Wine is a comparatively recent phenomenon in India and wine clubs even more so, particularly as they depend both upon the availability of wines in the cities where they are based and the passion and interest of a few people to drive their activities.
It is no accident that the majority of wine clubs in India got going only after the Indian government liberalised the rules regarding the import of wines and other alcoholic beverages in April 2001.
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Here are the known wine clubs still around, in order of their 'vintage':
The Wine Society:
Founded in 1991 in Delhi by Ghulam Naqshband (died 2010) well in advance of any other such gathering, and now run by ex-banker Kulbir (Bunty) Singh and wife Reva (managing editor of India's only wine magazine Sommelier India).
Bangalore Wine Club:
As wine clubs in India go, the Bangalore Wine Club is rather unique. Founded in 2001 by yours truly and a bunch of wine-loving friends, it has only 125 members, but since its constitution mandates annual elections to the five-member managing committee, more than half of the members have had a chance to run the club for at least one year.
Every new committee brings its own energy and ideas to the 10-12 events it organises. These have varied from winery visits to sit-down wine dinners to visiting the Indian Wine Village that seeks to familiarise participants with the leading Indian wineries and their wines.
Delhi Wine Club:
Started in 2002 by Subhash Arora, wine expert and internationally recognised wine judge who writes a hugely popular weekly newsletter, delWine, and who also started and runs the India Wine Academy, a wine-related consultancy. Arora continues to run this 150-member club despite a busy international travel schedule and holds regular events in hotels.
Chandigarh Wine Club:
Launched in 2003 by Stephanian and entrepreneur Yasho Saboo, this society was singularly successful in lobbying with the Chandigarh authorities to rationalise rules and taxes on wine, with the result that the city today has one of the most wine-friendly excise regimes in the country.
Pune Gourmet Club:
Started in 2006 by wine enthusiast B Shankaranarayan, who also founded the popular Pune Wine Festival that has become an annual feature in the city. With a membership of about 100, this club focuses on familiarising people with Indian wines.
Rotarian Wine Fellowship in India:
Founded in 2007 by Rotarian Devesh Agarwal in Bengaluru and with 50-odd members, this is another organisation that draws upon its members to run the club's activities every year.
Wine Society of India:
More of a 'wine buying club', this company was set up in early 2007 with equity from Vijay Mallya's United Spirits and entrepreneur David Banford and with the participation and support of wine expert Steven Spurrier. Banford sold his share to the UK-based Laithwaites Wines in late 2010, and things seemed fine till it was announced in February 2016 that the society was shutting shop.
Calcutta Wine Club:
Started in 2008 by Peter Mitter and currently having a membership of 70 people, the club's objectives and activities are laid out in its well-designed website www.calcuttasineclub.com
Nagpur Wine Lover's Club:
The newest club of note in India, it was started in 2011 by 'Chief Coordinator' Sharad Phadnis and among other things has already hosted three wine festivals - great going for the newbie.
Wine I've been drinking:
Last Sunday at the annual general meeting of the Bangalore Wine Club at the new Shangri-La hotel's Caprese restaurant we quaffed the Callia Alta Chardonnay 2013 from Argentina. Seeing the bright yellow colour, I thought it was spoilt but it turned out okay. The wine was fruity and complex and very drinkable. It retails for Rs 1,250 in Bengaluru.
Alok Chandra is a Bengaluru-based wine consultant