In a room full of corporate honchos at the members-only Chambers at the Taj Mahal Hotel, Bruce Cakebread the owner of Cakebread Cellars, Napa Valley showcased his effort; his wines, one after the other as the top brass of the city enjoyed a sit down meal and spoke about their Napa sojourns and of course the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. At another august gathering on the same evening at Yuuka the Japanese restaurant at the St Regis, patrons enjoyed a glimpse of Robert Mondavi wines , the institution in Napa which revolutionized the American wine industry and Mondavi thus got to be known as the Father of American wine. Is this the beginning of the American wine story in India, I thought to myself!
Despite America as a country more recognizable in India than some of the below mentioned its wine failed to find space on shelves and if it did find place on the wine list they moved very slow. Why? In the recent past American wines were represented by Iconic brands like Beringer, Stag’s Leap, Stag’s Leap Wine cellars, Cakebread etc and consumers weren’t ready to pay as much for an American wines as much they were for the French and Italian. It is changing now albeit slowly! Indians are slowly starting to wake up to wines in general and the last six years have been crucial in the overall wine culture growing. I accredit this to the many Indian wineries who have been making superior quality wines every passing year and also the top importers and modern retail who ensure that wines are reaching us in good condition, it wasn’t the case in the last decade. In the 21st century the French and Italian wines ruled followed by an era of inexpensive Australian and then the Chile, South African and the Argentinean wines. Is it time for America?
Kendall Jackson from Sonoma and Chateau St Michelle from Washington state have been trying to take a share of the market but have been able to only scratch the surface; below which rule the Jacob’s Creek and the Two Oceans of the world. As much as we need might of the likes of Bruce Cakebread to tell us about the purity of Napa so do we need the presence of an Export manager of a commercial cos to tell us stories about 50 million bottles a year! People may say that I’m advocating ‘2 buck chucks’ but the point remains that money and taste can’t be equated and an option should be provided at every price point and America has those options. I sipped on a Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Chardonnay paired with the Avocado Tartare and thoughts of my Napa visit enthralled as I viewed the Mumbai skyline from the 38th floor of the St Regis!
P.S: Look up ‘Judgement of Paris’ and you will know what happened in 1976
On November 22, 2013 the Australian trade mark office quashed the European Commission’s appeal to register Prosecco as a GI produce coming from Italy as the members of the Winemaker’s federation of Australia rejoiced. Had it not been the case, I woudn’t have relished a glass of the crisp Prosecco sparkling from King Valley, Australia on a hot Mumbai afternoon.
De Bortoli,Australia’s second largest family owned wine co’s wines were unveiled in Mumbai over a Yum Cha replete with wines and devoid of tea. The afternoon began with the glass of Prosecco (Rs 2650), it gave a refreshing start whilst adding enough fuel for conversations to begin. Prosecco & Oz!! Darren Blood, Export Manager for APAC and emerging markets wasn’t surprised and soon put the prying minds to rest. A refreshing Pinot Grigio from Riverina (Rs 1850) soon followed with some truffled edamame money bags.
De Bortoli wines comes with a bigger portfolio this time, the mouthful Shiraz from Heathcote;the Woodfired (rs 3500) , Riorret the silky single vineyard Yarra valley Pinot Noir (Rs 8000) and for a fascinating end to the afternoon was ‘The Noble One’, a botrytis Semillon (Rs 5950 375 ml) bursting with dried apricots, orange zest and citrus notes with bracing acidity. De Bortoli wines are imported in the country by Prestige wines and spirits popular for their Spanish heavy weight Torres. Hope that De Bortoli wines, family-owned with an Italian legacy resonate with the Indian wine lovers and are able to make a mark too!
After the Andersen series Flipsydee launched Chateau Timberlay, Bordeaux wines from the house of Robert Giraud at a magnifique soiree at the Sofitel Hotel, Mumbai.
In an evening of music, gourmet food, glimpse of cabaret artists from the Lido Paris and art; the wines from Chateau Timberlay flowed to enchant. The venue Hriday was transformed into a beautiful French garden with a majestic replica of Arc de Triomphe in the entrance. Cremant de Bordeaux, Bordeuax Blanc and two variants of the rouge were unveiled. The wines start at Rs 2990. Chateau Timberlay an estate from the 14th century when the French were ruled by the British takes its name from the strong Atlantic winds that would knock down trees enroute ,'lay the timbers' as the Brits put it. Nonethless the Brits were the one spread the Claret word around and this wine is available in over 75 countries. To Claret, Cheers!
Flypsydee one of India's popular wine and spirit importers held the first tasting of the H.C. Andersen’s fairy tales inspired wines from the House of Robert Giraud a popular name in Bordeaux, France.
The series comprises a range of wines from the Languedoc region in Southern France with the labels inspired by Hans Christian Andersen the world famous writer of popular fairy tales such as “The Little Mermaid”, “The Wild Swans”, and “The Chimney Sweeper”. As a tribute to his work, Robert Giraud created 6 varietals and assigned a reputed Danish artist Pia Kryger Lakha to create illustrations for the 6 corresponding labels. From the fairy tales range three wines are now available in India Chardonnay Columbard, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. At the price of Rs 2390 a bottle the reds are quite a steal,Cabernet Sauvignon was our choice!
Ventisquero, the 5th largest family owned wine company in Chile makes a comeback into India with a more affordable under Rs 1500 Clasico range. A cool climate Sauvignon Blanc, Chile’s classic Carmenere and their approachable Cabernet Sauvignon are now available in India and are imported by Aspri spirits.
Vina Ventisquero started in 1998, despite being based in Maipo valley they make wines from grapes grown across the wine growing region as far as the arid Atacama Desert up north and the best part, their source is 1800 hectares of their own vineyards or some they rent. Ventisquero’s first stint in India was with their Grey range didn’t seemingly go well because of prohibitive pricing due to taxation and adding it to it was the perception of premium Chilean wine; which is yet to sink in . Mr Nicolas Kowalski, Area Sales Director –Asia of Vina Ventisquero on his maiden India trip echoed the same thoughts, ‘We are restarting our India story and this time with our Clasico range. Given the taxation and the market readiness we would be exploring Grey and the premium ranges for the duty-free segment. We have more in our portfolio like the Pangea, a collaboration of Felipe Tosso our winemaker and John Duval the ex-Chief of Penfolds . We will unleash them gradually if the market responds well. At the moment our focus is to let people explore a good Chilean wine, the Clasico range”
India was looking for affordable options for Riesling and Pinot Noir, this was when the market seemed to be getting ready for wines some time in 2011 and there were no options but for the mighty French. This was when Cono Sur a Chilean brand was introduced in the market, a brand which offered a Pinot, Riesling, Gewurztraminer and more at a sub Rs 1600 price point then and it hasn’t changed much since.
Cono Sur was a brand established in 1993 with a vision to serve the foreign market and given Chile’s wine growing conditions, perhaps the best in the world; it didn’t take much time for Cono Sur to rise to the top making it the best selling wine in the UK in 2001. Of course this would not have been possible without the finesse in the product and their effort to go the organic way in managing their vineyards making them the first carbon neutral winery in South America. . In India Cono Sur has their Bicicleta series, the bicycle here represents the company’s commitment and respect to the environment. The entire series is about making very expressive and fruity wines in the modern style. They have Chardonnay, Pinot Not, Merlot and Cabernet sauvignon easily available on retail shelves or restaurants alike. Our pick; the Pinot Noir!
P.S: They have discontinued the Riesling but if you can find a 2013 vintage on the shelves, just grab it!
It welcomed us with a vegetal note and the Indian ‘terroir’ and then as it spent more time in the glass it starting unfurling itself and blazoned its fruit, mostly ripe whilst playing with very soft hands on the tannins. Ladies and Gentlemen, India sees yet another addition to its wine portfolio, The Daily Dose; a Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Daily Dose (TDD), is a brainchild of Vishal Kadakia who runs the Wine Park a co which imports premium imported wines. Made at Oakwood winery in Ahmednagar with organic grapes from a 2 acre plot in Solapur, TDD will release 12000 bottles of its 2015 vintage. In course of the wine soiree Vishal beamed, ‘We have been working on it for 2 years. We aimed for a wine that would appeal to the Indian palate, a simple no-fuss fruity wine with easy tannins and I am glad we finally made it.’ We indeed loved the wine and the label which has an infographic on the wine making process however the thing that played on our mind was the price, at Rs 750 a bottle, could it be the daily dose of an Indian consumer!
Indian wine and spirit distribution goes through three tiers and with the kind of margins that the tertiary level is what forces most wine cos to hike up their MRP to make up for schemes and margins. Nonetheless with Wine Park’s penetration in the Indian hotels and restaurants we sincerely wish that this wine becomes the daily dose for consumers albeit at a price which is lower than other Indian brands on the menus thus justifying the apparent brand philosophy!
One of the most trusted wine brands in the world; Torres has always fascinated me with their consistency in doling out great value for money wines. It was only in late 2014 when I got to taste many from their range, Vina Esmeralda, Mas Rabell series, Gran Vinasol, Gran Coronas and the gran papa; Riserva Real from 2001, and I had my vote for Torres.
Prestige Spirits who imports Torres wines organized a wine dinner last weekend presided over by Josep Plana, Area Manager, Torres and Siddhartha Tandon General Manager, Prestige at the Vetro, Oberoi Hotel. The soiree began with a perfumed Vina Esmeralda and then arrived a host of labels from their portfolio, Milmanda; a French barrel fermented Chardonnay, Mas La Plana; a big but rounded Cabernet Sauvignon, Altos Ibericos; a 100% Tempranillo from Rioja and lastly the aromatic and sweet Floralis Muscatel Oro. The wines were paired with some exquisite dishes from Adriano’s Kitchen and the whole experience went into Cinderella’s hour.
Torres as Josep Plana put is known for its ‘value for money’ philosophy and they will continue their march in India. When probed about a Cava from the house of Torres, a wine yet eluding them given that they are from Penedes the heart of Cava, Spain’s Sparkling wine, ‘ May be end of this year, we have been talking about it and we shall release it once we get the desired results in the wine.’ said Plana
India is now seeing entry of Spanish wines and Torres has surely paved the path!
I always knew the importance of glassware when it came to appreciating a wine; it makes a world of difference. My knowledge got reinstated and I understood glasses better at the Riedel glass tasting organized by Aspri Spirits who also deal in Riedel glassware.
Riedel an Austrian brand has been in the business of production of glassware and for 260 years and spanning 11 generations and is renowned and established worldwide for designing and producing the highest quality glasses and decanters for the enjoyment of wine and spirits. In the late 1950’s Claus J. Riedel was the first person ever in history to introduce and develop wine friendly stemware which delivers the bouquet, taste, balance and finish of a wine to the senses. He also introduced the concept of grape specific glassware. A glass consists of three parts- the bowl, the stem and the base, Riedel works on the different dimensions of these to create distinct glassware for a range of grape varieties.
We tasted a Sauvignon blanc out of the right glass and subsequently in glasses designed for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet, all in the room could tell why the Sauvignon Blanc glass was worth all the halo. And we repeated the same with a Pinot Noir, a chardonnay and Bordeaux. Riedel goes by the saying that ‘The content commands the shape’ and with the tasting we could see why!
Many hotels in the country use Riedel stemware to give you a good wine experience however none may offer you a glass typical for every varietal. So it up to wine lovers to slowly build a collection of glassware in their home bar, you will tell the difference!
Famille Hugel requires no introduction in the world of wine, the wine co which celebrates its 375th year has remained one of the pioneers of winemaking in Alsace. Etienne Hugel the 12th generation of the family is in India, his fourth time, to talk about Wines, Alsace and of course to get fascinated by India’s promise in wine yet again. He hosted a wine afternoon jointly with India’s first man of wines Sanjay Menon for wine media and professionals.
Quoting from the book Wine & War, “The Hugel story, in many ways, is the story of Alsace.”My grandfather had to change his nationality four times," said Andre Hugel (Etienne’s father). Grandfather Emile was born in 1869. He was born French, but two years later, in 1871, Alsace was taken over by Germany after the Franco-Prussian War, and he became German. The end of World War 1 in 1918 made him French again. In 1940, when Alsace was annexed, he was forced to become German. By 1950, when Emile died at the age of eighty-one, he was once again French. The constant swing between nationalities resulted in a kind of regional schizophrenia, a feeling of being part French, part German, but most of all Alsatian.” Rhine bottles, German grape varietals, naming by grape varietals and such Germanic influences are prevalent not just in Hugel but all of Alsace. Hugel et fils when French, Hugel u. Sohne when under the German rule the Hugel family finally renamed it to #Famille Hugel in 2015. ‘Family resonates globally and we thought it is high time we showed gratitude and include the other gender that plays an equal role in business.’ said Etienne.
Gentil Hugel a blend of Alsatian classic grape varietals Pinot Blanc, Slyvaner, Riesling and Gewurztraminer opened the tasting with its vibrancy akin to Etienne’s energy in the room couple with his slapstick humour. The classic Riesling 2014 followed only to be overtaken by the Riesling Grossi Laue 2010, the latter was showcased in India for the first time. ‘The yellow, red and green colours that endow the brand were actually inspired from Maggi in the early 20th century when a friend of the Hugels working for Maggi came back with the suggestion.’ beamed Etienne.
Pinot Gris a richer rendition of the global phenomenon Pinot Grigio was next from Hugels arsenal, the classic and a whopping 15 % alcohol stunner the 2010 Pinot Gris Grossi Laue (refers to the best vineyards in the region). Last but not the least was the grape varietal which is often referred to as a match made in heaven for Asian food, Gewurztraminer showed up in two avatars a young classic dry and the second a sweet late harvest (vendange tardive)from 2007. The former was reminiscent of lychees and roses and the latter of honey, roses, prunes and floral nuances.
Rieslings to certain extent, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris in our opinion are not yet on the Indian consumer’s radar, but when they do and hopefully soon there will be no looking back.
Hugel Wines – 100% Family Owned
Acreage: 65 acres (only noble varieties viz: Riesling,Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris planted)
Year of establishment: 1639
Total Production per Year: 110000 9 ltr cases
MRP in Mumbai
Hugel Gentil: Rs 3300
Hugel Riesling: Rs 3900
Hugel Gewurztraminer: Rs 4200