The Big Fat Indian Tasting

Who says Indian wines do not have much mettle? We at Wi-Not Beverage Solutions believe the competition in the wine world has evoked the Indian winemaking scene and will be something to watch out for in the near future. To further this conviction, sommelier Magandeep SINGH, hosted an Indian wine tasting. Wine lover and admirer Mr. Dirk Reinhardt, EAM, The Claridges Hotel, helped out with what can only be described as the perfect venue: a light breezy afternoon with lush trees formed the backdrop of the setting at the outdoorsy Sevilla restaurant. The silent walk-around tasting was organised on the 26th of November 2009 and for this “test of taste”, attendees comprised both professionals and wine-lovers. Industry enthusiasts and wine aficionados were equally encouraged to come by and taste for their own learning experience. Another highlight was the absence of winemakers thus making it completely neutral.

Wine Enthusiasts

It all started with Magan being approached to write about the Indian wine industry for a foreign publication. We wanted to have first-hand information and experiences involving all the players in the market. The wineries were invited to send a mixed bag of their wine samples. The response was overwhelming and so were the wines. 59 wines from nine houses were featured. Some of the luminous were Mr. Rubal Chaudhry, Mr. Angelo De Ioia and Mrs. Reva Singh.

Here are some excerpts from the tasting; a general consensus round-up  about the wine houses and their wines:

FOUR SEASONS: The latest trend setter in the industry, they are definitely making the right noise with their wines. They offer two ranges: Classic and Barrique ‘Reserve’ Collection. The classic series does not carry the vintage year. The wines are very New-World style with a major Australian influence, even casting a shadow of suspicion as to their origin. The Viognier was universally appreciated as also the 2008 Reserve Shiraz. The other wines on tasting were – Classic Sauvignon Blanc & Blush (Rosé) and 2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. The company also has Chenin Blanc in its offering

VINTAGE WINES: Their sole brand ‘Reveilo’ offers two levels of wines: Regular and Reserve. These wines are made under the jurisdiction of an Italian winemaker. Regular range included 2008 Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Shiraz and 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. 2006 Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon make up their Reserve range. The strongest contender from this house was the 2006 Reserve Chardonnay. This crisp green-tinged wine has a nice powdered touch of oak and crisp acidity to compliment the fresh citrus and fruity flavours. The reds were strong and aromatic but may need some work in the ‘finish’ department.

MERCURY WINES: The stylishly labelled wine named ‘Aarya’ comes from a new house in Nasik. Mercury Wines also have two more labels to their profile, namely, Ex and Mex. The wines included 2007 Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines are only now becoming locally available, earlier having been exclusively for exports. These well priced wines should hit the local stands soon. The flavours were intense, with great concentration and complexity. Not easy sippers like certain others; more weighty.

Indage Wines

INDAGE VINTNERS: This house needs no introduction. They have lately revived and revamped their wine labels and image. Their brand Tiger Hill too is keeping them busy. The wines were divided into four main labels: 2006 Tiger Hill Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, Select Range 2007 Chenin Blanc, Gold Range 2007 Chardonnay Semillon and Shiraz Cabernet, Platinum Range 2007 Merlot Syrah. Along with Tiger hill Cabernet Sauvignon, the Platinum Range Merlot Syrah was well received. This light ruby coloured wine has a very soave mix of dusty tannins, coat of French oak and great body marked by a strong spicy feel. Missed their famous sparkling.

VINSURA: This Nasik-based-house has now been in the business for quite a few vintages. Their labels definitely lack aesthetics: it carries contact details and some very irrelevant data on the front label which was a put-off. Ironically, for all the information and ingredient-list, the wines do not mention a vintage year. The range included Chenin Blanc, Zinfandel and a sparkling white. The sparkling wine was a pleasant surprise, with lovely toasty yeast character. The rest still need to be seriously worked upon.

GOOD EARTH WINERY: New wine house turning heads as it goes. Catchy violin-shaped labels, innovative wine names, Garage-style concentrated wines, impressive yet sincere winemaking; for their first vintage their wines had a lot to say. A small range 2008 vintage included Arohi Sauvignon Blanc, Basso Cabernet Sauvignon, and Brio Shiraz. The Glass-staining reds are still babies. These are wines made to ages well before relishing. We suggest decanting them before relishing and serving at a lower temperature. With no vineyards and winery of their own (yet), this is a commendable produce.

DECCAN PLATEAU: Another impressive band of wines. The range is simple with a 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, a Rosé, and reds including 2008 Zinfandel, Shiraz, Trivalli (Shiraz-Cabernet-Merlot), and Cabernet-Shiraz. The released wines are their first vintage and are still young. Decanting is definitely suggested. The rosé although still needing some attention, was definitely a star. It has an inviting dark watermelon colour with low alcohol, residual sugar with balancing acidity. The Shiraz component needs some flavour and finesse, and it tends to mar the blends it goes into. The Cabernet, by contrast, is fruity and well-developed, and the pure Cabernet was the preferred red from the house. On a different note, a lot of people at the tasting initially gave the house a miss as the labels were dubbed ‘misleading’. Nobody thought that such visually unappealing labels could house such exquisite wine.

VALLÉE DE VIN: With a wide range of wines, this house had a mixed bag of reviews. Their funky brand name ‘Zampa’ is an eye catcher. The house offered us 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, 2008 Chenin Blanc, 2008 Rose, Shiraz, Cabernet-Shiraz, sparkling white and rose. ‘Zampagne’ is what the company used to call its sparkling before insecure Champagne went ballistic. Now it is called ‘Soirée’, and we were concerned if consumers will latch on to the French pronunciation of ‘soa-rey’ or just stick with the seemingly-more-phonetic ‘sorry’!? New bottling of the whites were dramatically improved since the 2008 vintage and if the reds turn out the same way, the winery would have found its winning formula.

TERROIR INDIA: Nasik based winery with an array of wines to offer. The company has added another range,‘Mumbai Dreamz’, to their existing ‘Indus’ series. ‘Mumbai Dreamz’ has colourful, young, attractive front and back labels, replicating caricatured scenes from the panorama of its namesake city. The catch point of Indus range is their easy-to-tear foil leaving behind an evenly cut capsule, thereby rendering wine opener blades redundant. The present offerings includes: MD white, rosé, and red, 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Rosé, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and a blend, Moksh. Perhaps the most visually exciting labels on the currently market.

By the end, we all had our favourites and discards. We discussed and tried to convince or be convinced. But that really wasn’t the objective. The collection of these wines conveyed just one important message: they marked and highlighted the development of wine culture in India. With another seven wineries’ produce yet to be tasted, the magnitude of options is on a high-roll. Safe to assume then that Indian wines will certainly find more constant feature and representation in our Wi-Not wine blogs. Cheers to that!

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