In news received from the organisers, Wi-Not Beverage Solutions, the eighth Indian Sommelier Championship drew to a close with a lavish gala on October 12th at The Leela Ambience Hotel & Residences, Gurgaon, starting with a poolside cocktail and ending in the banquet hall that was bedecked for the evening in black, white, and gold, the theme this year.
The nine finalists who were invited to Delhi for the final round had already been through three gruelling days of master classes in Delhi or Mumbai, and also undergone a rigorous theory and service exam. In the Capital, they were required to perform all tasks of sommellerie (opening wine bottles both still and sparkling, decanting and serving wine, tasting and commenting, suggesting food pairings and a viva) with utmost skill and knowledge.
The run-up to the final day was nothing short of exemplary: two cities, six days of master classes, 70 brands and over a 100 participants. The focus was on master classes and professionals from India and abroad, as they shared their expertise with the participants. Not just wines but beers, spirits, liqueurs and even cocktails were included in the competition, as we believe that an ideal sommelier’s repertoire should boast the knowledge of beverages across boundaries.
Many brands, both Indian and foreign came forth to support our wine cause. From Wines of Austria, Gramona Cava (Spain), Brancaia (Italy), Tenuta Sant’ Antonio (Italy), Saint Clair (New Zealand), Mouchao (Portugal), Zonin (Italy), Nederburg (South Africa), and spirits like Patron Tequila (Mexico), Amarula liqueur (South Africa), Skyy Vodka (America), and Campari (Italy) to beers like Paulaner (Munica) and Bira (Belgium) – they were all present to educate the students.
The Indian wine industry was represented by Fratelli Vineyards, Grover Zampa Vineyards, York Vineyards, KRSMA Estate, Nine Hills, Vallonné Vineyards and Myra Vineyards. All in all, the heady mix and headier discussions during the master classes made for a lovely environment to encourage the cause of wines. All this was supported by Zwiesel glassware, Rubberband wine journals and Sommelier India Wine Magazine.
The eminent jury panel that assisted ISC in selecting the next champion included:
• Xavier Gramona – Cava Gramona, Spain
• Oscar Balcon – Artusi Restaurant, Delhi
• Laurent Guiraud – Runway Rising, Delhi
• Ravi Gurnani – York Vineyards, Nasik
All candidates were required to:
• Open a bottle of sparkling wine; serve it in six equal portions without returning to the same glass
• Blind-taste a different sparkling wine
• Decant a still wine and serve it
• Blind-taste a different still wine – a mix of Indian + internationals
• Open, pour, and serve a beer
• Blind-taste a different beer and comment on it
• Taste and comment on a cocktail
• And finally, pair wines with a mock menu displayed on screen
That was a fair list of chores, and the contenders were to perform all this within a set time of 20 minutes. Their marks would be deducted if they took extra time.
All nine participants proved their mettle and emerged victorious. While the Austrian Wine & Marketing Board Winner went to Harish Acharekar from The Four Seasons, Mumbai, the 1st and 2nd runners-up were Pratik Angre, Taj Blue Diamond, Pune and Lalit Rane, JW Marriott Sahar, Mumbai.
The other winners included:
1. Zwiesel Food & Wine Pairing Round Winner: Neeraj Kapri, The Lalit, New Delhi
2. Bira Beer Round Winner: Neeraj Kapri, The Lalit, New Delhi
3. Aspri Spirits round Winner: Lalit Rane, JW Marriott Sahar, Mumbai
4. Nine Hills Best Tasting Skills: Neeraj Kapri, The Lalit, New Delhi
5. KRSMA Estates Indian Wine Round Winner: Pratik Angre, Taj Blue Diamond, Pune
6. York Vineyards Sparkling Wines Round Winner: Lalit Rane, JW Marriott Sahar, Mumbai
7. Grover-Zampa Vineyards Best Service Flair: Pratik Angre, Taj Blue Diamond, Pune