lördag 10 februari 2018

Indian Wine: Chandon Brut

Yes, they also make bubbly in India. Chandon, the global arm of champagne powerhouse Moët et Chandon, established themselves in India in 2013. Now they produce three varieties of bubbly in Dindori, Nashik: Brut, Rosé and Delice (slightly sweeter). Today we are trying the bestseller, the NV Brut. 

It is made from mainly chenin blanc grapes, which handle the Indian climate well, and complemented by the champagne classics chardonnay and pinot noir. The palate is fruity with rather mellow and sweet citrus and a hint of apples. There is some acidity to back it up, but no real zing. It is very pleasant and easy drinking with a hint sweetness in the background. It does not come near a real champagne, but I would say that it compares favourably to an Italian prosecco or a South African MCC. This I will happily drink again. Good quality for the price actually.

The beautiful bottle here is a limited edition, designed by the Indian fashion designer Manish Malhotra.

lördag 20 januari 2018

Indian Wine: V A Reserve Collection

Vijay Amritraj is an Indian tennis legend. He played during the same era as Björn Borg, and he reached four Grand Slam quarterfinals. He even managed to beat Borg in the second round of the 1974 US Open, and he can brag about beating Jimmy Connors five times during his career. Now he has lent his name to a premium wine produced by Grover Zampa. It is called Vijay Amritraj Reserve Collection, and it is a red blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Viognier.

The vintage is 2014, and it is a well balanced, highly drinkable wine. There is plenty of upfront dark fruit, mainly blueberries and plumes. It is medium bodied with some pretty smooth tannins. It improves further with some air, so please decant it. Our bottle tasted even better on the second day. This I will happily buy again. 

söndag 24 december 2017

The port has been decanted, Christmas celebrations can begin

I just landed in Stockholm. We are going to celebrate the first Christmas in four years on home soil. I arrived at a fully Christmas decorated house, filled with a lot of holiday spirit already. To enhance it further we only needed some port, which was my simple task. After struggling with a crumbling cork, I was finally able to decant it in this beautiful vintage silver decanter. We then enjoyed Swedish gingerbread cookies and nicely matured Stilton with this 2002 Calem Vintage Port. Divine! Christmas 2017 celebrations has begun.

Indian Wine: Fratelli Sette

This wine, Sette from Fratelli, costs 2000 rupees per bottle, which is over 30 USD. That makes it one of India's most expensive domestic wines, but is it worth it? We will soon find out.

Fratelli, which means brothers in Italian, is the the second largest wine producer in India. The company was founded in 2006, by three pairs of brothers, two from India and one from Italy. The Italian master wine maker from Tuscany, Masi Piero, has also been there from the start, so it is clear where the wine inspiration is coming from. Fratelli is located in the Solapur district, in a town called Akluj, approximately 170 kms south of Pune. Here they have planted their own vineyards, not sourcing any grapes externally.

Sette (seven in Italian), is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese. It has matured in French oak barrels for 14 months. It is a nicely balanced, fruit-forward wine, with plums and cherries upfront. The tannins are soft, with a medium body, and a long, lingering finish with a little bit of menthol to it. I like it. It is probably my favorite Indian wine so far, and it can definitely compete with European and American offerings. But at 30 USD, you can get a lot of good wines, and in that price range Sette would not be my top choice. But in this restricted Indian market, it is as close as you get to European quality.

söndag 29 oktober 2017

Indian Wine Shopping

Shopping for groceries in India is not like in Europe or the US. Most of it happens on the streets at small stalls, or hole-in-the-wall places that would never qualify as supermarkets anywhere else in the world. Luckily, we have found a slightly more upscale establishment for grocery shopping, called Nature's Basket. More importantly, in their basement they also have a pretty decent little wine store.

The Red Line-Up

Late Sunday afternoon, I went on a shopping spree there, and came out with twelve bottles of Indian wine. Yes, here you can happily shop for alcohol on a late Sunday afternoon! I bought eight bottles of reds, and four whites. The twelve bottles came from just three producers: Sula Vineyards, Fratelli Wines and Grover Zampa. These three companies dominate the Indian premium wine market. Now everything is loaded into the wine fridge and tasting notes will follow in due course. I am hopeful that we will find a few new favourites here.

The White Line-Up

lördag 14 oktober 2017

Indian Wine: Sula Vineyards Rasa Shiraz

The quest to find the very best Indian wines is on. Which bottles will qualify for the top shelf in my wine fridge? Well, let us start with the success story of the market leader, Sula Vineyards.

In the middle of the 1990s, the Stanford educated Rajeev Samant left his well-paid Silicon Valley job, to return to his native India. His family owned farm land in Nashik, about 180 kilometers northeast of Mumbai. This area was already known for growing table grapes, but nobody had tried wine grapes before. With inspiration from California, Rajeev founded Sula Vineyards, and he recruited Kerry Damskey, an experienced winemaker from Sonoma. Their initial plantings were Sauvignon Blanc och Chenin Blanc, but they have since expanded to include reds as well. Today the production includes all types of wines: red, white, rosé and sparkling, with an impressive Indian market share of 60-70%. Sula is also a pioneer when it comes to developing the Indian wine tourism, with two hotels on the Nashik property and wine tastings, wine tours, a wine festival etc. on offer.

So the other day I twisted off the top of a bottle of 2015 Sula Vineyards Rasa Shiraz (no cork here). Rasa is Sula's premium offering, with an Indian retail price of more than 20 USD. The grapes have been hand-picked on their own wine estate in Nashik, and the wine has matured 12 months in French oak barrels. So far, so good! It is a full-bodied, fruity wine, with lots of sweet dark berries. There are some fairly polished tannins to balance the fruit, and a slightly peppery finish, with a long lingering mouthfeel. It reminds me of a fruit-forward Shiraz from California, and that is not too shabby. This is a serious wine, that will definitely qualify for a spot in the wine fridge.

söndag 8 oktober 2017

Do they make wine in India?

I am a long-time Swedish wine enthusiast, and I have been writing about wine online since 2008. For the past four years I have lived and worked in South Africa, which of course is close to paradise if you like wine. However, now work has brought me to a completely different part of the world, Mumbai, India, and this is not exactly wine paradise.

As a fairly serious wine drinker, how do you tackle a move like this? In South Africa I could order almost any wine I liked online, and have it delivered to my doorstep within a couple of days, or simply drive down the road to some fabulous wine stores. My wine fridge was therefore always filled to the last shelf with good stuff. I was simply spoiled rotten.

I did bring my wine fridge to India, but it is now sadly almost empty. India has 100% import duty on wine, so I did not dare to put any bottles in the container from South Africa. Besides that, the heat, the humidity and the monsoon would probably not have treated such bottles very nicely anyway. My only supply here comes from what I have been able to bring back from business trips and tax-free airport shopping. It is a nice eclectic mix of South African, Italian, French and Australian bottles, but at the current rate of consumption they will only last me until Christmas. What do I do then?

Of course you can buy wine here in Mumbai, but the selection is rather poor, and because of the heavy import duties, anything from abroad is ridiculously expensive. The solution must therefore be Indian wines. Yes, they do make wine in India. It is a young, budding industry, but there are some very ambitious projects and producers out there to discover. I will much rather find the very best Indian wines, than drink poor European or South African products at twice the price. Please come with me on this journey of discovery. It is going to be fun.