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The foreign grape

As the popularity of wine grows in India, more foreign wineries want a piece of the pie. But they end up a tad heavy on the wallet. Are they any better than local wines? We asked professional independent wine taster Sonal Holland to taste seven new foreign wines recently launched in Mumbai and give us her verdict.

india Updated: May 23, 2010 14:40 IST
Naomi Canton

BELOW Rs 1,000
African Horizon Sauvignon Blanc (white)
Price: Rs 970
Launched: November 2009
Buy it at: All Sante and Nature’s Basket outlets in Mumbai
Facts: Produced by Origin Wine in South Africa and imported by Sula
Verdict: Pale lemon gold colour, aromas of asparagus, gooseberry and capsicum typical of a Sauvignon Blanc grape. But the wine is dry (not sweet) and has very sharp acidity, which overshadows other flavours in the wine. The high acidity is out of balance, making the wine tart and one-dimensional. You can tell it’s a Sauvignon Blanc, but I would have preferred roundness and balance on the palate. You could drink an Indian Sauvignon Blanc at half the price, which would display purer fruit character, roundness and more complexity.
In a tweet: You can get a better Indian Sauvignon Blanc at half the price

African Horizon Pinotage (red)
Price: Rs 970
Launched: November 2009
Buy it at: All Sante and Nature’s Basket outlets in Mumbai
Facts: Produced by Origin Wine in South Africa and imported by Sula
Verdict: Pinotage is the signature indigenous grape of South Africa, a cross between a Cinsault and Pinot Noir grape, so this should be good. However, the very pale, almost faded ruby colour does not create a good start. On the nose, I get ripe red fruits like strawberries, plums and hint of roses. It reminds me of a Pinot Noir. On the palate, the flavours match the nose of ripe red fruits with a hint of spice. But, alas, it does not linger for long and it tastes flat. A little more body and weight might have improved the overall texture and feel of the wine. There should be a greater concentration of fruit flavours in a Pinotage. It seems to be diluted. I cannot help but notice a bitter after-taste. I doubt Indians would enjoy it, a novice might drink it, but it’s not a wine to remember.
In a tweet: Unimpressive

Above Rs 1,000
Sol De Chile Sauvignon Chardonnay (white)

Price: Rs 1,029
Launched: December 2008
Buy it at: World Wide Wines, Mulund; Ashish Wines, Tardeo; Chandreshwar Wines, Kandivali
Facts: Produced and bottled by Sol De Chile winery in Chile
Verdict: Pale lemon colour. Medium intensity attractive bouquet and palate displays ripe tropical fruits such as mangoes, bananas and hints of white flowers, with some bubblegum aromas. It is medium to full-bodied, with a soft rounded texture. Indians will like this because it’s off dry (sweetish). It’s a commercial quality wine that would appeal to the masses. You could have it on it’s own or with cheeses and tandoori dishes.
In a tweet: Well-made commercial wine that would please most people

De Bertoli Willowglen Cabernet Merlot (red)
Price: Rs 1,152
Launched: January 2010
Buy it at: Aradhana Wines, Andheri; Juben Wines, Juhu; Living Liquidz, Vile Parle; Hypercity, Malad
Facts: Produced by De Bertoli, a family wine company in Australia.
Verdict: De Bertoli has a reputation for being a very good producer of quality wines. This wine has an attractive ruby red colour with a medium intensity aroma of ripe red cherries, blackberries, and blackcurrants infused with oak derived spice. The wine is quite aromatic and inviting. On the palate, the tannins are soft and ripe, there is well-integrated acidity and alcohol, and generous amounts of ripe red and black fruit with a spicy backbone. It is a complex and medium bodied, not full bodied, but easy drinking wine. I could easily finish a whole bottle. It would also make a nice gift for a friend or you could serve at a dinner party. Given the duties we pay in India, it is good value, and I like the elegant label.
In a tweet: Good quality red wine that would make a great gift

Domaine Paul Mas, Vignes de Paul Valmont Blanc, Vin de Pays d’Oc 2008 (white)
Price: Rs 1,299
Launched: May 2009.
Buy it at: Living Liquidz, Andheri; Juben Wines, Juhu
Facts: A French blended white wine
Verdict: Vin de Pays D’oc is a region in the South of France where many variety of grapes are grown. There is no mention of a grape on this bottle but it is definitely a blend. It has a crystal medium-gold appearance – very nice. Ripe tropical fruits like mango, pineapple, bananas on the nose. Slightly sweet on the palate, however, the wine seems to be partially oxidised so not in its prime state. I would not keep it for long. It has a synthetic cork, but they are notorious for causing random oxidisation in wine bottles.
In a tweet: Oxidised somewhat faulty product. Needs to be drunk fast

Above Rs 1,500
Gerard Bertrand 6eme SENS Syrah/Grenache/Merlot (red)

Price: Rs 1,550
Launched: May 2009
Buy it at: Silver Coin Wines, Khar, Rustom Beer and Wines, Colaba
Facts: Produced in France
Verdict: Deep ruby colour. Medium intensity aromas of red cherries, betel leaves and hint of oak derived spice. On the palate, medium-bodied, ripe black and red fruit with gripping dry tannins and well-integrated alcohol. But the tannis leave an after-taste for too long. Quite a chewy wine so you need to drink it with some protein foods like red meat to help soften the tannins and make it more pleasurable. Given that it’s imported and thus more pricey, I would not rush to buy it.
In a tweet: Dry and chewy red goes best with weighty food, but not value for money

De Bertoli Windy Peak Classic White (white)
Price:
Rs 1,991
Launched: January 2010
Buy it at: Aradhana Wines, Andheri, Juben Wines II, Andheri
Facts: Made with a Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grape blend and produced by De Bertoli
Verdict: The grape and vintage is not mentioned on the label, suggesting it is a table wine. It is a pale, almost water-white lemon colour, with subdued aromas of lemon, combined with herbaceous notes. Quite aromatic. On the palate, the wine bursts with white flowers, refreshing acidity and lemon. It is a neat, crisp easy drinking wine, perfect for summer afternoons or brunches. Best enjoyed on its own. But for its high price, it lacks depth and complexity. It is a delicate wine and if paired with heavy or full-flavoured foods, it could get overpowered. I would have expected it to be below Rs 1,500.
In a tweet: Delicate, refreshing classic wine that lacks complexity and depth

-Sonal Holland

Sonal Holland is an independent qualified professional wine taster, consultant and writer. Qualified from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) in London, she advises hotels and restaurants in India on wines. She is also founder of the Sonal Holland Wine Academy, which is an approved provider of WSET qualification courses in India.