A Gala Affair for Indian Wine Lovers


DSC_0317.JPGThe Annual Gala Wine Tasting & Celebration Dinner jointly hosted by The Wine Society of India and Sommelier India presents a great opportunity to meet members of the Indian wine fraternity including consumers, producers and importers. Everybody present looked resplendent and was eager to try the different wines on offer, says contributing writer, Sonal Holland.
Pictured above: Reva K. Singh presenting Chintamani Rao a Gift Subscription to Sommelier India

Laid out for the tasting in The Champagne Ballroom of Hotel Novotel in Mumbai were 66 wines from 11 different countries, including India. Piper Heidsieck Champagne NV as the welcome drink was befitting the celebratory mood as Steven Spurrier – arguably a world famous authority on wines as well as the Chairman of The Wine Society of India – rendered a warm welcome address. Reva K. Singh, founder and publisher of Sommelier India, the country’s leading wine magazine, also took the podium briefly to welcome everyone and present the prizes.
Direct Wines, a UK based independent wine retail company has recently acquired a strategic stake in The Wine Society of India. Simon McMurtrie, CEO for Direct Wines, who announced the new partnership, expressed his excitement at establishing their business in an important market like India. (Read the SI Interview with him in our February 2012 issue.)
My broad brush observation about Indian wines is that we make better whites than reds. Home grown Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and now, even the Chardonnay develops and displays a clean and honest varietal expression combined with bright acidity well balanced with residual sweetness, if any. Viognier and Riesling from India are yet to showcase their aromatic intensity, which is a hallmark for good quality wines made from these varietals.
Most Indian reds made from Cabernet Sauvignon have an aroma that I need to grapple with. There is a strong over-bearing pungent aroma that resonates of green herbaceousness or vegetal under-ripe fruit reminiscent of methoxy pyrazines. In some cases, the red wines simply smell of bad winemaking and poor hygiene at the winery and in barrels. I prefer the Indian Shiraz with its peppery nose, rich currant flavours, and medium to full bodied structure, generally well balanced with the alcohol. Residual sugar in red wines, whether incidental or deliberate, is a big turn off. We are well ahead in our wine appreciation curve as a nation to continue endorsing sweet red wines.
I was pleased to discover the diversity of imported wines available for tasting. There were well known quality wines from the classic regions of France, Italy, Australia, Chile, South Africa, Argentina and New Zealand; and much to my delight, I also found a Gruner Veltliner from Austria, Riesling from Germany and Tinta Roriz – another name for Tempranillo, from Portugal.
Thanks are due to Indian importers who continue working tirelessly to unravel exciting and good value wines from all over the world, fighting hard to keep the prices at sustainable levels for consumers, despite the burdensome taxes.
I experienced a good feeling in the air, a sense of positive energy and optimism among the Indian wine business community and its members. I feel confident that we are finally approaching the inflection point beyond which the business environment for the Indian wine industry will start to see an increase in both market growth and market share.
The Indian Government’s initiative of allowing Foreign Direct Investment into the retail sector (if implemented) will liberalise entry points and encourage multinational retail giants to set up shops in India, allowing organised retail to grow. This will improve the way wine is made accessible and finds its way into people’s homes, introducing new opportunities to further the pleasure of wine drinking for the Indian consumer.
Listed below are the wines I particularly enjoyed:
Fratelli Chenin Blanc 2011, India – Arguably, the finest white wine from India. You have to drink it to experience it. Kudos.
Fratelli Chardonnay 2011, India – Green apple, citrus and talc, clean line of acidity, good intensity and well balanced. Interesting un-oaked style of Chardonnay
Vallonne Sauvignon Blanc 2010, India – Good varietal expression of cut-grass, gooseberry and melon. Refreshing, bright acidity and well balanced.
Vallone Merlot 2010 India – Good intensity of red fruit flavours. Well balanced, approachable and enjoyable drinking. Well integrated oak.
York Reserve Shiraz 2008, India – Peppery nose, aromatic, succulent fruit, smooth tannins.
Allan Scott Sauvignon Blanc 2009, New Zealand – Benchmark quality with intense flavours of tropical passion fruit, medium bodied, persistent length with a complex finish.
Bonacchi Orvieto 2009, Italy – Floral, refreshing, rounded and mouth filling, mineral finish. Nice
Brundlmeyer Gruner Veltliner 2009, Austria – Restrained and fine flavours, complexity on the palate with a lingering mineral finish
Fritz Zimmer Riesling 2010, Germany – Minerality and juicy fruit, simple yet lingering freshness.
Neethlingshof Gewurztraminer 2011, South Africa – Aromatic floral and spice, off-dry well balanced with bright acidity.
Piper- Heidsieck Brut NV, France – Fine flavours of apples, minerals, chalk, lemon and brioche. Makes for elegant drinking
Cono Sur Pinot Noir 2010 Chile – Juicy ripe red fruit, good intensity of flavours, well balanced, smooth textured and very enjoyable to drink.
Framingham Pinot Noir 2009, New Zealand – Succulent red fruit, roses and violets. Silky texture, approachable, elegant oak and a feminine style Pinot Noir.
Clairault Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Australia – Sophisticated and elegant, cool ripe and refined fruit flavours, concentrated, complexity from oak tannins, lingering length.
Stag’s Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, USA – Mocha, leather, chocolate and more complexity. Mouth-coating. Keep wanting more
Castello di Bossi Corbaia 2003, Italy – Fine complexity from oak, well constructed, silky tannins and a full bodied mouthfeel.
JM Fonseca Periquita 2008, Portugal – Juicy succulent red and black fruit, easy tannins. Drinking very well now
False Bay Pinotage 2009, South Africa – Dark and rich, good intensity of flavours, drinking well now.
CVNE Rioja Reserve 2006 Spain – Big, Bold and Beautiful
Waterford Estate Kevin Arnold Shiraz 2008, South Africa – Rich and ripe fruit, sweet spice, chocolate. Silky tannins, complex oak and a mocha finish.

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