Thursday, Aug 11, 2022

'Indian Wine Is Now Listed At Top Restaurants And Stores Across The World'

As a writer, wine and spirits expert, and CEO of All Things Nice Nikhil Agarwal who was in London recently as a judge for the Decanter World Wine Awards. This was the 19th edition of the world’s largest and most prestigious wine competition. We caught up with him for a chat about the awards, the many facets of wine, and his travels as a sommelier

A wine should reflect the grape variety and the region from where it comes
A wine should reflect the grape variety and the region from where it comes Luigi Bertello, Shutterstock

About the experience at DWWA

I have been judging at Decanter Wine Awards Asia which takes place in Hong Kong for a few years now and now Decanter World Wine Awards in London. The experience in either city is fantastic. You meet your friends and peers who are extremely experienced wine experts from across the world and so during the tasting days not only are you tasting wine with each other and understanding wine preferences from different parts of the world but also learning about wine cultures prevalent in different parts of the world. We taste about 80 wines a day in a blind tasting with each flight of wine focused on a style or category or grape variety from a specific region/country. This itself is an education.

Nikhil Agarwal, CEO of All Things Nice
Nikhil Agarwal, CEO of All Things Nice

What I look for when judging wine

A wine should reflect the grape variety and the region from where it comes. It should also be in balance with all elements of the wine coming together in harmony. It should be enjoyable, delicious, mind-boggling, hedonistic and it could also be a simple well-made wine. The intention is to score the wines so that people reading the score get an understanding of quality when they make buying decisions. I like wines that tick all the boxes mentioned earlier and that score high on pleasure. The more the pleasure, the higher the score.

Some elements of wine are subjective, like whether it meets your preference or not. Some elements are almost clinical that everyone can measure. You bring the two together and you apply your sensibilities and come up with an analysis. In the groups of 3/4 that we are split into, without discussing scores you would be surprised as to how we all come up with pretty similar scores most of the time. The ones where there is a marked difference we discuss and see it from each other's point of view to come to a consensus.

What a wine competition looks like from the inside

As a writer, wine and spirits expert and someone who trades in wines and spirits, I get invited to quite a few from across the world. I have judged at Decanter in London and Hong Kong, the International Wine and Spirits Competition in Hong Kong, Frankfurt Intl Wine Trophy and Diageo World Class to name a few. I do not always participate in all competitions as a judge that I am invited to due to paucity of time. It's a lot of work. You taste 80 odd wines a day starting at 9/9.30 am all through till about 5/5.30pm. You concentrate, you make notes, you put your thoughts on paper and rate each wine. You taste the wines twice to make sure you get them right and then you discuss the scores you give with the people judging wines with you as a group. You would be surprised to know just how much it takes and how tired you get. It's very serious.

Some favorite places to travel to for wine

That's very difficult to answer! I have had wonderful experiences in practically all wine-producing regions. Apart from the amazing wine experiences in Australia, Spain, Italy, France and California, I was very impressed with South Africa. The wines are fantastic, the country is spectacular and I absolutely fell in love with the town of Stellenbosch.

On my first trip ever to Bordeaux, I must have been 21 or so. We were invited to dinner at a famous grand chateau that produces some of the world's very best wines. I had never been part of anything like that in my life. I sat next to the cellar master who at midnight quietly took our table of 10 to the cellar where we tasted old vintages and wines from the barrel. The dinner itself was grand.

Another would be a friend and I drove from Munich in Germany to Verona in Italy and had an adventure over wine through the regions we passed. We had gone to Vinitaly and decided to make a trip out of it. Last but not least, my wife took me to South Africa for my 40th birthday to discover their wine regions together. By far the best wine trip I have ever had.

Favorite terroir for wine

I like all wines from all wine-producing regions but If I had to be selective, I would say the wines from the various regions within Tuscany in Italy, Bordeaux and Rhone Valley in France and the wines of California am particularly fond of.

Indian wines from an international perspective

Indian wines have consistently gotten better year after year and I would say that we are making wines that can compete with certain ranges of wines produced anywhere else in the world. The top wines in India, like the Signet range from Grovers or the JCB range from Fratelli or the Rasa/The Source range from Sula, Chandon, the wines from Krsma and Vallonne Vineyards are all very good. Indian food and therefore restaurants across the world should keep Indian wine to go along with the food to complete the experience. Not only this but Indian wine is now listed at top restaurants and stores across the world. In some countries, Japan, for instance, Indian wine is a phenomenon.

The oldest wine I have tasted 

The oldest I've had is a 95-year-old Barolo which was generously opened for a group of us by its winemaker. To drink wine that old is a privilege. The world was a different place when that wine was made, in a sense, you get to taste history because there are very few things that you can experience from a bygone era. The wine itself showed well, still alive and kicking after all those years. 

The wines I am drinking at home at the moment

Right now drinking on weekly basis wine from Fattori in Veneto, Mirabeau in Provence and Neil Ellis from South Africa.