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On Indian terroir

On Indian terroir
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First Published: Sat, Jan 26 2008. 12 04 AM IST

Updated: Sat, Jan 26 2008. 12 04 AM IST
Seventy-three wine producers from Italy, 2,000 botles of wine, 500 visitors including distributors, importers, restaurant owners and wine lovers. Vinitaly, the world’s largest wine exhibition, was in India recently for its third edition. We bumped into some interesting people in the crowd.
Alessia Antinori
“There’s a way to go for Indian wine. I’m not saying long or short, but there’s a way to go.”
Claim to fame:She is the 26th generation of the Antinori family, arguably Italy’s most important winemakers. Her father is the president of Grandi Marchi, an association of 18 of the top wine producers of Italy, and she came to India to stand in for him and also promote Antinori wines.
Wine-win:The 32-year-old calls herself a wine addict and she can’t do without a glass of wine with her meals. “Sometimes I can finish a bottle on my own,” she says. Antinori has tried all available domestic wines, but ask her opinion on them and she takes the easy way out. “They are interesting.”
India Inc.: For an Italian, she knows more about India than many Indians. A regular visitor to the country for the last 10 years, Antinori has been to Ladakh, Kerala and most places in between, including Varanasi, Kolkata and the Andamans. She loves Bollywood, and having just attended a wedding in Gujarat wearing a Banarsi sari, she can’t stop gushing about the food, dancing, clothes and family traditions. “It’s a four-day long event,” she says, surprised. “I love Indian food, but I always fall sick after eating it,” she says about her favourite dal and chicken masala. But she isn’t complaining, India is her favourite country after all—second only to Italy.
Count Francesco Marone Cinzano
“We have been in this business so long that now people say we have wine, not blood, running through our veins.”
Claim to fame: He is president of the Col D’orcia estates in Montalcino; the president of the consortium of Brunello di Montalcino producers—the governing body charged with overseeing the production and worldwide promotion of one of the most popular wines in Italy; and belongs to the Italian aristocracy. His family has been in the wine business since the 16th century, and for the family’s contribution to the industry, the title of count was conferred on an ancestor in the 19th century.
Wine-win: The 48 year old used to drink everything from vodka and whisky to gin in his partying days, but has quit for the last few years. “I liked drinking, but didn’t like the day after,” he laughs. Now he only drinks wine and liquor made of a rare medicinal herb, Artimisia. “If it’s a good wine, even a whole bottle will not affect you the next day. I drink wine as an aperitif, along with my meal and as liquid dessert. Only because the doctors say it is healthy,” he laughs.
India Inc.:He says the future lies with the Bric countries and so India is on his radar, always. Regularly tuned into BBC for a dose of current affairs, his face lights up at the mention of Sonia Gandhi and he wants to know about her children. Cinzano’s first visit was to Rajasthan 25 years ago; he later visited New Delhi where he’s tried the local staples of naans, kebabs and curries. “I even had meals at private homes in Rajasthan,” says the count. Ask him about Indian wine, and he thinks, before saying ambiguously: “It has a very local flavour.”
Angelo Jermann
“It was a dream for me to come to India.”
Claim to fame:Jermann doesn’t come from a long line of wine producers; his father was born in Canada. But he inherited the wine business after his father went back to Italy, to his passion of wine production. He was here to promote the Jermann label, not very well-known, but highly respected among wine connoisseurs.
Wine-win: The 29 year old has studied viticulture, teaches a sommelier course and is now doing an MBA in international wine business. The eldest of four children, he says he grew up at their vineyard and wineries. “It’s not possible to have my meals without wine and as a family we have at least three bottles a day,” he says.
ndia Inc.: “I don’t like blondes. I prefer Moroccan or Indian, dark-haired, dark-eyed women,” says the good-looking bachelor. Jermann also loves Indian culture because it’s quite close to his Italian values. On his first visit to the country, Jermann has already done the naan and curry thing in five-star hotels and loved it, but like most visitors, he’s quite taken aback by the poverty. “But it’s the only real democracy in Asia,” he says.
Michele Shah
“They are drinkable, pleasant wines but I don’t think Indian wines will ever achieve the complexity of European fine wines”
Claim to fame:A correspondent for Decanter, UK’s most respected wine magazine, she was here to hold guided tasting seminars for the Brunello di Montalcino wines.
Wine-win:The 50-year-old British writer started her career doing public relations work for a development agency, but having spent most of her life in Italy, the passion for wines turned into a profession 10 years ago. She has tried most Indian wines, met the winemakers and says that there’s a long road before Indians make wine a part of their life. “It’s hard for people to imagine having wine with their thali.”
India Inc.:“I fell in love with India and maybe that’s why I later fell in love with an Indian,” laughs Shah, who’s married to Vikram Shah, a British-Indian who worked for the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. She’s been coming regularly since her first visit here for a Himalayan trek 10 years ago. “I’ve seen more of India than my husband,” says the woman who’s seen the Taj Mahal three times. And according to Shah, much like Italians, Indians are chaotic, emotional and family-oriented.
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First Published: Sat, Jan 26 2008. 12 04 AM IST
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