• Belief in Self
  • Date: 2013-11-22
  • The month gone by has been a very reassuring month for India. It has been a month like none other to feel proud about being an Indian. And, more specifically, to be an Indian who works in the field of wines.



    For the longest time, I myself was a sceptic. Sure we had wines around us but barring Grover’s nothing was sapid and even after Sula came along, things did open up but it remained a product for the Indians by the Indians. We weren’t entirely proud of it and hence the ‘of’ the Indians part didn’t really sink in. Simply put, these wines may have been good enough to drink at casual soirées at homes, maybe good enough even to stack shelves in some East European supermarket, but it wasn’t going to win any big medals just yet. Foreigners may have been keen to order a token bottle to sit besides their curry but they were in no hurry to invest in it, or take us any more seriously.



    All until now, that is. When Champagne house Moët &Chandon nurtured the idea of making a local Indian sparkling, the world sat up and wondered if they were really serious. The most eminent of wine luminaries doubted their wisdom and even Indian winemakers stood by the side-lines as these beverage behemoths marched in and set up shop. They explored high and low, far and deep, till they settled on certain vineyards in Nashik to be their source. Initially they shared space with a local winery but their soon-to-be-inaugurated winery wil not only double their current capacity but also incorporate leisure and wine tourism as its many offered features.



    So, as would be expected of them, they steered clear of still wines and went straight for what they do best: make sparkling wines. They narrowed in on their sources and the grapes – Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir – and they flew in a spew of experts to make sure that nothing was left to chance. Quality is always much sought after an asset and when you have over 150 years of tradition and brand value to preserve, the task only becomes more stringently arduous – failure is really not an option anymore.



    And yet, when I entered to room to have a chat with the team that had flown in for the launch, in spite of all the reassurances I had received from a few who had tasted it a day earlier, I still chose to remain unconvinced and highly doubtful. Indian wines, especially those from Nashik had this unmistakeable ‘taint’ (as I term it) that reminds me of burnt rubber. Reds showed it more than whites but they all pretty much had it in some amount or another. Fratelli is perhaps the only house that had managed to find a way to dodge it but they weren’t in Nashik but rather far away somewhat near Pune. How could then a big house be exempt from what I had pretty much locked down to innate terroir?


    And then came the first sip: suffice to say that with one relish they managed to wipe away my thirst of many years: not just good wine in India was a possibility it could be as clean and fault-free, expressive and aromatic like anywhere else in the world.



    Consumers will definitely take to the two wines: the brut is deliciously dry while the rosé has layers of fruit and creaminess. But, even as I encourage you to try it, I sincerely urge all winemakers to gather around and taste these. I want them to see what good winemaking practices can endow us with. It isn’t always about quantity but it is most certainly a mistake to overlook quality. LVMH have managed a product par excellence for the moment. With time am sure they will even add to it – vintage versions, magnum bottles, et al. It will never challenge the Champagne market, (or the Cava, Franciacorta, or any other market of sparkling wines which embody a sense of place) but all those generic bubblies that crowd the shelves may soon find themselves battling expiry dates.



    Finally, India has a wine that’s for and of India. As for the ‘by’ part, we’ll just skip that for the moment and say a gracious merci to the French and their fizzy (Aussie) team.


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