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The best white wines

In the first-ever rating of Indian wines, BT More got eight experts from around the country and beyond to try out 38 different wines to zero in on the best wines made in India. Here are the results.

BT More Team | Print Edition: June 1, 2008

Chenin Blanc
Nine Hills Chenin Blanc 2007


Nine Hills, which gets its name from the nine hills surrounding Nashik, is a Seagram India brand that is making waves already.

At our wine tasting, the Chenin Blanc 2007 came across as a clean, attractive, fruity wine that surprised us with its refreshing acidity. In simple terms, it means the wine isn’t cloyingly sweet, as many Indian Chenin Blancs tend to be, making it just the right accompaniment for kebabs and curries.

Rating: 12.8/ 20

Price: Rs 500 ex-Delhi

Chenin Blanc
Reveilo Chenin Blanc 2006


When Nashik farmer Suresh Patil decided to move from table to wine grapes to take advantage of the Maharashtra Grape Processing Policy of 2001, and roped in his son Yatin, little did he imagine that Reveilo would cause a stir in the market. But they were bang on target, for the Chenin Blanc 2006 stands out for its good balance and crisp acidity.

The only issue the judges had with the wine was its short aftertaste. To be memorable, a good wine must last long on the palate. But the positives more than outweighed this minor negative.

Rating: 12.8/ 20

Price: Rs 505 ex-Mumbai

Runner-up
Indus Chenin Blanc 2006


Indus is a label of Terroir India Wineries, which is based in Igatpuri, near Nashik. The wine is soft and silky, with aromas of wild flowers and honey. This is another example of a Chenin Blanc where the natural sweetness of the grape has been balanced by the crispy acidity.

Rating: 12.1/ 20

Price: Rs 420 ex-Mumbai

Sauvignon Blanc
Château d’Ori Sauvignon Blanc


 What they said

Subhash Arora: In wine tastings, you’ve got to be both the judge and the lawyer. You must give each wine a fair chance, even if you don’t like it.

Andrew Steele: I tasted a lot of green berries in the red wines. Maybe the yield wasn’t enough, so the wineries just weren’t careful while selecting the grapes.

Bill Marchetti: Some of the red wines tasted as if the winemakers were in a hurry to put fermented grape juice in a bottle.
Nashik is gaining a solid reputation for producing decent warm-weather Sauvignon Blanc that exudes the herbaceous aromas of the New World.

Château d’Ori is the love child of Ranjit Dhuru, self-declared Bordeaux snob, who trained to be a lawyer but now heads infotech company Aftek. This wine is fresh and fruity, but the fruit is layered with too much oakiness, which reminded the judges of the Californian Fume Blanc. Nevertheless, it’s a good, drinkable wine.

Rating: 12.8/ 20

Price: Rs 460 ex-Mumbai

Honourable Mention
Grover Viognier Clairette


This one is from one of the country’s venerable wine companies, Grover Vineyards, and is in a league of its own. No one else really makes a Viognier Clairette. As Bill Marchetti said in his inimitable way, “It’s a sab theek hai wine.” It balances fruit with the right degree of acidity, which lends it a playful crispiness, and is meant to be drunk here and now. Have it with kebabs and curries.

Rating: 13/ 20

Price: Rs 420 ex-Delhi

The best red wines

Cabernet Sauvignon
Nine Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2007


The Indian Wine Challenge 2007 topper did not perform as well in our ratings. It could not notch up a score of 12, the minimum for an entry into the champions league. Nonetheless, it stood out from its competitors—were we being too demanding of the wine, as judges usually are with reds? Nine Hills stands apart with its soft tannins, which make it drinkable, just enough spiciness, long aftertaste, and a memorable mouth feel. Great for a mutton burra platter, but not a food wine for vegetarians.

Rating: 11.75/ 20

Price: Rs 500 ex-Delhi

Cabernet Blend

Château d’Ori Cabernet Merlot 2007

You had to expect a red wine coming from a Bordeaux fanatic to be among the top of the pops, but this one has a drawback—it was matured not in oak barrels, as they would do in France, but in concrete tanks with oak chips thrown in. Still, the wine tastes good and shows great aging potential. It’s not a here-and-now wine, but one you can store (properly, that is) and enjoy even after two years. We felt, though, that the wine should be released six months later, otherwise the consumers may be denied some of the enjoyment.

Rating: 12.8/ 20

Price: Rs 550 ex-Mumbai

Syrah/Shiraz
Reveilo Syrah Reserve 2005


The wine, a delightful symphony of spice, pepper and berries, is just what you’d order with your sheekh kebabs. A smooth-tasting wine, it is nicely balanced and drinkable. Can we ask for more? The wine’s tagline is “mystery revealed”—Reveilo seems so much like the word ‘reveal’ if rendered in Italian.

Rating: 13.3/ 20

Price: Rs 545 ex-Delhi

Runner-up
Sula Dindori Reserve Shiraz 2007


Sula needs no introduction and the company can also claim to have put the obscure village of Dindori in Nashik on the world winemaking map with the range of upper-end reserve wines carrying its name.

This one’s a well-rounded, well-structured wine whose tannins are so silky smooth that even vegetarians can have the wine with spinach and mushroom preparations. We can also assure you that it’s great match with Kolhapuri mutton.

Rating: 12 / 20

Price: Rs 700 ex-Delhi

 What they said

Rocky Mohan: A good wine has got to be drinkable first. Cognac has died a natural death because the French just made it undrinkable.

Mohit Balachandran: We may nitpick about the individual wines, but collectively, they show that Indian wines have come a long way. We must give them a chance.
Merlot
Château d’Ori Merlot 2007


Just in case you were wondering how the winery got its unusual name, here’s the story. The “Château” bit is its owner’s personal tribute to Bordeaux and “d’Ori” is short for Dindori, the taluka in Nashik where the winery is located. Here’s our verdict on the wine. In Subhash Arora’s words, it literally “dances on the palate”. It’s a luscious wine with a magnificent mouth feel, a hint of spiciness that works on the Indian palate.

Rating: 11.5/ 20

Price: Rs 460 ex-Mumbai

Honourable Mention
Sula Red Zinfandel


This wine that was the lone entry in its category. The grape is still seen in India as an ingredient for sweet blush wines (that’s what Americans call their rose wines).

The judges were generously disposed towards the wine because they believed this grape variety needed to be developed the way Sula had done it. More importantly, it’s a wine we would recommend to anyone who wishes to host a great party at home.

Rating: 12.1/ 20

Price: Rs 480 ex-Delhi

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