Wine is slowly but steadily finding takers in Delhi-NCR, prodding the launch of concepts like wine bistro

When it comes to wine, many in Delhi are often found to only whine — about the difficulty of getting by good brands, their ceiling-high pricing, lack of adequate retailers to check variety, among other things. A glass of good wine can set you back by say, Rs.500 at some city restaurants. Insane, in the name of responding to refined taste! In the name of catering to yuppy Indians with disposable income!

But hold on, some good things are happening on the wine scene in Delhi-NCR. No, the day has not arrived yet when we would find wine bottles in a super market but slowly — and steadily, a shift of scene is certainly unfolding. I say this because of the rising number of wine tasting sessions at restaurants and pubs in and around the city. Because more and more global wine makers are visiting Delhi to talk about their brands. Also, because courses on wine tasting are being regularly organised. The trend of dinner guests carrying a bottle of wine is gaining ground too. An active wine lovers group in the city also hints at this wine wave that I am referring to.

And now, we have a wine bistro too. In Cyber Hub, Gurgaon, called The Wine Company. Obviously, excited at seeing a wine bistro come up, I pay a visit. A substantial space, The Wine Company is just two months old. On a sunny day, or a slightly warm winter evening, the ideal place to book your space at the bistro would be under a giant umbrella on its front patio. The inside too is prettily done up — with (comfortable!) high chairs and wooden tables, a line of stools forming an arc around the ample bar. The dishes of the day are chalked on black boards for the ease of placing your order...bistro style!

But what certainly stands out is the wine shop in one corner of the bistro with prices on display. You have the option of choosing your wine from as many as 120 labels coming from different countries to drink at the bistro.

“The first of its kind concept in India,” underlines its co-owner Ajay Saini when I catch up with him later. French, South African, Argentinean, Californian, Chilean, German, Australian, Indian…you name the country, The Wine Company has it for you. To help customers choose the right wine, it also has a sommelier following you, seeking your tasting notes.

Saini points out that wine at the bistro is available to a diner in just 10-15 per cent more than the MRP. “A bottle of wine starts at Rs.700 here.” The response has been good so far, he says, adding, “The idea is not to offer cheap wine and thereby attract people but to create a culture for wine drinking in a beer, whiskey and vodka drinking city.”

The food menu is to complement that culture. “We have a variety of cheeses, antipastis, red and white wine glasses and wine chillers in each table. We often do wine tasting events, all to promote the culture of wine drinking.”

The sommelier, Mukesh Kumar, knows the customers he is dealing with are largely wine novices. “I ask them a few questions, their likes, their mood, etc. and choose the wine for them. Most Indian diners usually go for sweet or fruity wines. In red, they are often seen to go for merlot. The takers for white wine are less than the red,” he blurts out quickly from the experience so far.

Trained under master sommelier Magandeep Singh, Mukesh, however, rues that the culture of a sommelier tasting the wine first and then serving it to customers is yet to arrive in India. “This is the most challenging part. Sometimes, we have to change the wine for a customer. Hopefully, we would start the practice here,” he says.

For a wine bistro to work well, location is an important component, points out Jitendra Dutt Suyal, the general manager of The Wine Company. Cyber Hub gets a daily throng of techies from around the multinationals that have set up shop there besides cash-rich Gurgaon residents, the trend pushing some of the best names to open a restaurant here. Suyal recommends you book a place before walking into the bistro. “We are getting about 400 people daily,” he says.

Besides the wine, Suyal says its sangrias are finding takers among people. “We have green apple and cucumber sangria, a pomegranate and cranberry sangria among other signature sangrias, which people often order.”

Its shop also has some premium wines and champagnes, like the Tignanello (Rs.15,990 for a bottle), Dom Perignon (Rs. 19,990 for a bottle) a 2004 Palmes Margaux (Rs. 66,000 for a bottle) apart from German Riesling Selbach, the famous rose wine from Portugal, etc. It also stocks premium single malt whiskeys and liqueurs plus the ubiquitous beer on tap.

The bistro is certainly an experiment for the promoters. Saini says, “If it clicks, we shall think of expansion.”

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