All the wines I have are excellent — but this one is special,” says Stephane Soret, sommelier at the Imperial Hotel, while he gazes lovingly at the bottle of Petrus. This ‘grand vin’ of 1982 vintage has travelled all the way to Delhi from the Pomerol region of France and is the most prized possession in Soret’s cellar. “When you drink it you shall know it’s worth a fortune,” he gushes, without offering a sip. Coming at a price of some three Nanos, it would indeed be quite a fortune for most Indians. As for the worth of it all, one would have to munch the sommelier’s word for now.
Is it one of those items on the menu that are only to be ogled at? “People do buy it; after all it is a ‘court wine’,” assures Soret. Who are these buyers? “Oh, they come from all over the country to just drink it and eat a meal.” Standing in the glass-walled, air-cooled cellar and talking to this handsome, balding Frenchman, one feels pressured to conjure up an image of the French court.
It’s not just this bottle that comes with a price shock. In the cellar is also a Rs 91,000 Petrus vintage 1988 and, if one’s in a real stingy mood, a Rs 52,000 Petrus vintage 1978. By the way, the 1988 vintage was sold last week to a “high profile guest who came all the way from south India to get a taste of this precious nectar”. The world of these wine drinkers, as seen from Soret’s cellar, is divided into two lots — those who drink it “as a status symbol” and those “due to knowledge of the wine”.
Sommelier Magandeep Singh explains the very desi dilemma over the pricing from a desi point of view: “People are beginning to understand wine. There is a whole section of third-generation rich
Indians who have the money to cultivate interests in things like these.”
Maybe it’s a ‘wealth culture’, smore than a ‘wine culture’, that’s emerging. One could buy almost 1,000 bottles of cheap desi wine for the price of the Petrus bottle. That would be enough to last the longish wait till the Nano rollout.