events; making me feel like the headmaster of the school where students go to college and universities abroad while he is there teaching even their sons one day perhaps! But I feel proud of that.

I am very happy that my last event has been with Pullman Newdelhi Aerocity. They have been very co-operative and collaborative from day one and I have developed very strong bonds with them- another of my natural strategies to work with the people who wanted to work with us and who, after a wine event did not ask how it went but when the next event would be.

Pope Francis says Water is needed to live but wine expresses the abundance of the banquet and joy of celebration. Nothing beats the millions of tiny bubbles in a champagne to tingle your taste buds. So we decided to have this celebratory Brunch with Devaux D Brut NV champagne which is a blend of Pinot Noir (60%) from Cote de Bar and Chardonnay (40%); the wine has spent 5 years of ageing including one year in the bottle. A third of the base wine had been fermented in oak barrels giving it the complexity and buttery feeling on the palate. It shows exuberance and is full of energy, vibrancy, excitement, buoyancy and cheerfulness- a symbol of joy. So I wanted to end my innings of 300 not out, with a champagne-filled lunch.

Please enjoy the afternoon, meeting old friends and making some new. Delhi Wine Club is an extended family that thrives around wine. I thank you for the excellent support you have given me for 18 long years and I am sure you will do the same when Sourish Bhattacharyya takes over today as the President.

As Engelbert Humperdinck said in a very famous song many moons ago, ‘this is just adios and not goodbye’. I am stepping aside, not stepping down. I will be available for any help or inputs as long as physically feasible. In fact, Sourish has several ideas about wine education where he wants me to be involved and I have already consented my support.

Please raise your glasses and say a toast to the long life of Delhi Wine Club and its continued influence on promoting wine culture in India.

JAI HO!!

Cav. Subhash Arora