Shirish Deshpande is a man who particularly enjoys wining and dining. He laughs, “My family is not too fond of my hobby.” Deshpande is an avid collector of wine and whisky and makes it a point to bring in whatever he can get his hands on when he is travelling.
While he knows that it’s difficult to spot a great wine in India, he never stops looking. “You don’t get good wines in too many places apart from five-star hotels. The best wines are from around Nashik and Bengaluru, but it’s not as good as some of the international wines I have tasted. The trend is to order Argentinian or French wines,” he explains. He continues, “A lot of good eating comes from mixing the right wine with the right meat.”
His varied taste makes it difficult for him to pick a favourite. He says, “With wines, it is not as much about the labels as it is about the type that matters. Be it red, white or rose. I prefer a Merlot or a Chenin Blanc. The right wine is the one that is grown around January or February. That is sweeter and it suits the Indian palette.”
While his love for wine is relatively new (his collection is around eight to ten years old), his love for whisky has spanned over 15 years. When it comes to whisky, one can sense the excitement in his voice for his first love. “I am a regular with whisky and am particularly fond of single malt scotch whiskies. Some American and Irish whiskies are quite nice to savour,” says Desphande.
So where did the love for collecting fine whisky begin? He explains, “It started with a Black Label. I developed a taste for it and in the past eight to 10 years, I ended up collecting a fair amount. Whenever I go abroad, I collect some and also ask my friends to bring me some when they travel.”
Today, some of his favourites include a Johnnie Walker Black Label, Green Label (“of late,” he says) and Double Black. One of his travels that he enjoyed a lot was to China. He talks about the trip, “I tried a drink that was made of rice, with some ridiculously strong alcohol. It also happens to be a country of some lovely wines. While the wine culture leaned towards red wine earlier, it is more white wine loving lately.”
He admits that it is not a hobby that comes cheap, but he is more than ready to indulge. He jokes, “It is very expensive to gift good alcohol to someone else. Treating friends to expensive wines would be a more indulgent hobby than I would like.” As he continues his quest to discover the perfect wine and whisky, he only hopes for his growing collection to be the envy of many.