Zampagne anyone?

Zampagne anyone?
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First Published: Fri, Jul 31 2009. 08 28 PM IST

 Bottled: Zampa’s new wines are a shade better than their last batch. Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint
Bottled: Zampa’s new wines are a shade better than their last batch. Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint
Updated: Fri, Jul 31 2009. 08 28 PM IST
I am not new to the wines of Zampa but the name still makes me think of a tribal dance. I do not wish to create or imply stereotypes, but the name does evoke a certain sense of wildness, and that can be a good thing with something as dull as wine.
Bottled: Zampa’s new wines are a shade better than their last batch. Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint
The first time I tried Zampa wines I couldn’t tell if they were wines. They have come quite a long way since then and my compliments to Paul Bailey, the winemaker, with whom I have had quite a few interesting exchanges. Of the four new wines, the white is the first one I try and I can find nothing wrong with it: It has all the notes and sharps of a Sauvignon Blanc. Alcohol can be a bit heavy, hence the wine needs to be served super chilled. It still doesn’t taste as natural and effortless as, say, a similarly priced wine from New Zealand, but that would be an unfair comparison. As it stands, I am happy to recommend this to you.
The red, Syrah Cabernet, improved considerably since my first sip well over a year ago (read that review at www.livemint.com/winecuisine.htm), still needs work. I have often iterated how I can find a certain pungent note in wines from the Nashik region, and it takes a lot of masking to get rid of it. The white has managed to leave it behind but the red hasn’t. Call it Indian terroir or the Indian wine malady, but it is not pleasant. The wine is fruity in a slightly extracted and concentrated fruit-toffee manner (confected, as sommeliers would call it). The tannins are unformed and weak, the structure present but lacking in strength somewhat. The wine has fewer technical flaws than tactile and sensory shortcomings. This means that Bailey is now producing a fairly safe wine, so infusing it with passion shouldn’t be too difficult.
The next two, Zampagne, as the white and pink sparklers are called, play on the name of Zampa, combining it with Champagne. The similarity ends there. The white brut is lemony and has some minerality too, but is a tad simple and lacking in the yeasty aromas associated with a good Champagne-style traditional bubbly. I can detect that ol’ Nashik Pungency encore in both the bubblies. A slight lack of acidity, which can be reminiscent of warm climate bubblies, might cause concern.
The rosé is a fruitier prickly number. The aromas take time to settle—strawberries, some ripe bananas and melons—but the gas fizzes out way too fast in both the variants and leaves you wondering if this is truly Champagne-style wine or just an aerated beverage.
I tasted the rosé with a group of qualified tasters and they gave it their nod. I admit that both were better than the generic Indian bubblies, but that isn’t a great yardstick. Best packaging in the category I have seen yet, but the corks need a lot of cajoling and jostling to remove. Why can’t Indians get one decent Champenois over to show how it’s done?
On the whole, Zampa is improving. The wines are better with each batch. My personal palate is admittedly not the best gauge for public tastes or opinions but for what it’s worth, Zampa is showing good racing colours. For now, though, I will put my money on their Sauvignon Blanc.
Syrah Cabernet, Rs696, Sauvignon Blanc, Rs650, Zampagne Brut, Rs810, and Zampagne Sparkling Rosé, Rs990, currently available only in Mumbai.
Magandeep Singh is a wine and food writer and TV show host.
Write to lounge@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Jul 31 2009. 08 28 PM IST