Atul Tiwari of The Leela Palace Tops Indian Sommelier Championship, Gets Ticket to Penfolds ‘Immersion Trip’
ATUL TIWARI, whom you may have seen at Megu at The Leela Palace New Delhi, Chanakyapuri, topped the 7th Indian Sommelier Championship and won himself a ticket to Australia, where he’ll be hosted at the spiritual home of Penfolds and the birthplace of the Grange, Magill Estate. Tiwari returned to the country’s foremost competition for wine professionals three years after he first participated in it. “Three years is a long time to wait for an Australian visa,” he said before the results were announced on Tuesday, November 11, but his hard work eventually paid off.
At an impeccably orchestrated evening at The Leela Ambience Hotel, Gurgaon, where the food and 18 wines were served with clockwork precision, and the duck ravioli was a conversation stopper, and the hotel’s General Manager Michel Koopman was shuttling between his wife’s birthday and the event to ensure everything went according to the plan, 13 of the country’s brightest young sommeliers got their prized moment in the spotlight. And cheering them was an audience that consisted of hoteliers (notably Aishwarya Nair from The Leela family and the Kempinski Ambience Hotel’s newly inducted chief, Puneet Singh), wine estate owners (Kapil Sekhri and Alessio Secci from Fratelli, who had launched their new range of wines the previous evening at another imaginatively curated event, and Ravi and Kailash Gurnani of York), leading industry executives (Andrew O’Brien of Penfolds, Louis XIII Brand Ambassador Noemie Levieux and Sumit Sehgal of Prestige) and editors (Reva Singh of Sommelier India and Bishan and Shalini Kumar of Spiritz).
For the man behind the championship, the man who made the word ‘sommelier’ known in India because he was the first to wear that tag, Magandeep Singh, and his Wi-Not Beverage Solutions aides Gurjit Singh Barry and Gagan Sharma, it was a moment to be cherished, for it gave the anonymous people who make our restaurant visits special the recognition they so badly need to progress professionally. The event was much photographed, but for me, the ‘Kodak moment’ was the post-announcement celebration by the 13 shortlisted sommeliers. They thumped each other’s backs and pumped each other’s hands, though not all of them won prizes. That’s the spirit of sommellerie.
The ones who did were (and they were judged by a jury comprising Aishwarya Nair, Alessio Secci and Andrew O’Brien):
Karanbir Singh Gulati of WelcomHotel Dwarka, who’ll forever remain for me the super-efficient manager of Bukhara, walked away with four for his mastery over food and wine pairing, sparkling wines, and oratory, and he was also the second runner-up (Grover Zampa sponsored the prize).
Atul Tiwari, the championship topper, also picked up the prizes in the spirits and the best technical skills departments.
Harish Acharekar of Four Seasons Mumbai was first runner-up (Torres was the prize sponsor).
Shubam Mehta of The Oberoi New Delhi won an award from Fratelli.
My only complaint: Not one of the three women in the fray got a prize. I am sure women sommeliers won’t allow this disparity to continue for long! But women will have their exclusive moment when Cointreau hosts its competition next month only for women bartenders. That’s one event I wouldn’t miss.