'Indian wine has got much better'

One of the best-known names from the world of wine, Michelle Rolland is known as the ‘The Flying Wine Maker’. In India for a week, the 61-year-old Rolland spent time with BT More, discussing Indian wines and how they fare vis-à-vis the global fare.

Rahul Sachitanand | Print Edition: June 1, 2008

My First Glass of Wine: I was born into a wine-making family (he grew up around his family’s estate Château Le Bon Pasteur in Pomerol in France) and I think I had my first sip when I was maybe seven or eight. It was a long time ago.

Michelle Rolland
Michelle Rolland
Emerging Wine Economies: The French have spent centuries perfecting their wine, so they do have an edge over competition, but already several upstarts from newer wine-growing countries have shown great promise.

Indian wines, anyone? Indian wine has made massive progress over the last 10-15 years and it has become more palatable now. You must remember that soil and climatic conditions are completely different in the tropics. Winemakers like Grover have improved the quality of their grapes.

The technicalities: The traditionalists say that wine should be grown between latitudes 20 and 30 degrees and that heat damages the grapes. But India has other advantages: there is no dormant period and labour is cheap and plentiful. What we now need to do is focus on improving both the quality and quantity of wine made in India. The Next Step: India started its winemaking using table grapes. At Grover, for example, we went back to the drawing board to learn about wine grape cultivation in India. Now that we’ve got that sorted out, we need to focus on improving the final product.

Sour grapes: Indian winemakers may be on a steep learning curve, but it is unfair to dismiss them. The Europeans had a huge head-start over domestic vintners, but the latter have learnt fast. I think they will move up the ladder quickly.

The Indian wine drinker: Wine has become popular among all age groups and I think it has replaced whisky as the preferred drink of the sophisticated Indian. Wine is the only drink over which I’ve seen a group of young people exchange serious tasting notes. Indians are much more aware of their wine and it helps that spicy Indian food and wine are such a great combination. I think some experts overdo the advice; as long as it has not gone bad, wine drinking is about the company and conversation.

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