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How good is the grape in India?

Hundreds of wines are being launched, while many boutique wineries are springing up in India. Money is being thrown at labels and design. But the big question is, what do they taste like?

india Updated: May 11, 2010 15:09 IST
Naomi Canton

http://www.hindustantimes.com/images/edstoryimg/red-wine.gifHundreds of wines are being launched, while many boutique wineries are springing up in India. Money is being thrown at labels and design. But the big question is, what do they taste like? We asked professional independent wine taster Sonal Holland to taste 10 of the new wines available in Mumbai, and give us her verdict. After much spitting into a mug one afternoon at her home, this is what she said...

New Indian wines on the market
Below Rs 500 Mumbai Dreamz White

Price: Rs 295

Launched: November 2009

Buy it at: Judes Wines, Bandra; Variety Wine Merchant, Juhu; Vishal Wines, Sakinaka; Raja Jani Wines, Andheri; Basant Wines, Chembur; Anita Wines, Sion

Facts: Produced by Terroir India – Indus Wines, to appeal to the common man

Verdict: Nice, bright lemon in colour. Clean aromas of fresh cut grass, stone fruit, with hints of pineapple. Stone fruit is combined with citrus lemon on the palate, with good levels of refreshing acidity and a clean crisp finish. A dry light-bodied summer wine that offers value for money. There are no off-flavours, which is impressive for this price point. A negative is the slight alcohol warmth at the back of the throat, which indicates that the alcohol is not well integrated — making the wine a bit fuller bodied than required. I wouldn’t serve this wine at a dinner party, but someone looking for a good value for money and summer afternoon wine, may.

In a tweet: Nice for the price Mumbai Dreamz Red

Price: Rs 295

Launched: November 2009

Buy it at: Judes Wines, Bandra; Variety Wine Merchant, Juhu; Vishal Wines, Sakinaka; Raja Jani Wines, Andheri; Basant Wines, Chembur; Anita Wines Sion

Facts: Produced by Terroir India – Indus Wines, to appeal to the common man.

Verdict: A very pale-coloured unattractive ruby red appearance. Smells oxidised and of drain pipes. I don’t feel like tasting it. (Does so and nearly chokes. Spits it out immediately.) I feel like I have drunk from a drain. It tastes really bad. It’s a faulty wine, unclean on the nose and palate.

In a tweet: The wine is out of condition Mosaic White (Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc blend)

Price: Rs 330

Launched: October 2009

Buy it at: All Santé and Nature’s Basket outlets in Mumbai, as well as most popular liquor stores.

Facts: Produced by Sula Vineyards in Nashik

Verdict: Nice bright pale lemon colour. Aromatic on the nose with floral, cut-grass (which comes from the Sauvignon Blanc) and hints of spice and fennel. On the palate, the wine is off-dry (slightly sweet) with refreshing acidity and plenty of citrus lemon, white flowers and hint of spice. Full-flavoured on the palate, but lacks a long satiable finish and ends quickly. This wine would complement Indian spicy food well and people who prefer off dry (sweeter) wines would enjoy this.

In a tweet: A no-complaint wine for the novice Indian wine drinker

Mosaic Red (Grenache Syrah blend)

Price: Rs 360

Launched: October 2009

Buy it at: All Santé and Nature’s Basket outlets in Mumbai, as well as most popular liquor stores. FACTS: Produced by Sula Vineyards in Nashik

Verdict: Deep purple colour, denoting a youthful wine. Aromas of blackcurrants, cherries, with a hint of vegetal. On the palate, the wine is dry, packed with black fruit flavours coming from the Grenache grape, soft yet drying tannins, optimum levels of acidity with fairly well integrated alcohol but a short length. It lacks complexity. It’s good value for money. I would not use it at an intimate or important occasion, but it’s an acceptable quality wine, particularly if you’re on a budget.

In a tweet: The kind of bottle you would serve when throwing a party for lots of people

The wine taster
Sonal Holland is an independent professional wine taster, consultant and writer. Trained from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), she advises hotels and restaurants over what wines to stock. She is also the founder of the Sonal Holland Wine Academy, which provides WSET qualification courses in India. Her aim is to create a pool of qualified professionals for the rapidly expanding Indian wine industry.

Did you know?
It takes about two and a half pounds (600 to 800) of grapes to make one bottle of wine.
About 800 gallons of wine are produced from a vineyard, which is an acre in size.
There are more than 10,000
varieties of wine grapes in the world.
There are about 85 calories in a glass of red or white wine (same number of calories as in the equivalent amount of grape juice).
The first wines were produced in Georgia and Iran in 6,000 BC.
France, Italy and Spain produce more wine than any country in the world.
Wine has 10 to 14 per cent alcohol content. The rest is water.
The major bulk of wine in India is harvested in March and April.

‘Good packaging is always a positive’
Above Rs 500 Grovers Chenin Blanc 2009 (white)

price: Rs 500

Launched: April 2010 in Maharashtra

Buy it at: Nature’s Basket outlets; Framroze and Company, Walkeshwar; Peekay Wines; Pinky Wines and Shah Wines

FactS: Produced by Grovers Vineyards, Bangalore

Verdict: Good packaging is always a positive (refers to art label by Sanjay Bhattacharya), especially in India where knowledge of wines is poor. A good label gives the perception of being a good wine. This has an attractive pale lemon green colour, with a citrus aroma and hints of cut grass. But it has an off dry (sweetish) taste with sharp levels of acidity with a perceived sense of burning alcohol at the back of the throat. The art label and price raise expectations. But it lacks complexity and has a short finish with alcohol cloying on the palate. I would not buy this wine. People who like an off dry wine and don’t mind the alcohol burn may like it.

In a tweet:Not worth the moneyy

Grovers Shiraz (red) 2009

price: Rs 500

Launched: April 2010 in Mahrashtra

Buy it at: Nature’s Basket outlets; Framroze and Company, Walkeshwar; Peekay Wines; Pinky Wines; and Shah Wines

Facts: Produced by Grovers Vineyards, Bangalore

Verdict: The Paresh Maity label again is very attractive. A deep ruby appearance packed with red and black fruits on the nose with aromas of cassis, cinnamon and hints of menthol. But you can also feel the vapours of alcohol. On the palate, the wine displays ripe red and black fruit with hints of spiciness. Negatives, however, are the drying tannins, un-integrated alcohol, and short length with a bitter aftertaste. It’s not a faulty wine, but lacks balance and smoothness. I have not particularly enjoyed this and have no idea who would.

In a tweet: Needs improvement Zampa Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (white)

price: Rs 620

Launched: July 2009

Buy it at: Nature’s Basket outlets, Shoprite, Hypercity, Spencers, Juben Wines, Shah Wines, Pinky Wines, Peekay Wines, Aradhna Wines, Olive, Joss, private members’ clubs, Taj Group

Facts: Produced by Zampa Wines at the Vallée de Vin vineyard in Nashik

Verdict: Pale, lemon green appearance. Clean bouquet of herbaceous fresh cut grass, green pepper and gooseberry with hints of floral. On the palate, it is dry with well-balanced acidity and good concentration of fruit and herbaceous flavours. It’s a good varietal expression of a typical Sauvignon Blanc, and a well-made example at that! Will complement salads, seafood, and also Indian cuisine.

In a tweet: A good Sauvignon Blanc from Indiam In Reveilo Grillo (white)

price: Rs 605

Launched: April 2010 Buy it at: Nature’s Basket; Peekay Wines; Enjay Wines, Andheri East; Kwality Wines, Santacruz; Modern Wines, Shivaji Park; Pankaj Wines, Khar; and Star Wines, Powai

Facts: Produced by Nashik-based Vintage Wines

Verdict: The Grillo is a Sicilian grape variety. Reveilo are the first Indian company to have experimented with wines from this grape in India. It has a nice, deep yellow golden colour, grapefruit aroma and notes of vegetal aromas of tomato and some unripe greens. The wine has an unusual palate. The positives are that it is dry, with good levels of acidity and well-integrated alcohol. However, the grapefruit, tomato and vegetal flavours with a slightly sour finish, may or, may not appeal to the consumers. It is a rather full-bodied wine and will be best enjoyed chilled, since warmer temperatures would make it flabby. It is best to have it with food like a tandoori item or grilled fish, rather than on its own.

In a tweet: Go and make your own judgmentgment

Nero D’Avola (red)

price: Rs 645

Launched: April 2010

Buy it at: Nature’s Basket; Peekay Wines, Crawford Market; Enjay Wines, Andheri East; Kwality Wines, Santacruz; Modern Wines, Shivaji Park; Pankaj Wines, Khar; and Star Wines, Powai Facts: Produced by Nashik-based Vintage Wines

Verdict: Nero D’Avola is Sicily’s most popular red grape and again Reveilo was the first to plant it in India. It is a medium ruby appearance with sour cherries, earthy aromas on the nose. The palate displays intensely ripe black and red cherries, mineral notes with hints of green leafy vegetal flavours. The tannins are unobtrusive and it has well integrated alcohol with balanced acidity, however the wine overall lacks complexity, depth and length, which is important in a red wine. I wouldn’t serve it an intimate dinner party, but may take it to a friend’s.

In a tweet: Drinkable and straightforward red wine, but lacks complexity

Indian wine market

The average per capita consumption of wine in India is 4.6 ml, a little less than a medicinal syringe per person.
In France, the average adult drinks 64 litres of wine per year. The British on average drink 27 litres a year.
Ten years ago, the market for wines in India did not exist.
Domestic cheap wines in India constitute 150,000 cases per year, domestic wines of international standard comprise 160,000 cases, wines imported in bulk and bottled here constitute 15,000 cases and imported wines comprise of 50,000 cases.
The Indian wine market has been growing at 30 per cent since 1997.