Unless you are an astronaut, the closest you can possibly get to viewing constellations is by visiting a planetarium. Comfortably ensconced in a plush chair, your eyeballs would rove the surroundings, with several light years shrunk into a small space. But there is an alternate way too. Something that I discovered when I visited the newly revamped “Spectra” wine cellar at Hotel Leela Ambience Gurugram. A walk around cellar with constellations of another kind that probably has inspired the hotel to call it “Cellar Stellar”.
So what’s so special about Spectra that sets it apart? For one, the portals to the cellar open right from the concourse that leads to their multi cuisine restaurant of the same name. It implies that you can enter the cellar in a jiffy without having to walk through the restaurant space. The payoff? Browsing the wines before you actually peer at the wine list.
Inside, a two lane temperature controlled region is stacked with illuminated wine bottles from floor to roof. You feel as if you are within a universe of its own, replete with multi coloured hues shining all around.
But the charm is not just in gazing at the mesmerising illuminated wine bottles inside the cellar. The hotel has taken a logical recourse to quell the average wine drinker’s anxiety by offering subtle non obtrusive guidance in the form of sections indexed with placards that also indicate recommended food pairings from their restaurant. The following images make things amply clear.
Wine and Food Pairing Placards at Spectra Cellar
As the name Stellar Cellar evokes, we have selected extraordinary wines and complemented them with our chef’s favourite suggestions.
Michel Koopman- GM Leela Ambience
The Angel is in the Price
The first stumbling block for an average wine consumer while contemplating a wine outing to a 5 Star restaurant is inarguably the pricing. Though wine stock with such hotels is largely exempt from Customs Duty proportionate to the forex earned by them, high mark ups usually negate the advantage that can possibly be transferred to the consumer.
Leela Ambience has taken the bull by its horns by pricing their wines enticingly for the end consumer. Almost all Indian still wines at Spectra are priced at Rs. 1500 a bottle- a super competitive pricing in the Indian hospitality scenario. Among imported wines, you will find unbelievable prices by the bottle like a Taittinger Brut Champagne for Rs. 4000, Sartori Ti Amo Prosecco for Rs. 2500 and a Chateau Ste Michelle Riesling for Rs. 3000.
A list of 12 wines by the glass (2 sparkling and 5 each red and white) mostly at Rs. 600-800 a glass add on to the charm. The list is changed periodically to keep the offerings fresh. At the higher end they have the Bin and Cellar Selections which again offer extremely competitive prices related to the segment. However, it would be interesting to note if the hotel will be able to sustain such pricing with a less than friendly excise regime right at the doorsteps. The new excise policy, that comes into effect from 01 Apr 2017, is estimated to push overall wine prices by around 20 per cent. As a wine lover I hope and pray that the hotel’s laudable efforts towards promoting wine culture are not disincentivised on account of the new policy.
Year Long Wine Dinners
Looking at long term wine engagements with the consumer, Leela Ambience has chalked out thematic monthly wine dinners for the complete year starting April 2017. The dinners are planned to showcase different wine regions of the world and are priced at Rs. 4500 plus taxes per person. There is a special offer where one can book all wine dinners in advance by buying vouchers at 20% off on the total price. Best is, that these vouchers are transferable in case one is not able to attend a particular dinner fixture. The complete dinner calendar is given at the end of this post.
The Grand Oeuverture
At the launch event which happened in early March 2017, guests (including me) were taken by surprise as we were handed over tasting sheets for a blind wine tasting. It turned out to be a stimulating exercise where we had to muster all the skills to decode the wines with their respective regions, grape varietals and probable prices in the hotel’s wine list. Three top scorers were awarded prizes by Michel Koopman and all other guests were handed over attractive boxes of assorted macarons from the hotel. Koopman also took the opportunity to educate the guests on the genesis of the whole program (see video below).
To summarise, Cellar Stellar is a beginning well made. Market stimuli like these are bound to promote wine culture in a country which is seen globally as a promising market for the future.
So head for Spectra if in the mood for wine.