Sunday, 26 January 2014

Turning Point Wines Get A Capital Welcome as Delhi Gourmet Club Serves Paradise on a Plate

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

IT WAS only appropriate that the wines being showcased at the Delhi Gourmet Club's 68th event are called Turning Point. DGC's first-ever al fresco wazwan lunch on Saturday, January 25, was indeed a turning point for the club, which is now, despite being a 'Secret Group', a 5,000-strong Facebook community.
Delhi Gourmet Club's founder-member Rocky
Mohan (left) with Shafi Waza, one of the four
brothers who are carrying forward the great
gastronomical legacy of Khan Abdul Ahad

Waza. Picture: Shalini Chauhan
It was the first time that the club had invited a well-known catering company, none other than the inimitable Ahad Sons, which is carrying forward the legacy of Khan Abdul Ahad Waza, to present a traditional 16-course wazwan lunch. A celebratory wazwan meal can accommodate up to 32 courses, but the club's three founder-members (Rocky 'Mr Old Monk' Mohan, Atul 'The Guru of Sikandalous Cuisine' Sikand and yours truly) decided that 16 would be more than enough! And believe me, they were.
Of course, with Rocky, whose book Wazwan: Traditional Kashmiri Cuisine is the most insightful on the subject, to guide us, with the suave Shafi Waza, the third of the four brothers who are now the custodians of Ahad Waza's legacy, personally supervising the proceedings, and with Mohit 'Chowder Singh' Balachandran orchestrating the service with club member Nikhil Alung, we could expect the lunch to be a memorable affair, even though the weather wasn't.
Turning Point wines, which have just been launched
in Delhi and Gurgaon, share the limelight with
the invincible Old Monk, Ketel One and Bacardi.

Picture: Ajay Gautam
It was a cold and gloomy day (we joked that we had brought Srinagar's weather to Delhi), and the ever-hospitable Rocky, at whose sprawling Vasant Kunj farmhouse the lunch had been laid out, was worried that the chairs would be wet. The weather made no difference to the elevated spirits on the ground, for there was enough warmth to be had from the wood fires, the lavish spread of delectable wazwan dishes, and Turning Point wines, which have just been launched in Delhi and Gurgaon after a fairly good run in Mumbai and Pune.
Turning Point is the brainchild of Ashwin Deo, whom many of you'll remember as the man who steered Moet Hennessy India very successfully in the company's early days. A product of Nashik's wine lands, Turning Point is India's first wine label that addresses young people, the  country's largest population segment that hasn't evinced much interest in wine.
I suspect it is because wine has been presented in a manner that it comes across as some 'serious' drink that only 'connoisseurs' can appreciate. The truth is, wine, like any other alcoholic beverage, is meant to be savoured in the company of friends, with good food to accompany it, and not intellectualised upon. Turning Point wines draw you in with their bottle design -- it's sassy, youthful, vibrant. You just have to keep a bottle on your table to get people talking about the wine. It's a great ice-breaker.
But Turning Point wines have more to offer than their sleek bottles and meaningful conversations. The wines are made from grapes sourced with great care from contract farmers in Nashik, and matured and bottled at Ravi and Kailash Gurnani's York winery with expert advice from the roving biochemist-turned-oenologist from Bordeaux, Marc Dworkin. I had the Turning Point Rosé, made from Zinfandel grapes, and I was surprised by its lively freshness. It was not overly sweet; instead, it balanced crisp acidity with a hint of fruitiness.
I thought I would stick with the Rosé, but I changed my mind after I had the Cabernet Shiraz. It was young, flavourful and delicately balanced. The vines from where the grapes are sourced for the Turning Point Cabernet Shiraz are 10-15 years old, yet there's no rawness in the wine, which made it a perfect match for the food that was served piping hot from silver containers by by Shafi's men, all clad in white kurta, pyjama and skull cap.
And what a feast it was, from the nadru (lotus stem) fritters and mutton lahabi kebabs circulated as appetisers during the meet-and-greet hour, to the pounded mutton kofta with an apricot at the centre, the ruwangan chaman (my most favourite paneer dish), the unbeatable Hind roghan josh and its polar opposite, the aab gosht (mutton cooked in a milk curry), the unputdownable haak (Kashmiri spinach) and monje (turnips), the spongy gushtaba bearing the unmistakable Ahad Waza stamp, and the sooji halwa, phirni and kahwa (Kashmiri tea) at the end. It was a meal I won't forget in a long time.
For DGC, it was without doubt a landmark event -- a brilliant showcase of a regional cuisine rooted in tradition and a new wine label that has set out to re-write the old, cobwebbed rules of wine drinking.