As Oakwood Winery unveils “Reisha” , its range of barrel-aged red wines, Brinda Gill speaks to winemaker Rajesh Rasal to know how this wine came about…
Barrel-ageing is paramount for creating quality red wines. And this is the driving philosophy of the Keval family-owned Oakwood Winery at Shrirampur, 183 kms northeast of Pune, Maharashtra. Since 2010, the winery has been producing a variety of wines – white and red, tank-aged and barrel-aged, for its own labels as well as for other wineries and has now launched the Reisha range featuring four variants of barrel-aged red wines.
These four variants are Reisha Shiraz Reserve (oak-aged for 15 months), Reisha Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (oak-aged for 15 months), Reisha Cabernet Sauvignon Grande Reserve (oak-aged for 18 months), and Reisha Grand Cru Cabernet Shiraz Reserve (oak-aged for 30 months).
The star of the pack is the Reisha Grand Cru Cabernet Shiraz Reserve, which has an interesting journey. Two barrels, one each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, were left at the Oakwood winery after supplying bulk wines of each to another winery in early 2013; these two barrels were practically forgotten when they were “discovered” by the team later in the year.
Mathias Pellisard, the Oakwood winemaker, who had vinified these two barrels, tasted the wines and said they had immense potential and it would be a pity to sell them in bulk. “The barrels were like a lost treasure,” says Amit Keval, Director, Oakwood Winery, “and we were keen to create a premium wine with them.” Soon afterwards, Amit and Rajesh Rasal, Oakwood’s consulting winemaker, had a discussion about making a truly special wine with the wines in the two barrels. Rajesh took charge of the barrels and tasted them regularly over the ensuing months.
In July 2015, Rajesh felt the tannins had softened and integrated into the fruit flavours of the wine, and it was time to blend and bottle the wines. He suggested that the wine be bottled unfiltered to retain their subtler aromas. Uttam Sonu Keval, the family patriarch and a highly experienced master blender, and Yogesh Keval, the resident winemaker, also tasted the wines and shared their thoughts.
Meanwhile, the creative team starting working on the brand. “I was very keen on creating a brand of oak-aged wines. Reisha means ‘roots’ in Persian, and this had a different meaning from terroir as being rooted or mature. The decision to name the blend Grand Cru conveys its high quality and that premium barrel-aged wines can be made in India”, explains Amit.
Rajesh oversaw the blending of the wines and their bottling and the Reisha range, with Reisha Grand Cru Cabernet Shiraz Reserve as the highlight, was presented in the market in November 2015. Only 700 bottles – each numbered – of Reisha Grand Cru Cabernet Shiraz Reserve are available. The wine is presently only available at De Vineyard store, Pune, and is priced at Rs 1,700.
Redolent with fruit and bold oak flavours, the intense, full-bodied Reisha Grand Cru Cabernet Shiraz Reserve has good ageing potential. And given the appreciation it has received, a set of barrels from the 2014 vintage has been kept aside to make Reisha Grand Cru Cabernet Shiraz an annual release.