Of Reserves And Reservations
Unity and diversity is what makes wine such a lovely living piece of art to explore
Photo Credit : Ritesh Sharma
Wine is quite the unifier and the divider. It brings people together at the table from different walks of life but then divides them as per their preferences: there are white lovers and there are red patrons; those who like bright fruit and those who prefer their wines oak-tinged. But that unity and diversity is what makes wine such a lovely living piece of art to explore. In fact, in a world of absolutes, the subjective seduction of wine makes it all the more endearing.
In an ideal world, wine would divide along all segments — colour, sweetness, sourness, even ageability — but the one thing it should never divide on the basis of is provenance. While where a wine comes from definitely contributes to its uniqueness, it is never the only reason that makes us covet it.
Which brings me, albeit all too swiftly, to Indian wines. Mention those two words in a gathering of erudite wine aficionados and it will make them squirm, maybe even leave the room faster than a fire drill.
Admitted that we aren’t quite there, and not all our wines are laudable or even commendable, but there is a small selection of wines which is made with as much passion and in as painstaking a manner as some of their most coveted peers in the world. In fact, these handful of Indian wines could stand toe to toe with the very same international wines.
J’Noon Sparkling: The collaboration between famed French winemaker Jean-Charles Boisset and Fratelli Vineyards culminated in some truly unprecedented wines. I have mentioned the Sparkling here but the white and red are equally meritorious. The sparkling was definitely my favourite since the launch, showing aromas of crisp baked lemon tarts and some autolytic notes of buttery brioche buns! It was made in the traditional method as are some of the top bubblies of the world and aged on its lees before being bottled. Only 2,400 bottles of each type were made and released. These might be the most expensive wines India has ever seen but the value-for-money component, not to mention the pride quotient, are both much higher than one may find even in other bottles from some of the top wine-producing regions of e world.
KRSMA Cabernet Sauvignon: The Chigurupatis were pretty much the pioneers of the Indian cult wine segment, beginning in a small vineyard in Hampi, uprooting it and starting with plantations anew. Today, KRSMA’s Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the few wines to have been lauded by critics worldwide and has also made it to some very coveted wine lists of the top restaurants around the world, Le Cirque in New York being one of them. And that is not all, it was also the first one to be bottled in magnums. The wine is a big bold number, young even after half a decade in the bottle, and almost always improves on decanting. Think blackberries and smoked hickory over a layer of cocoa and coffee, that pretty much sums up this complex beauty.
Grover-Zampa Insignia: This limited edition bottling of 100 per cent Syrah came from a single vineyard which had been produced, aged and bottled on estate. The ageing was carried out in French oak barrels for nearly 22 months before the wine was deemed ready to be bottled. It was bottled mostly in Magnums (the current second lot is around 600 magnums) and about 300 regular-sized bottles. The wine is a silky smooth little number with gentle tannins and a lovely fruity linger, gracefully supported by toast on the finish. The wine shows decent ageing potential but it is also extremely ready to drink straight off the shelf. But it is only sold at cellar door so if you really want a taste of this, book your trip to their vineyards just outside the city of Bengaluru.
York Yatra: Liam Stevenson, (MW) and the Gurnanis of York managed to meet over a wine symposium in February 2017 when the wine for that vintage was already in the tanks but so inspiring were the samples that they decided to work on a blend together. What came out was a 100 per cent Shiraz, oak aged in all-French barrels of which 30 per cent were new. French oak was preferred as they found it more seamless to integrate into their wine. While the fruit comes from the same vineyards as Arros, (the existing house reserve which is more Shiraz-Cabernet), it is the handling of Yatra that is entirely different, being classic Northern Rhone in style. The name Yatra was chosen by Liam as a metaphor to sum up his journey and learnings in India over the years. With a first run of 800 bottles it was a tiny production, all of it destined for the United Kingdom. The next lot promises to be bigger but let’s see if we get to see it on local shelves at all.
Charosa Tempranillo Reserve: This wine has been an unprecedented find since its very first vintage; hailing from the Dindori region of Nashik, it is light and fruit-driven, gently grippy with a soft sour berry linger, a touch of toasty oak and overall very affable. The wine shows the fruitier and gentler side of Tempranillo, the main Spanish grape for reds, but instead of power as it shows in the Rioja, this Indian version rides more on elegance. The wine was once presented (well, more sneaked in) by yours truly at a blind tasting of Spanish Rioja reds and even some of the Spanish winemakers considered it good enough to mistake it for a local ‘Joven’ style from their region. For me, that was redemption enough to ensure a steady supply at home.
There was a time when I used to carry Indian sweets and savoury snacks as a traditional Indian gift. Some time ago, I graduated to Indian single malts. Finally, the time is nigh when we can carry forth Indian wines and finally put the world’s largest democracy on the prestigious wine map of the world.
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