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All Things Nice unveiled its latest culinary concept SUBMIT, a unique wine dinner experience where we graciously asked our guests to submit their trust and their senses as we took them on a culinary journey like none other. Palladium, Mumbai shut down the entire mall for us, playing host to an intimate dinner in a completely darkened space except for the lights emitting from candles.

The vast empty space created a sense of luxury, with the 5 course dinner paired with fantastic wines from around the world. The first course was accompanied with a piece of art by Govind Sah highlighted via projected light, illuminating one specific space. The second course saw an interesting abstract installation by designer Lekha Washington, while the third course was served while a violinist played Vittorio Monti from a corner of the room. Writer and columnist Anil Dharker eloquently and very gracefully read poetry just before the main course. This unbelievable journey took this wine dinner experience to a whole new unchartered territory.

We had a spectacular selection of food and wine for the evening; white chocolate caviar with Rene Mure Signature Riesling, smoked salmon with Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, scallops with Blackstone Pinot Noir, lamb chops with Prunotto Barolo and finally Belgian dark chocolate with Montalto Passito di Moscato.

Notes from Chile

Notes from Chile - Dennis Murray of Montes

Montes have been a great ambassador for Chile, and a benchmark for many new Chilean wineries. This month we get into conversation with Dennis Murray of this iconic Chilean brand.

Your wines have been selling in India for some time now. Tell us how the Indian wine market has changed from your perspective?

With Indians having travelled and studied abroad they now embrace wine even more as they have seen its importance to their colleagues in other countries. I think Indians are much more knowledgeable about wine now since companies like All Things Nice and the Indian Wine Academy have helped to introduce, teach and sophisticate wine in India.

Is there a variety that has specifically done better in India over the others?

Cabernet Sauvignon has always been a favorite, followed by Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Where do you see India in the Chilean wine story in the future?

People are surprised by how important China is today to wine producers worldwide, the next country to surprise everyone will definitely be India. In Chile we see great potential, as more people are introduced to wine and have started pairing wine with food on a regular basis.

The spiciness and black pepper hints of the Carmenere red grape variety almost unique to Chile are a perfect match for Indian cuisine. We see opportunity in complementing local cuisines with Chilean wine.

Indians are travelling all over the world to discover wine regions, what can one look forward to on their visit to Chile?

In Colchagua, where we are based, you can find more that 30 wineries.  There are many hotels and restaurants nearby so people can enjoy the beautiful scenery, the vineyards and wines at leisure.

Tell us more about Taita, your flagship wine?

Montes Taita was a long sought dream come true. It is a big challenge to produce a Grand Cru Chilean wine to top our family of icon: M, Folly and Purple Angel. Taita grapes are dry farmed in a small vineyard in Marchigue. The wine is kept in new French oak barrels for two years and then four years in bottle before release. The first vintage (2007) was released last year to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the winery. Only 3,000 bottles are made every 2 or 3 years.

People often talk about tradition sometimes being the opposite of innovation. What are the three “legacies” of the tradition that you would like to last for many decades to come?

I believe that wine production has to be a family business and not run by big companies. Wine needs to be made by people who love what they do. Since they make it for decades or generations they will take better care of the wines produced. Sustainable wine-growing is of great importance as we need to continue producing quality products using the less energy and water possible. Taking care of your land is not new, so I believe should be in the top list of priorities for decades to come.

All Things Nice Wine Dinner at O:h Cha

All Things Nice hosted a wine dinner at o:h cha wherein we paired a very special eight course dinner menu prepared by Chef Statit Chaimano with extraordinary wines from all over the world. 

Wines for the evening were:
Myra Vineyards, Brown Brothers Winery, Neethlingshof, Grover Zampa Vineyards, Chandon India, Charosa Vineyards, Ron Carta Vieja – Bolivia and  Reveilo Wines

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Article by Nikhil Agarwal for Yuva Magazine

I didn’t always know what I wanted to do but I knew exactly what I didn’t want to do!

I didn’t want to be just another extension number in a big fancy office, didn’t want to sign a muster at 8:59am, or carry an Id card around my neck to go to work every single day.

Don’t get me wrong, I have loved all my jobs considering that most of my career I have worked for wine companies that were very cool to be a part of and through working for them I realized that wine for me is where home is!

I fell in love with wine.

The idea that the reason that someone out there is drinking and enjoying wine is because I played some part in getting that wine to them or introducing that wine or wine style to them gives me a big high. I always wondered how many people across India were drinking wine on a Saturday night that I helped push down the supply chain.

The more I got involved in wine the more I more wanted to learn about wine. I also developed a serious passion for talking about wine and I derived tremendous joy from turning people onto wine. I soon realized that this was my mission in life – to take consumption of wine in India to world class standards. I wasn’t about to go save the world but I definitely wanted to make it more pleasurable via what we drink and what we eat. Sounds corny, it is but who cares.

But this is all a dream that is far from reality and let me tell you the process of getting people onto wine isn’t easy.

Starting your own business can be one of life’s most fulfilling experiences but it’s also a motherf^%f*%^ker. Be prepared for one hell of a rollercoaster ride.

I have worked for other people for over 12 years but always dreamt of starting something that was my own. Most people dream, you just have to get serious about what you want to do and go about doing it. Leave aside fears, your business may not succeed but at least you gave it a shot. You wont go through life thinking ‘what if’ ? And if you give it all that you have plus more you will succeed.

Success comes in a simple formula – hard work x time = Ferrari or Louis Vuitton ,whatever tickles your fancy !

Each and every one of us in our own way is qualified to be an entrepreneur; you just need to have an idea and an excellent execution plan.

Most people already know what they want to do but for some reason, social, financial, spousal etc they don’t take the plunge; they don’t give in to doing what their heart desires.

So I guess my first piece of advice is to listen to that voice inside you that keeps telling you maybe I want to be starting a photography business instead on this job that does not interest me.

Make a document, your venture bible of sorts of all the people who can help you, clients you know off, clients people you know may know off, your assets, costs and an estimation for when you think you will break even.

Think think think , network network network, get your brand name ready, logo designed and your website up and running and your brochures printed for each and every meeting. Depending on the type of business your in and sales projected get your sales tax number/ service tax number etc.

Take a business loan if required but before you go to a bank for a loan have a clear strategy in mind. You must convince them that not only is your plan fantastic and your product saleable but you yourself need to inspire confidence, you need to sell your concept to a banks loan manager who will not have as much knowledge as you do about your product and its market neither the passion you have.

Find out everything about market dynamics, who the major buyers are, what are the buying, what influences their buying decisions. Who they currently are buying from, who your competitors and at what price or what quality are their products or services.

In a nutshell research and then top it off with some more research. You must know everything there is to know about your market place.

For me it’s wine. For you it may be medicine, banking, fashion, sports, advertising, movie making, jewelry designing, hospitality, web design, or diversifying the family business… whatever it may be…! The world is your oyster !

You gotta do your own thing, love what you do, and wake up wanting to get to work every morning!

Nikhil Agarwal, Sommelier and Director at All Things Nice –

Health Benefits of Wine

So what’s all the fuss about? Is wine really good for you or is it some clever marketing gimmick that a wine brand manager thought up? No, not one bit. There is clear proven reasoning why wine, especially red wine, is good for you. Here’s a look at why –

In the beginning wine was used in very early times by healers and priests who used wine not only for healing but for religious purposes as well. Wine was considered safer to drink than water at the time and therefore right form the start wine has always been considered somewhat of an alternative medicine or a drink with mysterious health benefits.

Red wine, more than white wine is rich in a compound called phenolics (sometimes call polyphenolics).These phenolics are derived from the skin (dark skin gives red wine its colour), stalk etc of the grape. These particular compounds have anti oxidant properties.

One of the many phenolic compounds found in wine that has gained considerable attention is Resveratol which has potent anti oxidant properties. This is also found in green tea which is also known for being good for ones health; don’t take my word for it ask the Chinese.

Any alcohol in MODERATE amounts is widely believed to be good for ones health including spirits and beer. The word moderate here is key and most countries have issued guidelines on what moderate drinking should be in terms of standard drinks per day per person.

The health benefits of wine became widely known in 1991 when the American TV show 60 minutes did a programme discussing how people in France were indulging themselves in eating a diet rich in fat no less and drinking copious amounts of wine without any bad effects on their health in comparison to their American counterparts. This is now commonly known as the French Paradox. The answer they found was in their habit of drinking wine and also the method in which they consumed it i.e. with their meals. The show overnight changed the fortunes of many wineries and producers and world over sales of red wine went through the roof!

Similar studies in Italy have also shown that drinking with meals also reduces the risk of heart attacks and other heart diseases.

The biggest advantage of drinking wine is its effects on coronary heart disease. A moderate amount of alcohol improves the balance between the harmful and beneficial forms of cholesterol and helps in the thinning of blood. Wine has also been linked in its effects on reducing the risk of certain kinds of cancers but there is not enough research to substantiate this accurately. It can help people with respiratory problems however can trigger wheezing in asthmatics due to presence of sulfites. This is why you will find that most wine labels will mention “Contains Sulfites’. Wine has also been linked to prevention of loss of vision with age, lowering the risk of non insulin dependant diabetes.

For weight watchers dry wines have fewer calories than other spirits or beers, especially spirits that are consumed with mixers.

Nobody advocates drinking copious amounts of wine or any alcohol to get incremental health benefits, infact that will do serious harm. However, there is a feeling backed by proof that moderate drinking is better for you than heavy drinking quite obviously but also better than not drinking at all.

On that note, I wish you compliments of the season and urge you to try and drink sensibly…Cheers !

Nikhil Agarwal, Sommelier and Director at All Things Nice –

Article by Nikhil Agarwal for Mumbai Touch Down

I like women and women like me but that’s definitely not enough when you reach the dating-and-beyond stage. After spending a large part of my life in the company of some fine women, I have learnt to understand the art of detail. The thing being, who has the goddamn time??

The mounting workload, the clocking of incessant air miles and the perpetual deadlines leave little room for romance. However, in my journey to find the best wines and cheese located in different pockets of the world I had an epiphany, one that allows you to mix business with pleasure.

Wooing your partner with some fine wine and carefully paired cheese is a heady mix of detail and planning, couple that with a perfect location and you have a sure shot at whatever you are aiming for. Putty in your hands, so to speak.

Wine and Cheese is like Laurel & Hardy, Guns & Roses, Bill & Hillary, and other combinations that are frequently better than either independently. But be careful, you need to do the pairing properly to ensure maximum please and any cheese with any wine will not work. Regions or vineyards that produce fantastic wine usually have very high culinary standards and cheese is an integral part of the whole experience.

You don’t have to know a Cabernet Sauvignon from a Chardonnay to appreciate these destinations – they offer as much peace and scenery as they do great wines. Here’s a look at some destinations that are a winner every time.

We will start off with our very own Nasik. I would recommend making a trip to Sula Vineyards which has done an excellent job in creating a wonderful wine experience. Their tasting room with its breath taking view is one of the most perfect places on the planet in the evenings especially in the colder months. You could head to York Winery which is further down the road for more excellent wine and cheese with an even more dramatic view and then bring the evening to a close less than a km further down the road at Sula’s 21 room only hotel Beyond.

In Akluj, ahead of Pune is the state of the art Fratelli Vineyards with impressive accommodations literally in the middle of nowhere. Get them to hook up a scrumptious sun downer and dinner in their lookout point over the vineyards which are a little away from the winery/rooms for you and your partner. You will have never seen anything like it.

All the above wineries serve generous portions of assorted cheese as accompaniments ensuring that your taste buds are in heaven.

Away from India, if you are heading to the west coast in the United States, I suggest you make a trip to Napa Valley and its surrounding areas which are littered with wineries producing excellent wine. The wineries have tasting rooms, a restaurant or two and rooms that are perfect for some alone time. They even have spa’s so you have an opportunity to go completely all out in pampering her.

Bordeaux in France is another of my favourites; the city is mesmerizing with unbelievable architecture. If you are into wine, this is your mecca and every street corner has cafés and restaurants dishing out incredible cuisine, glorious French cheese with a wine list to match. You can also hire a car and drive into the adjoining vineyard regions, visit some grand Chateaux and carry a picnic basket to make a stop wherever your heart desires. Make sure you make a trip to Saint Emillion, a medieval town on the right of the river Gironde that produces top wines and is simply drop dead gorgeous.

One cannot talk about wine and cheese and of course romance and not bring Italy into the picture. Head to Tuscany, rent a villa or park yourself in the middle of a vineyard and take in the fantastic wines and gastronomy. Maybe after a glass or two you can tell her how much you love her in Italian? Try Castello di Quercetto, a legendary wine producing house with over a 100 years of history. I highly recommend renting one of their apartments and spending some quality time there. Open a bottle of two of their Super Tuscans and she will not be able to resist you. Additionally, your only 25 kilometers away from the lovely city of Florence ! Need I say more? Veneto is another region within Italy that produces fine wine, and with Venice one of the worlds most romantic spots as its main city you cannot go wrong.

In the southern hemisphere if you are travelling to Australia, especially the Southeast of Australia make a trip to the wonderful wine growing regions of Barossa and Mclaren Vale. Try their full bodied reds from the Shiraz grape varietal paired with some local delicacies. I highly recommend visiting the Woodstock Estate in Mclaren Vale for some fabulous hospitality and a charming setting. New Zealand is full of stunning beauty, wineries producing top class wines and world class cheese. Take a trip to Marlborough and visit the legendary Cloudy Bay winery. Also visit the charming Clos Henri winery for an old world kind of wine experience.

There is of course a lot more countries and regions to visit but this should keep you busy for a while and in your partners good books. There are thousands of cheese and endless wines and I hope that you spend a lifetime time taking in their pleasures along with your partner.

Cheers to good loving!

Nikhil Agarwal, Sommelier and Director at All Things Nice –

Article by Nikhil Agarwal for Restaurant Week India Magazine

Folks I’m going to keep this simple. Wine isn’t rocket science, in fact nothing is rocket science except of course rocket science itself.

To begin your path to vinous discovery you must taste in order to choose wines effectively. Sounds like fun? It is. Feel free; take a sip from the glass of the fellow on the next table if you must. The more you taste the better. Build a memory bank of wine flavours. The more you taste the more you will understand the differences between grape varieties, regions and most importantly the style of wine that you like and don’t like.

To make it easy some restaurant wine lists have the tasting notes of the wine mentioned below the wine, if it sounds appealing to you, go for it. Don’t be afraid to ask your server for some advise, this however I must caution you only works in select places, like the ones I consult for example. The tasting note on the back of a bottle will give you a lot of information as well incase your buying from a retail store.

Sure you’ll pick a few duds in the process but it will only make you enjoy the good ones more and I predict if you give yourself enough time you’ll be picking winners every time, making you the pride of your family and joy of your town.

Wine and food when paired correctly is a match made in heaven. But don’t get too wrapped up in the technicality of it all, just have fun with it. Keep in mind the weight, texture and flavours including sweetness and acidity of the food and find a wine with characteristics that matches them or in some cases you could also try contrasting them.

Experiment, you’ll get it in no time. In fact, because there are just so many styles of wine you could find a style of wine for pretty much any kind of food out there.

Ever tried a Vada Pao with that deadly red masala with a Chardonnay aged in American oak? No ? Well neither have I but it could be fun to try!

Indian wine can offer more value than an imported counter part but all in all it’s still relatively expensive to drink wine in India. It’s expensive because the duties on wine are very high, some of the highest in the world. Expensive because of high margins applied by hotels and restaurants and ridiculous demands from retail outlets. Also sometimes because importers and producers think they can charge a higher value and get away with it. Last but not least the truestest reason for high prices is because there is more demand than the producers and importers of wine in India can supply……..well not really but even Sommeliers have dreams !

Nikhil Agarwal- Sommelier and Director at All Things Nice –