Tag Archives: Rajeev Samant

SulaFest 2017: 10th edition of this Gourmet Music & Wine Festival to get bigger & better.

If there is one company that has put India firmly on the world wine tourism map, it is Rajeev Samant’s Sula Vineyards, situated in Nashik, Maharashtra. And if there is one event which has taken snobbery out of wine drinking and succeeded in attracting hordes of youngsters to this magical beverage, it is SulaFest, held every year on the first weekend of February, since 2008 in the idyllic environs of Sula Vineyards.

The 10th edition of this trendy wine, music and food extravaganza is just two days away. It promises to be its best ever, looking at the exciting line-up of 120 international and national music artists slated to play at the festival. The setup in 2017 is bigger too, as the festival is spread over three days 3rd 4th and 5th February, compared to the previous two day format.

To accommodate the large number of artists, befitting a “World Music Festival”, three stages have been constructed, a Greek style Amphitheatre, Atmasphere and a new addition, Tropical Stage. Some of the renowned artists performing at SulaFest 2017 will be Bloc Party, an indie rock band from London, Dana Ruh and the Israeli duo with a catchy name “Infected Mushroom”.

Indian artists will be out in full force on Day 1 (3rd Feb) of the fest, when homegrown talent like Indian Ocean, Nucleya, The Raghu Dixit Project will be setting the stage on fire (not literally I hope)

Music across all genres will be featured, from techno, house, electronica, indie, reggae, afro, world fusion to psychedelic trance. Along with wine, this promises to be quite a heady combination.

Complete day wise artist line-up of SulaFest 2017 on 3rd 4th & 5th Feb 2017
Complete day wise artist line-up of SulaFest 2017 on 3rd 4th & 5th Feb 2017

Talking of wine, which of course will be there in plenty, there will be grape stomping sessions since it is harvest season at the winery, winery tours and organised wine tastings. Sula sold nearly a million cases of wine in 2016 and SulaFest is a great occasion to showcase its various labels and make people understand how that bottle gets from the vineyard to the table. It is also an exposure to Nashik, Maharashtra (about four hours drive from Mumbai), India’s most important wine growing region which many term as India’s own Napa Valley.

However, wine will not be the only beverage served. There will be other spirits too like Mount Gay Rum, Asahi Beer, Cognac all imported through Sula Selections, the import arm of Sula Vineyards. For teetotallers and health freaks, cold press juices from Raw Pressery will satiate your thirst.

And there will be food. Plenty of it from popular Mumbai restaurants like Bombay Food Truck, Mainland China, Busago, Maroosh, Woodside Inn and lots more.

There is a “Tent City” that has been set up amidst the vineyards, complete with a little weekend flea market “SulaFest Bazaar”. What you can expect to enjoy here are Sunrise Yoga Sessions, SulaFest Run and Foot Massages. There will be a Tarot Card reader to give you a little peek into your future.

The three day affair promises to be a lot of fun. The romance of a vineyard setting is unparalleled as it is. Couple that with great music and food and it becomes intoxicating. You will not know till you experience it.

To book tickets (hopefully there will be some left still as last few years have been completely sold out) here is the link.

By: Lavina Kharkwal

Indian Wines Showcased at Winemakers Dinner at Pullman New Delhi Aerocity

Tristan Beau de Lomenie, the handsome and suave General Manager of Pullman New Delhi Aerocity made a telling statement while addressing the guests at “Taste of India”, a Winemakers Dinner at Pluck & Pling, the all-day fine dining restaurant at his hotel. He said, “This is not a competition but a collaboration among India’s top wine producers”.

He was referring to the winemakers from Sula, Grover Zampa, York and Charosa, who had flown down to Delhi, to present their wines at a well curated dinner at Pullman, the purpose of which was to highlight the tremendous progress made by the Indian wine industry, both in terms of quality and styles.

Tristan also made a little confession and admitted that four years ago, when he and his wife Isabel came to India, they were not very fond of Indian wine. However, over the years, he has been amazed by the improvement in the quality of Indian wines and now, not only has he become a fan, but is actively promoting them in his hotel.

This dinner was notable for several reasons. Four of India’s well known winemakers, Ajoy Shaw of Sula Vineyards, Karishma Grover of Grover Zampa, Ravi Gurnani from York and Ashok Patil from Charosa Vineyards had gathered together, taking time out from their busy schedules since it is harvest time at the wineries, to showcase their premium wines at the Pullman dinner.

While most wine lovers in Delhi are already familiar with established names like Sula, Grover Zampa and York, this was the first time that wines from Charosa (a winery located 55kms from Nashik in Maharashtra) were being presented in the capital. There has been a buzz around their Sauvignon Blanc and Reserve Tempranillo (India’s first 100% Tempranillo), and guests at the “Taste of India” dinner got a chance to try out both, along with Charosa Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. The presence of Ashok Patil, chief winemaker of Charosa, who spoke a little about his winery, made it special.

The four wines from Sula Vineyards, India’s biggest and most well known wine producer commanding the largest market share, were Brut Tropicale (my current favorite among Indian sparkling wines), Sula Riesling 2016, Rasa Shiraz 2014 and a lovely Late Harvest Chenin Blanc 2016 which had a good balance between sweetness and acidity and a touch of Muscat. Ajoy Shaw, chief winemaker of Sula Vineyards revealed that Rasa got its name after the initials (Ra Sa) of the founder of Sula, Rajeev Samat. I was not aware of this and it is always good to learn something new.

Karishma Grover, chief winemaker at Grover Vineyards Ltd, presented Zampa Brut Soirée 2014 and Grover Zampa Chêne Grande Reserve 2010 along with two house labels that she has collaborated with Pullman. “Blanc by Pullman” is a Sauvignon Blanc while “Rouge by Pullman” is a blend of oak aged Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, both easy drinking styles.

Ravi Gurnani from York winery was the only person among the four, who is technically not a winemaker but takes care of sales & marketing. It is his brother Kailash, who is incharge of winemaking operations at York Winery, also situated in Nashik very close to Sula. The wines that he showcased at the dinner were York Sparkling Blanc de Blancs (100% Chenin), York Chenin Blanc 2016 and, York Arros, one of the best value for money premium Indian red wines in my opinion.

It goes to the credit of Tristan and his team of sommeliers and chefs, in particular Director Food & Beverage Vishrut Gupta and Assistant Director F&B Deepak Shettigar, that the event was a huge success.

The efforts of the sommelier of Pullman & Novotel New Delhi Aerocity, Kriti Malhotra, were recognised and praised by everyone present. Kriti is certified sommelier from Court of Master Sommeliers and it was she who had coordinated with the winemakers and persuaded them to participate. She is a passionate and dedicated sommelier who is making a mark on the wine scene and setting a great example which should encourage more and more Indian women to enter this field.

Taste of India Winemakers Dinner at Pullman New Delhi Aerocity
Taste of India Winemakers Dinner at Pullman New Delhi Aerocity

Taste of India wine dinner was also a fabulous opportunity for the chefs of Pullman to showcase “Farm-to-Table”, a concept that they so zealously advocate. In fact, quite a few ingredients used in the dishes were plucked from their in-house organic garden. No surprise that the Cafe is called “Pluck”. The miniature Chef’s Garden created for the dinner, complete with root vegetables which guests had to dig out from faux soil and the different types of fruit and vegetable caviar, came in for a lot of appreciation. There were some hits and misses in terms of wine and food pairing, but there is always an inherent risk while attempting something unconventional.

Tristan Beau de Lomenie and his team need to be applauded for promoting both the “Farm-to-Table” concept and Indian Wines at Pullman & Novotel New Delhi Aerocity.

The Wines from Sula, Grover Zampa, York and Charosa ; Chef's Garden at Pluck; Caviar and Dessert
The Wines from Sula, Grover Zampa, York and Charosa ; Chef’s Garden at Pluck; Caviar and Dessert

Tristan’s concluding words at the “Taste of India” wine dinner were that Indian wines are becoming a force to reckon with and can now complete with the best in the New World. Coming from a Frenchman whose wife Isabel, owns a vineyard in Barsac Bordauex, this is quite an endorsement.

By : Lavina Kharkwal



Hardys Wines in India : A new innings with Glenn McGrath

It is surprising that a brand which has been around in India since 2003, Hardys is hardly that well-known. Well it seems that things are about to change now. Glenn McGrath, one of the greatest fast-medium pace bowlers the world has ever seen, has been on a blitzkrieg of promotional activities for Hardys wines, in his capacity as their brand ambassador. Since the last few days he has been visible everywhere, in newspapers, on television, on social media, talking about his cherished cricketing moments and, of course, Hardys, an iconic wine brand from Australia.

The brand leverage of associating a cricketing legend like Glenn McGrath, a man who has taken more test wickets than any other fast bowler (563 to be precise) seems to be working in Hardys favour, especially in a cricket crazy nation like India. Hardys Wines is getting a great exposure, something it had lacked all these years.

Efforts are on to revitalize the brand and what better way to do it than through cricket with which it shares a rich history steeped in tradition and heritage. Hardys is the official wine of Cricket Australia and England Cricket, having signed a three year partnership with both. The goal now is to take it to the next level in India and possibly overtake Jacob’s Creek, the other famous Australian brand which is the most sold international wine brand in India. A task not too difficult considering the fact that Hardys is the number one Australian wine brand in the UK and is a significant brand in mainland Europe. With a distribution network in over 100 countries around the world, it has a global presence in 54% of all wine drinking nations.

India however is a tricky and challenging market. It is also a young market for wine in terms of a global perspective. A wine drinking culture is still to take roots even though more and more people are warming up to wine, largely due to the perceived health benefits and sophistication associated with it and also the fact that a huge middle class with a disposable income and a more refined palate is getting more adventurous in wanting to try out wine over beer & hard liquor.

So what exactly does the most powerful wine brand from Australia, now owned by Accolade Wines UK, bring to India? It is Hardys Stamp of Australia range of wines sold through Sula Selections, the import arm of Rajeev Samant’s Sula Vineyards, which is available in India.

Presently the wines in its portfolio are, one sparkling Chardonnay- Pinot Noir NV (Rs 1320) two whites Chardonnay-Semillon (Rs 1060) Riesling-Gewürztraminer (Rs 960) and two reds Cabernet-Merlot (Rs 820) & Shiraz-Cabernet (Rs 1080) This is the entry level range of Hardys Wines “unchallenging” and “accessible” in terms of taste and what you would call “easy drinking” “everyday quaffing” kind of wines which, surprisingly, pair rather well with Indian food. These wines reflect the regional character and flavor of Southern Australia, and the great Australian “blending tradition” between regions and varieties.

Glenn McGrath, brand ambassador of Hardys Wines presenting a memento to wine aficionado Rajiv Kehr, who had organised a private dinner in Glenn's honor.
Glenn McGrath, brand ambassador of Hardys Wines and founder of McGrath Foundation, one of Australia’s leading breast cancer support organisations, presenting a memento to wine aficionado Rajiv Kehr, who had organised a private dinner in Glenn McGrath’s honor.

Incidentally Glenn McGrath is not the only cricketer associated with Hardys. Nick Pringle, a former English cricketer who played for Somerset County (1986-1991) and shared the dressing room with the likes of Vivian Richards, Ian Botham, Steve Waugh and Sunil Gavaskar, is the Commercial Director of Accolade Wines UK which is the parent company of Hardys Wines of Australia. A few months back he was on a tour of India when I got a chance to meet him over a glass of wine and hear about the brand’s aggressive growth plans for India.

With Nick Pringle, Commercial Director of Accolade Wines, parent company to Hardys Wines of Australia : Hardys Stamp of Australia range available in India
With Nick Pringle, Commercial Director of Accolade Wines, parent company to Hardys Wines of Australia : Hardys Stamp of Australia range available in India

With Glenn McGrath’s recent whistle-stop tour of India, it is indeed apparent that both Accolade Wines and Sula Selections are pulling out all stops in their efforts to make Hardys Wines a popular wine brand in India.

By : Lavina Kharkwal