Wine wisdom: notes from the local grapevine5 min read . Updated: 30 Nov 2013, 12:19 AM IST
In India, both wine and sparkling wine cost about the same
In India, both wine and sparkling wine cost about the same
What’s your grape? And please don’t say Pinot Noir. That’s a safe bet; a cop out really; one that you cannot go wrong with. Pinots are the last stop for most oenophiles. Since I cannot afford DRC (Domaine de la Romanée Conti), I have to depend on the Marlborough region of New Zealand.
Pinots, after all, have been endorsed by that most popular of wine movies: Sideways. Unfortunately for the other varietals, this endorsement is for good reason. Who can forget Miles’ (a character in Sideways) passionate speech on the virtues of Pinot Noirs. “…it’s a hard grape to grow…it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It’s…not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and uh, thrive even when it’s neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention…. And in fact it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked-away corners of the world. And, and only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Then, I mean, oh its flavours, they’re just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and...ancient on the planet." Makes one want to move to Burgundy, France, and taste these ancient flavours.
Nobody in India makes Pinot Noir. The closest to Indian you can get is the excellent Indian Creek Pinot Noir from Navarro Vineyards in Mendocino, California. India, however, has come forth with some decent wines recently. I want to start with my favourite: Chandon.
Mumbaikars probably toasted Sachin Tendulkar with it but here in Bangalore, we won’t see it till early 2014. I had my friend carry it from Mumbai and loved it, but not necessarily for the right reasons. You see, as an Indophile, I love it when large luxury companies cater to the Indian market. I am still waiting for Hermès to unveil the Indian version of Shang Xia, the “created in China" brand that is an offshoot of Hermès. In India, we could call it Veda.
I think it is about time that luxury brands recognize the spending potential of Indian consumers. The fact that Moët & Chandon recognizes this and has created a bubbly tailored for the Indian market warms my cockles. The second reason is the price. The Brut costs ₹ 1,200 and the Rose costs ₹ 1,400 in Maharashtra. I liked the Rose better. Then again, I only got two bottles, so that could change. Both were yeasty and paired well with vegetarian food. The last reason has to do with personal preference and palate. Champagne is my drink. I like how it looks. I like how it tastes with the food I eat every day and I like the bubbles. If you don’t like bubbles, don’t bother with Chandon.
Ironically, most champagne costs about $30 (around ₹ 1,885) in the US. Good wine, on the other hand, can be had for half that money. In India, both wine and sparkling wine cost about the same, which is one way to square this in your head. In other words, if you are paying over ₹ 2,500 for a half-way decent Pinot Noir in India, you might as well pay a little more for Veuve Clicquot.
The other name that is being bandied about in the sparkling wine universe is Fratelli’s Gran Cuvée Brut. Again, I had a friend bring it from Mumbai (it costs ₹ 995 there and ₹ 1,050 in New Delhi). Chenin Blanc is rather insipid to my taste, but this bottle, which contained 100% Chenin Blanc, is the only way I can drink this varietal. The grape is easy to cultivate in India, which is probably why Fratelli chose it instead of the usual Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier that go into champagne. Lots of sparkling wines, including those at Limoux, France, where bubbly wine is supposed to have originated, use the high acidity of Chenin Blanc to blend their wines. Fratelli has had a good run. Its Sette—great after decanting for a couple of hours—won the Silver at the Decanter Asia Wine Awards 2013, which is a bit of a zoo with a head-swimming amount of regional and other trophies. Still, an award counts and Fratelli continues to win (its Cheninc Blanc—inexplicably to my mind—won a UK award last year).
I have a soft spot for Grover because it was a pioneer and its La Reserve allowed me to bond with my French neighbours. Over the last few years, however, the brand has faced many hiccups. The quality of the wine suffered. Thanks to some capital infusion, the newly rechristened Grover Zampa Vineyards launched the Chêne Grand Reserve 2010 last month. At ₹ 1,700 per bottle, it is expensive, but with just 3,000 bottles, available only in Maharashtra, they should sell. In a nifty move, Grover has aged the bottles for a full month more (15 months) than other wines, thus allowing it to be called the “most aged Indian wine". I am looking forward to drinking it, if only to see if it is worth the price.
At the other end of the spectrum is Deva Wines, costing ₹ 500 each. Disclosure: The company sent me two free bottles: a red Syrah and a white Chardonnay. I liked the fact that the winery is owned by a woman, Shaambavi Hingorani. Then, I learned that she was a daughter of privilege, former Union Minister S.M.Krishna’s daughter. As for the wines, what can I say? They offer a low carbon footprint for Bangaloreans, relative to New Zealand wines.
I have had a nice balanced Cabernet Sauvignon recently from Riding High, an American winery. It is available in Bangalore for about ₹ 1,200. I haven’t had much luck with some other local Cabernet Sauvignons. They are too tannic, which is like sandpaper being rubbed against your tongue. A food group that I am part of loves Four Wise Men wines. We read about them in Mint Lounge’s pages, and I have ordered six bottles. Many of us felt that we had to decant it for an hour at least for the flavours to bloom.
Here’s my best tip: If you live in India, buy a decanter. Trust me, you’ll use it all the time.
Shoba Narayan has stocked up on sparkling wine for Christmas. Write to her at email@example.com
Also Read | Shoba’s previous Lounge columns