Doubt has been the constant companion of our wine industry. The world isn’t ready yet to give us the benefit of doubt. The notion that hot-weather countries can, indeed, produce fine wine tastes like corked stuff to the western world. The world, to tell the truth, is more excited about the prospect of Himachal Pradesh emerging as the country’s new wine capital, which explains why it’s becoming an investment destination. People who understand the industry find our wine scene inexplicable. India’s per capita wine consumption adds up to a teaspoon, yet the drink causes more excitement in fashionable circles than anything else. But first the facts.
Quality issues continue to dog the industry but it is showing no urgency to attack them head-on. That is the price we, the consumers, are paying for the industry’s success story— wine companies have been lulled into complacence by a market where demand, although tiny (7.2 million bottles of domestic wine versus 1.2 billion bottles of other spirits), has grown in the past five years at a steady clip of 20 per cent year-on-year. Production, though, hasn’t kept pace with the demand.
Add to this the fact that the industry is unregulated and you are staring at a quality nightmare. Unlike in France and Italy, where the industry follows critical quality standards, in India, it’s a free for all. It is a common practice for some companies to mix wine from different producers and bottle it under their labels. Many such quality issues keep coming to light, sending wine professionals into a tizzy. Still, I’ll have a Grover Viognier-Clairette and a Dindori Reserve Shiraz any day. Not because I believe in hyper-nationalist mumbo-jumbo, but because I feel these reflect the heights of quality that Indian wines can climb if they are made with the care and the attention to detail that goes into our best wines.
Spoilt for choice
The Indian wine market is growing at a rapid pace and today one has a choice of over a dozen brands to choose from. So, which are the best and why? What’s special about them and what does one serve them with? BT More answers these questions.
Red wines1. Shiraz from Chateau de Banyan
Characterised by its concentration of tannins, this is a very popular wine. It is fermented for eight days at 24 degree Celsius with select yeasts. This is followed by malolactic fermentation using select bacteria. The wines are matured for a minimum period of six months in a cellar after bottling. Serve at: 18°C-20°C
Price: Rs 475 (Maharashtra and Goa)
2.La Reserve from Grover
This fine red wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah or Shiraz grapes.
Mix 'n' match - Red wines
|The Standard: A full-bodied red can be best enjoyed with red meat, preferably braised meat, which has a strong flavour.|
The dish: Charcoal-Braised Lamb Shanks With Aragualla Mint Risotto, Cabernet Glaze and flame roast peppers.
The expert tip: Pair red wine with seafood, spicy Mexican dishes and pizza. Also try out tomato-based pasta dishes and tandoori items with your red wine.
Aged in French oak barrels, it has a luscious bouquet of fruit and spices with a distinctive oaken flavour. La Réserve improves with age.
Serve at: 18°C-20°C
Price: Rs 540
3 Reveilo Syrah 2005
A nice violet-purple red wine. It has a classic varietal nose, spice, pepper and berries— almost smoky. A smooth-tasting wine that is nicely balanced. Very drinkable.
Serve at: 16°C-18°C
Price: Rs 545
4. Sula Dindori Reserve Shiraz
Grown on the hills of the Dindori Estate in Nashik and aged for a year in new oak, the Reserve Shiraz is fragrant, elegant, and smooth, with lush berry flavours and silky tannins
Serve at: 15°C-18°C
Price: Rs 700
1. Sula Brut
This celebratory sparkling wine, made in the true méthode champenoise style, is a creamy, complex nectar. Pair with lighter Asian dishes such as dim sum and steamed seafood. Perfect as an aperitif.
Serve: Ice cold
Price: Rs 550
2. Marquise de Pompadour Brut, NV
This classic from the house of Chateau Indage is creamy, crisp and refreshing bubbly, and made from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Ugni Blanc grapes. The first award winning methode champenoise in India.
Price: Rs 567
1. Sula Sauvignon Blanc
Herbaceous, crisp and dry, with hints of green pepper and a touch of spice at the finish, this wine is well balanced with good acidity.
Serve at: 8°C-10°C
Price: Rs 490
2. Sauvignon Blanc from Chateau de Banyan
The unique aromatic notes of Sauvignon Blanc white grape are greatly enhanced by the sharp temperature variations between day and night in Nashik Valley.
Price: Rs 475 (Maharasthra and Goa)
3. Grover Viognier Clairette
Made from blend of Viognier and Clairette grapes, this bright wine is light golden in colour. Complimented by floral notes and a hint of honey, it is dominated by fruity aromas, ranging from peach, apricot and passion fruit. The mouth is full, rounded with crisp acidity, and leaves an impression of freshness.
Serve at: 10°C-12°C
Price: Rs 385
4. Reveilo Chenin Blanc 2005
A light aroma, floral, grassy, citrus notes dominate. Good balance, with crisp acidity and a persistent after taste.
Serve at: 10°C-12°C
Price: Rs 505
1. Sula Blush Zinfandel
| Mix 'n' match - Rose wines|
|The standard: Much like red wines, these go well with red meat.|
The dish: Roast lamb or mutton.
The expert tip: Pair it with poultry and spicy dishes or simple Indian fare like Paneer Shashlik.
This popular favourite is fun and fruity, abounding with aromas of honeysuckle and fresh strawberries.
A versatile, “anytime” wine that is great for picnics, parties, and hot summer days.
Serve at: 8°C-10°C
Price: Rs 483
2. Grover Shiraz Rosé
This bright wine is made from Shiraz grapes. Salmon pink with shades of orange, it has a full, fruity aroma.
With a body longer than most Rosés, this crisp, refreshing wine has been specially crafted to complement Indian food. Enjoy it on its own as an aperitif.
Serve at: 10°C-12°C