Michel Rolland on Grover and the Indian Wine Market

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The influential Bordeaux oenologist, Michel Rolland was in Bangalore recently for his annual visit to Grover Vineyards. Sommelier India interviewed Rolland and found his comments that India makes much better quality wine compared to the cheap international wines encouraging. rolland1a.jpg


1. How and when did you first get involved in Grover Vineyards?
It all started 14 years ago, in 1994. Though the project began much before, Mr. Grover came and met me in 1994. I have been here ever since and I am enjoying it immensely, or else I would not have been here!!
2. What changes have you made since you became the consultant?
Well, we had to start from the beginning. We had to do everything of course. We never made changes. We just discovered how to make wine in India. When I take a new project in Bordeaux, we don’t have to discover too much. We just need to manage and control. But here in India, we don’t have to change. We have to discover and we have to create. Whenever I come I try a lot of blends. I come once a year, but I have one of my assistants coming here thrice a year.

grovershiraz1.jpg 3. What unique viticulture adjustments are required for international varietals to succeeding India?

Viticulture adjustments… well, I can write a book on that!! Viticulture all over the world was done in non tropical climate. But here in India it is in tropical climate. There is a complete difference in traditional viticulture and what we are doing here. That’s the main point and a huge difference that we can find.
4. Tell us about your winemaking experience at Grover’s.What is the most common weakness in Indian winemaking?

Wine making actually depends upon the kind of grapes that are available. The grapes, here in India vary in terms of sugar, acidity, aromas etc. We have to adapt the vinification to the quality of grapes available here at Grover Vineyards. We need to understand what is happening here. Things are not completely scientific here. There are various factors that affect the growth of vines and these change due to the change in climate, soil etc, which are not in any ones hands. But we have learnt through experimenting what are the possibilities. Hence we have to adapt the vinification according to the grapes that are available here.
As far as my experience at Grover’s is concerned, it is different. I have been to France, Chile, Argentina, and Italy and have done the same things there about 35 years ago. But they have all been non tropical climates. So an extremely important factor that adds to the challenge an experience is the tropical climate here in India.
5. With so many new Indian wines in the market, what would you say is key to Grover’s continuing success?
There are two major factors pertaining to this question.
Since they have been the market leaders in terms of quality it is relatively easier to maintain this position. Secondly, if they lead the market, it’s because they came in much before the others did. Year on year we are carrying out experiments to make sure we come out with better quality wine and maintain this position. Everyone at Grover Vineyards, the partners etc want to do well and I am sure they will, with or with out me.
6. From your perspective as an international consultant with over 100 wineries, how do you view Indian wines and the Indian wine market?
I would not want to comment on the per capita consumption of wine in India as the market is too small. But there are 35 million people who are drinking wine in France, Belgium and UK. There is huge potential. Even if they have one extra bottle of Indian wine every year, there is a lot to look forward to. The future looks very good.
7. There is a view that international wines available cheaply will hinder the development of the Indian wine industry. What do you think?
No, I do not think cheap international wines in India will affect the Indian wines. India makes much better quality wine than the cheap wines made internationally. Also, the tax policies are very high in India. The international wines are available at higher rates.
Also, the wine market needs to be educated. and it is the duty of the Indian wineries to ensure education of their consumers.
8. The last time we met you mentioned you only drink Indian wine in India. Surely you must miss the more complex wines you are accustomed to? What are you drinking these days at home?

Well, these days some times at home as well I have been having Indian wine. I entertain my friends and serve Indian wine and they are pleasantly surprised with the quality that we are churning out.
At home I am having ANY wine. There is no bad wine. All wine is good wine and is meant to be enjoyed!
For more on Michel Rolland, read this New York Times story.

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