Image courtesy: BCCL
Our fascination with all things imported is very clear. One item number in the latest oh-so-original Bollywood flick will show you just how much we are infatuated with imports.
So when we generally compare imports and domestic wines, that's where I see a problem. I'm a big fan of Indian wine. I say this because I know the people behind the wine brands and I see some very serious effort. We have a few quality-conscious people who run top rate wineries and they're proof that Indian wine is getting better and better. All you need to do to verify this is take one small sip.
I should mention that we do have our fair share of duds (sorry, they really bug me), who started wineries just because they had spare land and because at some stage of their lives they ate a grape. These guys are the problem, the bad 'grapes', so to speak.
Remember whisky? Well, of course you do, because wine-making in India has only been around for 20-odd years. So though we have come a long way in a very short period of time, we still have a long way to go.
Let's address one issue though regarding imported wine available in India.
Not all of it is good and it's not better simply because it's imported or priced higher. Some imported wines, which are priced at say Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,400 or more in Mumbai, sell for the equivalent of Rs 250 or less in their own country, and wouldn't be touched by locals, yet we assume they're better.
If you're one of those fellows who regularly claim that you don't drink Indian wine and then slurp a Yellow Tail or the like, then in my books you should be clubbed with the other duds mentioned above.
How about this, buy a range of entry-level imported wines and taste them blind along with India's best and guess which is Indian or imported. You might be surprised. You might even find that you like your locally-made Chardonnay at Rs 600 more than the Rs 2,000 Sauvignon Blanc, because you like the style of Chardonnay.
So how do they measure up in general and should we only be comparing our domestic premium wines to entry level imported wines? Not all our wines measure up well but there are stars within the Indian wine portfolio that deserve attention and can be compared to more than just the entry levels. And the beauty is that there are a lot more coming.
We are already winning awards at international competitions like Decanter, International Wine &Sprits Challenge and the International Wine Challenge, among others. I suspect the frequency of these awards will increase.
Some wineries we should pay close attention to, besides Sula Vineyards and Grover's, are York Winery, Reveilo, Vallone, Alpine Winery in Bangalore and of course India's most aggressive winery currently, Fratelli. Also watch out for Charosa from the HCC group.
The first wave of domestically-produced wine in India was started by the now defunct Chateau Indage, then came the quality-conscious Sula Vineyards that took over and continues to reign. This, combined with a host of small wineries and big brand front-runners will take India to the next quality benchmark on the global scale.
This is not only because they are learning quickly or because more money is being invested, but mainly because we as consumers are demanding better quality wine and our own palates are taking on a more global form.
Nikhil Agarwal is sommelier and director at All Things Nice a platform for knowledge, networking and indulgent experiences for wine, luxury spirits and gourmet food aficionados. Follow them at @AllThingsNice.
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