Balmy winter afternoons are an ideal backdrop for an event that requires participants to do nothing more strenuous than lift a glass to their lips. Several times! The Pune Gourmet Club’s Wine Tasting Festival held on December 15-16 at the Rohi Villa Palace saw almost a thousand enthusiasts swirl, sniff, sip and spit more than 40 wines from ten Indian wineries.
While some handled the tastings like pros, others were more tentative, sniffing cautiously into their glass before taking the first hesitant sip. Faces glowed with appreciation as the full-bodied flavours of a Shiraz hit the palate; eyes lit up at the crisp notes of a Sauvignon Blanc; and the bubbles from refreshing sparkling wine had others beaming. For many novices it was almost too much to handle and many just succumbed to the pleasures of sipping a few chosen wines out on the lawns.
For others it was a chance to get acquainted with wines from Century Wines, N.D. Wines, Chateau Indage, Vintage Wines Pvt. Ltd (Reveilo), Renaissance Winery, Sankalp Winery (Vinsura), India Food Co. Pvt. Ltd. (Vin & Vouloir), Nira Valley Grape Wines, Seagram (Nine Hills) and Sula Wines. Varietals ranged from Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc to Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, and Zinfandel and Rose to Sparkling Wine.
Each participant was handed a wine kit on entry, which included a glass, a wine guide, and a tasting pass that allowed entry to the tasting hall. Many notched up a surprising number of wines on their tasting pass even while others took their time over a few, asking curious questions about the wine and the wineries. Out on the lawns food stalls offered a variety of gourmet choices ranging from the quiet elegance of sushi to the flamboyance of Cajun Blackened Fish and Chicken to the more robust flavours of Kakori Kebabs.
Visitors who didn’t know what to expect were pleasantly surprised by the ambience and the fact that apart from being educative, the festival was a lot of fun as well. Chef Parag Kanhere from Hotel Emerald Park in Nashik demonstrated the art of cooking with wine, delighting onlookers with the flair with which he created gourmet dishes. Wine experts Joseph Pereira from Chateau Indage and Mari Juhasoo of Sula Wines provided tips on appreciating wine, while leading city cardiologist Dr. M. S. Hiremath talked on the health benefits of wine.
R.R. Oomerbhoy Pvt. Ltd. offered free samplings of Boursin cheese and displayed a range of products including olive oil, Barilla pasta, and rice. Raffles were held periodically and some lucky winners took home free bottles of wine, books from Landmark, and a barbecue from Enzo Charcoal Barbecues. Enthused by the wine tasting experience, several visitors stocked up on stemware and other accessories on sale.
“This was the Pune Gourmet Club’s maiden effort at organising such an event and we did it without any big sponsors,” says a visibly pleased Shankar, moderator of the PGC. “Our members volunteered to put it together and a core team worked on it for three months. It was the first time such an event was held and we are very happy at the response from visitors, some of whom drove down from Mumbai. Participating wineries were also very pleased with the turnout at the festival and we are grateful for their support.”
By sundown on Sunday a lot of wine had been tasted, and spirits were indeed quite high. As a visitor exclaimed on her way out, “What a great way to welcome the festive season!” Cheers and good health to you all!