New Delhi, August 11: For the first time in the country, Indian Wine Academy President Subhash Arora’s global wine e-newsletter, delWine, and noted food and wine journalist Sourish Bhattacharyya’s blog, Indian Restaurant Spy, along with country’s most qualified wine sommelier and beverage consultant Sonal Holland (she’s the first Indian to qualify for the Wine and Spirit Education Trust-WSET’s diploma and to enroll for the prestigious Master of Wine Programme) are collaborating to host an awards event exclusively to recognise the contributions of wine professionals across business verticals.
The three together, at a media briefing at the Pullman New Delhi Aerocity on Thursday, August 11, announced that the delWine Excellence Awards are going national with Delhi NCR edition planned for 14th September 2016 followed by the Mumbai edition planned for January 2017.
The Delhi-NCR round of the Awards will be held on September 14th 2016, and is being hosted by the Pullman New Delhi Aerocity, and the awards will be given away by leading industry personalities to wine producers, wine makers, wine retailers and importers, sommeliers and beverage managers, as well as hoteliers and restaurateurs.
The highlight of the programme will be a ‘by invitation only’ Wines of the World (WOW) Showcase, where guests will be able to taste 120-plus wine labels, including the best from the Indian wine producers and their leading international counterparts, such as Louis Jadot, Angelo Gaja and Penfolds. The Showcase will lead to the glittering awards ceremony, which will take place at a sit-down dinner for 300 invited wine professionals, journalists and connoisseurs where eight premium wines will be served.
The jury for the inaugural delWine Excellence Awards, the names of whose members will be announced on the first of the two days being devoted to the judging process towards the end of August, will be chaired by Arora, who holds the national record of serving as a judge in 48 international wine competitions, and co-chaired by Holland, who has just quit as head of the national wine programme of ITC Hotels. The roles will be switched at the Mumbai round of the Awards.
The trio also unveiled plans for the India Wine Awards, which, for the first time in India, will be based on blind barrel tastings in each of the country’s wine-producing districts by
a panel of experts. These Awards are being planned for February-March 2017 and will be held in Mumbai and Bangalore on alternate years.
“With the two awards, we will honor the country’s best wine professionals and cover 360 degrees of the wine experience — from wine service, imports, retail and tourism to the quality of wines being produced in India, from consumer-driven industry awards to tastings-led expert awards,” said Arora, who has been editing the global wine trade and hospitality industry e-newsletter, delWine, since 2005 (it now has more than 30,000 subscribers in 70 countries).
Holland, whose wine academy has been training young sommeliers around the country, said the delWine Excellence Awards would make hotels and restaurants take wine more seriously, pay greater attention to their wine lists, and incentivise their front-of-the-house staff to work harder to promote a wine culture in India. Likewise, the India Wine Awards, Holland said, by being “aligned with the most stringent global standards”, would raise the bar for wine producers and inspire them to continually reset the quality benchmarks for Indian wines.
“Everyone’s taking note of the need for training,” Holland said. “These two sets of awards will get both the wine and the hospitality industries to invest seriously in them. We want the wine business to get bigger, better and more exciting. At the end, it will be the consumer who will benefit.”
The media briefing also saw the organisers describe how the delWine Excellence Awards will be judged and given out. The Awards are being divided into three categories.
The first, the hospitality industry awards, will honour Delhi-NCR’s best wine destinations, best wine lists (both Indian and international), best Indian restaurants service wine, and best beverage managers / sommeliers / wine custodians.
Aspirants for these awards will have to first fill up a questionnaire and the way they answer it will determine whether they make it to the jury stage. The shortlisted aspirants will appear before the jury for an interview. After this round, the jury will announce the final shortlists for the voting round, and finally, members of the Indian Wine Academy and Indian Restaurant Spy Facebook communities will vote for their favourites among the final list of nominees. By limiting the voting to the two Facebook communities, the organisers wish to eliminate the possibility of restaurants organising mass voting for themselves.
The popular award categories are:
1. Delhi’s Best Wine Destination (Five-Star Hotel)
2. Delhi’s Best Wine Destination (Stand-Alone Restaurant)
3. NCR’S Best Wine Destination (Five-Star Hotel)
4. NCR’S Best Wine Destination (Stand-Alone Restaurant)
5. Best Beverage Manager/Sommelier of the Year (Delhi-NCR/Five-Star Hotels)
6. Best Beverage Manager/Sommelier of the Year (Delhi-NCR/Standalone Restaurants)
7. Best Indian Wine Selection (Delhi-NCR/Five-Star Hotels)
8. Best Indian Wine Selection (Delhi-NCR/Standalone Restaurants)
9. Best International Wine Selection (Delhi-NCR/Five-Star Hotels)
10. Best International Wine Selection (Delhi-NCR/Standalone Restaurants)
11. Indian Cuisine Restaurant with Best Wine List (Delhi-NCR/Five-Star Hotels)
12. Indian Cuisine Restaurant with Best Wine List (Delhi-NCR/Standalone Restaurants)
The second category will be based on a perception survey carried out among wine professionals in the hospitality industry, wine entrepreneurs, wine makers and marketers, and wine importers and retailers. This will be the round where professionals will judge their peers and those who get the majority votes will get the awards for:
1. Best Indian Wine Producer
2. Best Indian Winemaker
3. Best Wine Tourism Company
4. Best Wine Importer
5. Best Wine Retailer (Delhi)
6. Best Wine Retailer (NCR)
7. Best Wine List (Delhi-NCR/Five-Star Hotels)
8. Best Wine List (Delhi-NCR /Standalone Restaurants)
9. Best Wine Service (Delhi-NCR/Five-Star Hotels)
10. Best Wine Service (Delhi-NCR/Standalone Restaurants)
11. Best Wine Events (Delhi-NCR/Five-Star Hotels)
12. Best Wine Events (Delhi-NCR/Standalone Restaurants)
The third and final category will be the three delWine Editor’s Choice Awards. The one that will be watched and commented upon closely will be the Lifetime Achievement Award and the other two will one of Arora’s pet concerns — the Best Value for Money Wine List (five-star hotel and standalone restaurant).
“After this, there will never be a dull moment in the wine business,” declared Arora. That sounds good for the wine business.