Let’s be honest, Indian or international, wines still give the jitters to an average Indian consumer. The tall and wide wine shelves at restaurants, become intimidating rather than easing one’s mind about having a glass of wine. More often than not, you will straight go to the wine-by-the-glass list of the beverages menu, and even more frequently you will find names that do not enthuse you, leading you to order the usual suspects—a syrupy sweet cocktail or a pint of lager!
In such a case when a restaurant is willing to take a risk to set up an enomatic machine serving 50+ wines by the glass, we are definitely excited! Enter Wine Villa, Mumbai!
After the success of Tea Villa Café, the founders—Roopanshi Bhatt and Micky Panjwani—on a trip to Europe came across the wine dispensing machines. It was an instant Eureka moment! Today, Wine Villa, in the suburb of Juhu, has 56 wines on tap.
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most fascinating and engaging experience is the ATM. Every table has a cash
card that you need to use on the enomatic machine. Segregated into whites,
rosés and reds, you can choose your wine with the cash card that will pour a 15
ml, 75 ml and 180 ml pours (each of these pours are priced differently). The minimum
you’ll pay for a 15 ml pour is Rs 43 (excluding taxes).
All this is great, but Indian climate conditions and temperatures makes wines very susceptible to oxidation and heat damage. The enomatic ATM has safeguards in place—the machine uses Argon, a neutral gas, to replace any vaccum created when the wine is dispensed. This helps avoid oxygen coming in contact with the wine. Moreover, in the two months since the opening of Wine Villa, the bottles have been replaced twice already, ensuring you’ll always have a fresh bottle of wine on the tap.
Enough about the wine, Wine Villa also takes great pride in their food. Continuing the theme of accessibility, the food has been curated to satiate all kinds of palates. The highlight however is the signature dishes created by Masterchef Australia 2017 winner, Diana Chan. Very nouveau but also rooted to her Malaysian roots, these dishes have a strong connect to Indian sensibilities.
We tried the Pearl and Barley Risotto with Wild Mushrooms and were pleasantly surprised. It is our firm belief that mushrooms can fix anything and in this dish they are the solid flavour foundation on which the barley risotto comes alive.
The Sticky Lamb Ribs was cooked well, with all the necessary flavours being on point. However, one couldn’t help but feel that there was an element missing, an accompaniment perhaps? Personally, we thought a side of mustard to offset the sweet and savouriness of the lamb would have been perfect.
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Another stellar dish was the Fried Okra with Onion Sambal. One of the Diana Chan’s creation, it hit all the right spots for a desi gourmand, and hence the comparison to kurkuri bhindi kept cropping up. The okras were simply fried to achieve the ultimate crispiness and it was left to the onion sambal to bring out the true flavours of the dish. The tart and tangy with gentle bursts of heat made it almost impossible to keep the fork aside—no wonder the dish disappeared in a flash!
The simple fact that you have so many wines to choose from! The entire process of slipping in the cash card in the slot and waiting for your pour has a novelty that we don’t think will fade very quickly.
We spoke to the sommelier at Wine Villa, who explained that wines were selected not just on the basis of which country they come from but also stylistic differences. For example, there is, both, a German Riesling and a Kiwi one. There is American Shiraz or Syrah as well as Indian Shiraz. There is also an Italian Amarone! It’s safe to say we were very impressed with the collection of wine and the thought put behind the selection.
There are information cards against each wine that help you break down what you’re tasting in the glass. They also tell you what foods and flavour profiles will go best with the wine. We selected a South African Pinotage, the grape is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut/Herimtage. This particular Pinotage was fruit forward and medium bodied, which made it an easy drinking red wine perfect on a relaxed afternoon.
We chose the roasted Free Range Chicken with the Pinotage—turned out to be an excellent choice. The chicken was well seasoned and roasted to perfection (over-cooked chickens can be a nightmare). The wine helped the chicken’s flavours, especially the jus, evolve more.
The prices for the wines will leave you baffled. Some entry-level imported wines are priced more than a good and award-winning Indian wine. We were told that it has to do with the availability and sourcing of the wine—considering regulatory nightmare imported wines go through, we relented. But we couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow.
The food menu is quite vast, which if you weren’t a wine lover would be fine. But as a wine enthusiast it seemed a lot to choose from and not to mention also tedious to put an equal amount of thought as to what would suit the wine.
We settled for the recommended dishes, but the question begs to be asked; does a wine oriented restaurant need so many dishes? It seems to be an effort to please everyone who walks into Wine Villa, rather than curate and nurture focussed clients.
Overall, we’re pleased that there are entrepreneurs are willing to take big risks in Mumbai and add value to the dining-out culture of the city.
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Address: Wine Villa, Third Floor, 37, Hotel Horizon, Juhu Church Road, Juhu, Mumbai 400049
Images courtesy: Wine Villa
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