I am constantly on the look-out for good Indian wines. I like to support our own wine industry and the efforts of our winemakers and as a member of the former Indian Grape Processing Board, it is also something about which I am passionate. The trouble with Indian wines is consistency. You taste something great one day and the next bottle you buy is quite different. I have been drinking Indian wines for over 25 years and they have really come of age. From Bosca in the 80’s to many more than drinkable wines from Nashik, Akluj and Bangalore. It’s been a stunning journey. Here’s my pick of the best for 2017.
Managed by Yatin and Kiran Patil with the help of Italian know how and technology and an Italian winemaker, Mr. Andrea Valentinuzzi. They produce an army of red and white wines that are young and tropical in nature and an excellent representation of the new generation’s aspirations. Two of my favourite wines from their stable are their white, Grillo made from a Sicilian grape grown by them in Nashik and their red Nero d’Avola, another Sicilian grape.
One of the earliest players in India, Kanwal Grover told me how he showed his first wine samples made from French vines in Bangalore to the famous winemaker Michel Roland in the bathroom of a 3 star Michelin restaurant in Paris. He dared not open the samples on the dining table and so had to take the mystified Roland to the men’s room! Known internationally as “the flying winemaker”, Roland obviously approved and has since then been advising and coming to India every year. La Reserve from Grover was path breaking for its time. Their young whites, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc are great with Indian seafood. Grover have now teamed up with Zampa in Maharashtra for distribution.
Started by Shamrao Chougule in the 70’s with vines planted on the slopes of Narayangaon in Maharashtra. They have a state of the art winery with a French winemaker and barrels of promise. Their wines were everywhere ten years ago and anyone over 40 will remember their amazing Marquise de Pompadour bubbly as much for the quality as the name and the lovely sparkling rose Millenium created in 2000. What happened? They stopped production for a few years due to various financial issues but I hear are back in business with son Ranjit at the helm and will be re-launching this year.
I was at one of the earliest tastings of Sula whites when Kerry Damskey, their American winemaker, showed off his early trials along with founder Rajeev Samant at the family home in Mumbai. Nearly 20 years later, the Stanford graduate has taken the company to another level and is said to have 70% market share in India. They have a huge portfolio of wines produced on their estates in Nashik. They can be credited with making Dindori famous and introducing the Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Riesling varieties to the area. They also distribute an impressive range of imported wines and Remy Cointreau spirits. They have an iconic festival in Nashik held once a year and were the forerunners in wine tourism in Nashik. Their bubbly – classic and rose- are lovely any time of the day.
Unpretentious and with a clear business strategy, Ashwin Rodrigues came back from studying wine making in Adelaide to create Good Drop wine cellars in Nashik. His mission was clear, to produce reasonable quality, reasonably priced, fruity, sparkling wine comparable with ‘babycham’, popular in the UK in the 60’s and 70’s as a glamorous “drink for women’. Rio’s aim is more ‘party than posh’ and hopes to become the easy drinking solution for today’s party girls. He has also bought over a premium wine brand called Good Earth, Casablanca and Antaraa.
Fratelli means ‘brothers’ in Italian and was started in 2006 by two Indian and an Italian family. I met Kapil Sekhri and Alessio Secci, the two working arms of the business, recently at their 240 acre estate in Akluj near Sholapur in Maharashtra. Why Akluj? Their Tuscan winemaker, Piero Masi, studied the soil and weather and decided that the conditions at Akluj were most favourable for grape growing and most resembled his native Chianti. When Fratelli wines first launched, I must say I wasn’t impressed. Just 9 years later, they are producing some of the best wines in the country. At the top of their stable is a powerful Tuscan style red called Sette, through to the mid range crispy Chardonnays to more sophisticated and higher range MS white. The Indian wine producer to look out for in 2017.
Started in just 2013, the Nashik winery floored me with its excellent wines as soon as they hit the market. Sad to say that they are less visible today. They produce a superb Sauvignon Blanc as well as a Reserve Temperanillo. If you can find a bottle of either or both, my advice is to stock up.
A boutique winery started by Hyderabad Uma Chigurupati and Krishna Prasad who had a pharmaceutical company. Their estates are in Hampi, otherwise famous as a Heritage site. Like Fratelli and Reveilo they also produce a stunning Sangiovese. These wines are only available in the South as of now. Look out for their distinctive, heavy reserve shaped bottles.
The Gurnani brothers have a beautiful wine estate in Nashik. They produce a wide range of easy drinking wines. However, their sparkling Cuvee Brut is the one to go for.
Myra hit the Bombay market with a bang a few years ago especially when Nikhil Agarwal of All Things Nice was behind their promotions. However, I haven’t seen them around for a while. Their reds, in particular the Shiraz Reserve is an excellent buy at Rs. 800.
Easy drinking wines from Maharashtra. Their late harvest dessert wine, Vin de Passerillage made with sun dried Chenin Blanc grapes is the one to go for.
Produced by John Distilleries Group, a big name in spirits from the South. Big Banyan are easy drinking wines made in Goa with Nashik grapes and sold mainly in Goa and South India. Easy to drink and easy on the pocket.