Nikko organises the Great Wine Fest.     (February 18, 2006)

Nikko Metropolitan Hotel has taken the lead in popularizing wine in the hotels by organizing a wine festival at the hotel last Saturday. It is perhaps the first time that a hotel has taken such a giant step in which wines from all the popular wine regions was available for tasting to a select gathering. Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Portugal, USA, Canada, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and of course, India were there. A notional presence by Bulgaria and a surprise entry from Uruguay made the festival truly international.

Throughout the evening snacks kept on raining from the kitchen of Chutney Restaurant. ‘We have been incorrectly perceived as a Japanese Hotel by the domestic clients,' said Mr. Vipul Gupta, Managing Director of the Hotel. ‘Of course, our Sakura Restaurant serves  the best Japanese food in town, if not the country. But we are also very much Indian and have a big Indian clientele. And our Chutney Restaurant has excellent Indian cuisine. So we decided to feature only Indian snacks at the festival, he added.' And so one could savour a plethora of vegetarian and meat snacks and try also  paring  the same with various wines. Keeping  the evening interesting was live music with a couple of groups changing hands and instruments, keeping the crowd in an upbeat mood.

As might be expected, a majority of wines were entry-level or a notch above . But one could enjoy the evening tasting over 75 wines and there were exceptions. This included a decent Ice-wine from Vineland Canada, which was expectedly the first wine I tasted,  and the first to go out of stock, early in the evening.

Another surprise package was wines from the Embassy of Uruguay. With an elegant, dry Chardonnay and several Tannat based blends, one could spend more than a passing moment  tasting eight blends on offer. With their charismatic Ambassador H. E. William Ehlers and his band of Uruguayans persuasively coxing the passers-by to taste their national grape, one could understand why they were so passionate. Most wines were quite drinkable and with reasonable prices they could fall right behind Chile as the next popular Latin wine nation in India.   

Showmanship qualities of the media savvy Champagne Indage were also at display with a couple of models stomping the red grapes thrown in an open vat made out of a wooden  barrel. Media that loves celebrities and such light entertainment was kept busy for quite sometime with different visitors taking a plunge for some natural pedicure. Surely, if the red grapes make wine good for heart, they must be good for the feet too!

Indian Wine Academy had given them the  concept of such festival more than a year ago and it was heartening to see it fructify into a very successful event. Our suggestion to make it an annual event was immediately accepted by  the beaming Vipul Gupta who might soon be a wine convert. ' We have taken the initiative and made it happen. We have not intention of letting anyone else take it out of our hands. We shall make it an annual feature'. This will be a good news for all wine lovers in the capital. The concept may even be infectious. Watch these columns  for a report on the second edition next year.

Subhash Arora

February 20, 2006

For pics, click here




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