Often, when presented with an elaborate wine list in a restaurant, the diner is strained to narrow down an option for the occasion especially if (s)he is pressed for time. The experience is not different from a “child in a candy shop” and it has nothing to do with the level of wine knowledge.
Private labels come to the rescue. Sourced exclusively for the restaurant, these wines are chosen to match best with the cuisine. These are the go-to wines, in case sommelier’s advice is not on hand. Private labels are created for the buyer using some custom inputs (brand, design, etc.) at the winery, and are not available elsewhere. In addition to this exclusivity, the supply chain from vineyard to table is short (no intermediaries) and the wines should arrive in an optimal condition.
All of this is done to offer a better wine experience for the guests at the restaurants, which has been designed with them in mind.
The Lalit Hotels have recently introduced a private label offer of French wines at the New Delhi property. These wines have been sourced from Domaine de la Pigeade (DDLP) located in the foothills of Mont Ventoux in the south of the Rhône Valley. DDLP is a member of the Vignerons Indépendants de France (Independent winemakers of France) Association that promotes best practices for self-sustaining operations by small and independent winemakers. DDLP is a small wine house that produces all wine from their own vineyards, under very tight quality control.
Mr. Keshav Suri, Executive Director, The Lalit Hotels supported this endeavour. Charles Donnadieu, the Corporate Wine Sommelier for The Lalit Hotels, hopes to deliver the very essence of the region (where he grew up appreciating these wines with family and friends) to his guests by incorporating its cultural aspects around lots of interesting stories.
“The first instance of a private label in India was when a reputed French winemaker created a personal label for one of the doyens of Indian hospitality,” recalls Ravindra Kumar, the very seasoned General Manager – Corporate Food & Beverages at The Lalit Hotels. “At The Lalit, we have created this exclusive private label experience for our esteemed guests where the wines are sourced directly from the producer. Not only are they as fresh as they are in the winery, but at an affordable price as well,” he adds. At this time, the wines will be available only in The Lalit New Delhi – the other properties in Bangalore, Mumbai and Kolkata will have to wait a bit more.
The best goblet forward
Charles took me around the restaurants in The Lalit New Delhi to show how the private labels list has been offered. At the signature pan-Indian restaurant “Baluchi”, a flight of three wines (50ml each) have been paired with Indian breads – ₹ 1000++. At “The Grill Room” the panoramic 28th floor restaurant, a set three course menu (see image) was being offered with a choice of a glass of wine from the two on offer – ₹ 2500++ till 31st March 2016. A quick and affordable fine dining experience without having to stress too much about making the right choice. As I sampled this menu, Charles told me that they will continuously be innovating on such offerings and present the wines in different configurations.
(Prices indicated by bottle/by glass, taxes and service charge extra)
VDP Vaucluse Petits Grains de Folie 2014 (₹ 4200/800)
Served at: The Noble House (Asian Cuisine)
A fruity off-dry white wine with medium acidity, even though Charles told me that the residual sugar is below 9 g/l. The wine is from Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, a varietal known for its aromatics and a luscious palate.
AOC Ventoux Les Sables 2014 (₹ 3500/700)
Served at: Baluchi (Indian Cuisine)
An easy drinking light-medium bodied red wine from Grenache, Carignan and Syrah varietals. Smooth tannins, red fruit notes and medium finish.
AOC Vacqueras 2012 (₹ 5000/1000)
Served at: The Grill Room (Continental Cuisine)
A blend of the classic Rhône GSM (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre). A full bodied red wine with good structure, blackberry/ cassis flavours and a lingeringly spicy finish.
AOC Beaumes de Venise 2013 (₹ 6000/ NA)
Served at: The Grill Room
A delightful vin doux naturel (wine made from grapes naturally high in sugar) from the Muscat Blanc.
An aromatic dessert wine with the right balance of sweetness and acidity – the key criteria of a sweet wine. Ripe apricots, figs and citrus notes are accompanied by a touch of spice.
The pours ahead
Does The Lalit plan to introduce more wines, maybe from different countries, in this private label collection? Both Kumar and Charles are conservative on this front, and they feel that the program has to be validated and fine-tuned by the guest response. Charles also shared with me that a retail space was being established to enable guests to take their preferred bottles home.
In the meantime, the guests at The Lalit can look forward to promotional activities like in-house wine tours and wine dinners that are planned around these private labels. The first one is already happening in New Delhi on 28th May 2016.
(This is the blog version of my article first published in vino india)