Chilean Wine Festival, The Oberoi, New Delhi, 6th June 2008

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chilean1a.jpg The Chilean Wine Festival, on 6th June, 2008, at The Oberoi, New Delhi, was like the proverbial curate’s egg – good in parts!! You certainly cannot ask for a more stylish setting than The Oberoi, New Delhi, so it was with anticipation that I made my way to the Nilgiri Room, where the Guided Wine Tasting – the start of the Festival – was being conducted by reputed Sommelier, Magandeep Singh. Avininder Singh reports.

Pictured above at the Chilean Wine Tasting: Isheeta, Nanda and Ranjit Gupta, Amfora Pvt Ltd


Everything looked impeccable – starched draperies, glistening glasses, dainty small eats, interesting breads, bottles lined up and ready to go – the anticipation soared.
I am a confirmed front bencher at all such tasting’s so waited for the fun to begin – only to be brought to earth with a dull thud when the gent sitting next to me, with a friend in tow, on getting wine in his first glass, turns to me, says cheers, extends his glass for the customary clink, and then, downs the lot !! All the while the friend whines (pun definitely intended), “Arre itna kum kyon de rahe ho yaar – Why are you pouring so little? “. Gob-smacked was not quite right – shell-shocked is better.

Anyway, Magan had, by then, commenced proceedings so:
• The first wine was a White: ANAKENA (no details supplied on the Winery ) CHARDONNAY 2007 – A golden yellow glow and a strongish fruity aroma. Very pleasant on the tongue, slightly acidic overtones, almondish in its lingering finish. Pleasant but no great shakes. (2.5 / 5 )
• We moved to a Red: PICUNCHE (apparently the Winery started 4 years ago) PINOT NOIR 2003 ( ? ) – Either the Vintage was wrong or I’ve got my dates mixed up. Orangey red with a strong nose. Fullish on the tongue with dry overtones, pleasant lingering aftertaste reminiscent of strawberries. Drinkable.
(2.5 / 5 )
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Pictured above is Magandeep Singh.

• Next up, another Red: PEREZ CRUZ (Estate Bottled Red Wine Producers dating back to 1964 ) CARMENERE 2007 – Magan described this wine as “ very Chilean “ – whatever that means – and the varietals as a “ forgotten grape “ – we know what that means !! Interest peaked. This wine was darker than the Picunche but still not a true ruby red. A lightish bouquet. But once it hit the tongue the wine was a complex of fruity tannins, sweetish undertones and a distinctively spicy finish savoring of cinnamon. Extremely interesting and, for me at least, the Star of the Tasting, though Magan felt it still needed to “ open up “. Very Good (4/5)
• We moved to another Red: ODFJELL (Unique gravity flow Winery founded 20 years ago) ORZADA CARIGNAN 2004 – Magan spoke of this grape as a good varietal example of Cabernet Sauvignon. Darker but still not glowingly ruby. Nothing much in the bouquet. Soft, fruity opening notes suggestive of plums moving towards a drier, walnutty finish. Slightly above Average. (3/5)

kochharchileana.jpg • We concluded with a last Red: UNDURRAGA (Established in 1885 one of Chile’s oldest Wineries) SIBARIS CABERNET SAUVIGNON (Vintage not mentioned) – There was nothing really distinguishable here from the preceding wine; the color a little darker, bouquet a mite stronger, the finish much the same. Slightly above average. (3/5)

Pictured to the left is guest Nina Kochhar.

Though Magan was his usual effervescent self – and got a long and well-deserved round of applause for his pains – I thought that 5 wines were too few for a good Guided Tasting meant , essentially, for the Trade.
I would have started with a SPARKLING (from La Rosa or Undurraga), moved to a ROSÉ (from Undurraga or El Aromo), added a couple more WHITES (a Chardonnay and a Sauvignon Blanc Reserve from Casas Del Bosque) and to the four Reds that we tasted I would have added a LIGUAI from Perez Cruz. This would have made for a very satisfying 10 Wines and, since I have personally seen and appreciated Magan doing 12 Sicilian Wines in a sitting (Vinitaly India 2008) was very achievable. For whatever reasons we had to accept a dieter’s version.
THE GOOD: The Carmenere and the small eats. 80+ people attended; a phenomenal number for a Guided Tasting.
THE NOT SO GOOD: High alcohol content – 14% and above – in all the wines. Magan explained that this is due to hot climatic conditions in Chile raising the sugar levels, much like in India.
THE UGLY: If you excuse my neighbor and his friend, then the Wine Service bordered on the sloppy with improper bottle rotations, spilt wine et al. Not expected from The Oberoi even with Banquet Stewards handling the show.

We now moved to The Oberoi Ballroom where separate stalls had been set up by: CASABLANCA, CASAS DEL BOSQUE, CHOCOLAN, EL AROMO, J.BOUCHON, LA ROSA, MOSTAZAL, ODFJELL, PEREZ CRUZ, PICUNCHE, SANTA CAROLINA, SIEGEL and UNDURRAGA.
Pictured above Perez Cruz (Producers of Estate Bottled red wine dating back to 1964) Carmenere 2007
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The first thing that I now look for, at all such Festivals, is which wineries have a local importer backing them because it is not going to do me much good to discover great wines and then find that one has no way of purchasing them in India!

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Guests Chetan Seth and Ravi Wadhwani
Of all the participants only UNDURRAGA had a clear-cut local tie up with EPPUR IMPEX (Contact Romi Bhalla : romi@eppur.net ). El Aromo had Indians manning their stall but no visiting cards meant no contact. As one slowly did the rounds sniffing, sipping, tasting, the Ballroom soon became a mela (traditional Indian market ) with around 300+ guests thronging the show. Serious discussion took a backseat – you couldn’t hear yourself speak let alone your interlocutor. However, my diligent explorations confirmed to me, at least, that:

• The BEST REDS were at PEREZ CRUZ
• The BEST WHITES were at CASAS DEL BOSQUE
• The BEST RANGE was with UNDURRAGA
These are, of course, my personal conclusions and, thus, entirely subjective, but I prophesy that one will hear a lot more about these wineries in days to come.

CONCLUSION: A good, almost grand Event, well organized on the whole, very well attended, some entirely drinkable wines – what more could one want? Dinner, anyone?

Pictured to the right is the Ambassador of Chile, His Excellency Alphonso Silva.
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– Avininder Singh

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