During Bordeaux’s Vinexpo this June, I enjoyed one of my best wine and dine experiences. Traditionally hosted by a First Growth, the dinner held by the Conseil des Grand Crus Classés en 1855 to welcome the international press to Vinexpo was at Château Haut-Brion this year. And what a grand affair it was, writes Reva K. Singh in her Editor’s Note.
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The setting, the people, the Michelin-star food and, of course, the superlative wines defy description. It was a pleasure and a privilege to be seated with so many distinguished members of the wine fraternity as dinner companions.
As we came in, we were welcomed by Philippe Castéja, President of the Conseil des Grands Crus Classés and Jean-Philippe Delmas, the estate manager of Haut Brion. The dinner invitation was from HRH Prince Robert of Luxembourg, the owner of Château Haut-Brion.
The top châteaux in Bordeaux certainly know how to look after their visitors. This black-tie dinner is one of the most prestigious of the many parties held in Bordeaux during Vinexpo. In previous years, there have been celebrations on a similar scale at Château Margaux, Château d’Yquem, Château Mouton Rothschild and, at the last Vinexpo, Château Lafite Rothschild. But such hospitality has not always been the norm. On his first visit to Bordeaux over 25 years ago, Ronald Rens recalls a somewhat frosty welcome (page 44). But wine tourism has come a long way since then, and the time to visit is now. Pictured above: Corinne Seely, Reva K Singh and Bérénice Lurton at Ch Haut Brion.
Dhruv Sawhney, one of the few Indians who can be called a true wine connoisseur and savant, was recently invited to an exclusive dinner with 19th century-wines by Christies. “Dhruv, write it down!” I urged, when he told me about the occasion. “This is an experience that must be shared.” I’m happy to say he was finally persuaded. Read his account of this unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience, “Drinking History”, on page 32.
Our special sommelier coverage in this issue starts with Jancis Robinson’s article on her mixed experience with sommeliers in a restaurant (page 20), followed by Carol Wright’s article on Gerard Basset (page 22), the World’s Best Sommelier, a title he holds till 2013, while Marisa D’Vari describes the astronomical rise in California of Calcutta-born sommelier, Rajat Parr. (page 28).
Basset’s achievements are impressive and include nearly every major sommelier award. He was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours this year and is probably the most highly qualified sommelier in the world with a Master of Wine, Master Sommelier, and MBA in Wine, under his belt. No mean feat that. And yet he is as unassuming and accessible as ever, and is a great mentor for aspiring young sommeliers.
Academic qualifications alone, however, are not enough to make you a true sommelier. You must work the floor and this is what qualified sommelier Kavita Faiella loves most about her job. “I enjoy being the final link in the chain that brings the wine from the vineyard to the table,” she said in her interview with me (page 26). Faiella would probably change careers if she couldn’t work with wine lists in great restaurants.
Don’t miss a piece on Corkscrews at the end of the book by Eric Asimov, the first of a regular column by the popular New York Times wine writer. Now that’s a treat to look forward to …
As I sign off, I hope all Sommelier India readers are saying “whee” to wine. If you don’t know what that means, read Jug Suraiya on page 10 and remember, many a truth is spoke in jest!