The world of wines begins with some 8-10 grapes and most wine list comprise of these because they are global and move off the shelf easily. However, because of the brand value these grapes carry, they automatically command a price which may necessarily not offer value. As a wine enthusiast it is advisable to look beyond to broaden your wine horizon and also save money as the lesser known varieties can offer super value. Here are a 10 not so known grape varieties that are available in India. Sante!
Hailing from Sicily this is the main hero in Etna DOC wines made 800 meters above sea level on volcanic soils. It produces a very lean and crisp wine with green fruits notes. Mt Etna is still an active volcano by the way which make this wine even more interesting.
Caricante brands in India: Scalunera Etna Bianco
Hailing from Sardinia; Italy, the Vermentino is quite an aromatic grape variety and offers refreshing notes of pears and citrus with floral undertones. It’s also called Rolle in France and brings out very value driven wines from South-eastern France.
Vermentino brands in India: Marius by Chapoutier, France, Bibi Graetz Casamatta, Italy, Metal, Australia.
The Austrian specialty with bracing acidity, the GruVee is a wine meant for ageing. A high yielding variety it can be spicy & peppery or can be laden with stone fruits depending from where it comes from. It accounts for over 28% of Austrian wine acreage.
Gruner Veltliner brands in India: Domaene Gobelsburg, Weingut Jurtschitsch
Albarino in Spain or Alvarinho in Portugal is a grape known to produce wines with refreshing acidity and citrus notes with some stone fruit and tropical melon creeping in with ripeness. The grape is also a part of Vinho Verde blends from Portugal.
Albarino brands in India: Bodegas Paco & Lola from Rias Baixas; Spain
The most famous white grape from Salta, Argentina. This is one is very perfumed with balanced acidity couple with stone fruit notes. Indian palates will love this.
Torrontes brands in India: Crios, Zuccardi Santa Julia
This north eastern Italian grape make is the main hero in the world-famous blends of Valpolicella and Bardolino. It can also be available as a 100% with a very good potential to age. It makes light to medium bodied wines with refreshing acidity, red fruit notes with cherry lingering. It is the same grape used to make our favourite Amarone Della Valpolicella.
Corvina brands in India: Zenato, Tedeschi, Zonin, Folonari, Pasqua, Tenuta Saint Antonio
A thin-skinned paradox which requires a lot of sun to ripen to give out a lot of lovely strawberry and red fruit noted but the acidity gets it caught on the wrong side, it’s low. Thus Grenache in most cases is a blend with Syrah for the balance and also GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) blends . The classic region for Grenache is southern Rhone, Priorat in Spain where it is called Garnacha and now Australia too, mainly Barossa is getting very popular.
Garnacha brands in India :
Rhone and South West France Blends: Famille Perrin, M Chapoutier, Daronton, Le Grand Noir GSM.
Spain: Prima by Bodegas Maurodos, Castello De Monseran
Australia & India: Rolfbinder;Oz, Source by Sula Grenache Rose, Chapel Hill 100% Grenache; Oz,
Monastrell in Spain or Mourvedre in France is a grape which yields a full-bodied red with black fruit, spices and herbs. It can see oak and makes wine which are a mouthful. It is the ‘M’ in the GSM blends.
Monastrell brands in India: Eco Bodegas Fuerza; Spain, Fairview Caldera GSM,
This Italian grape is the 2nd largest varietal planted in Italy. It yields medium bodied red wines which are black fruit driven with sweet spice and supple tannins. The most famous Montepulciano wines come from Abruzzo.
Montepulciano brands in India: Sirente, Folonari, Pasqua,
Lush black fruit, licorice and the ripeness is alluring in this Sicilian variety which is not as known. It makes medium to full bodied fruit driven wines. Surprisingly we also have an Indian version of Nero D’Avola made in India by Reveilo wines.
Nero D’Avola brands in India: Donnafugata Sedara, Pieno Sud
2019 passed of in a jiffy and India saw a lot of progression in the drinks trade like every year. Sustainability was the buzz word and so was gin to a great extent and homegrown whisky brands continued to make a splash locally and globally. Here are our insights on what should 2020 be like or would be for the wine and spirit trade in India… Cocktail trends, new spirits and more.
People are getting more conscious about their diets and about price points. Low alcohol cocktails with a 30 or a 40 ml shot of spirit can bring the costs down by 1/3rd and also make the drink healthier. The price will also attract more patrons to order a cocktail and the bartender can have more creative work behind the bar.
Sugar free Cocktails:
With health becoming a priority and people going for spirit and water combinations, sugar free cocktails will be a new thing on the menu. Sugar free doesn’t mean drinks with Stevia and sugar alternatives but cocktails with a salt and acid balance or balance drawn from the sugar in the aged spirit.
Hand Cut Ice
The importance of ice in a drink has long been known by bartenders but due to operational issues that it was just treated as another ingredient. However we will soon see more bars getting serious about one of the most important ingredients in a drink by investing in better ice machines and also getting more involved in cutting ice blocks and hand carved ice
Wine is slowly coming to terms with India and vice-versa. The upper echelons of the society who is more exposed to wine and can afford it will look at the next level, Organic wines. Wine lists will have organic pointed to for those discerning.
Ayurveda and seasonality:
India has 6 seasons or ritus , Vasanta (spring), Grishma (summer), Varsha (monsoon), Sharad (autumn), Hemant (fall winter), and Shishir (winter) and the Indian Ayurveda diets based on these apart from the classification of food based on Satvik, Tamasik or Rajasik. For Cocktails, India will take of leaf of Ayurveda and use of ingredients like vetiver, licorice root, turmeric, sesame,neem, brahmi, ashwagandha, ginger with more functionality. Even regional fruits like the Bael fruit, kokum would see some light. Antiaging, cooling properties etc will be the buzz words.
Alcohol free :
Why should only people who drink alcohol have all the fun! Teetotalers wouldn’t want to be left out and hence will take up to non-alcoholic beverages as long as the look and the feel and the experience is like that of an alcoholic beverage. Artisanal mocktails or alcohol free cocktails with more seriousness will take some steps this year.
In house fermentation of fruit juices, kombuchas, tepaches, hop infusions and more. Progressive bartenders will pave the path for the country to follow in due course. It will be small beginnings given the resources and people’s ability to afford thus translating to lower demand. Top bars will set themselves apart with this.
Rum & Brandy:
Lastly there will be new wave of dark spirits with Rum being at the forefront and brandy specially Cognac in tow. Rum Old fashioned, Cognac Sours, Rum and Cigar, Cognac cocktails will take a leap. Both spirits have a profile that suit the Indian palate and it is only a matter of time and sustained marketing that these will rub shoulder with whisky, of course in the higher
Cheers to 2020!
Wheat beers are favourites in the craft beer scene in India because of their fruitiness and low IBU (International bittering units) typically. So, what is a wheat beer? Wheat beers use a higher amount of wheat than barley to produce beers and because of the higher protein content in the former the beers are hazy but give a richer and thicker mouth feels to the beers. The wheat unlike malted barley doesn’t add much flavour of its own to the final product and hence the yeast plays a very important role for flavour. In the India the two most popular style of wheat are the Hefeweizen and Belgian Wit. We will look at them both individually and list Indian brands in bottles for you apart from one American Styled Wheat.
Belgian Wit bier
Wit bier is made of minimum 50% unmalted wheat in Belgium which makes them different from the German style in addition to the flavouring of Coriander and Orange peel the Belgians add to this style. They could add more spice but the above mentioned are the basics. This style was revived globally and in India by Hoegaarden specially with their ritual of adding an orange slice into the glass.
Kingfisher: The latest entrant in the India’s bottled non-lager segment, Kingfisher the market leader in beers is all set to ride the craft wave with this wit bier.
Simba: Apart from the classic Coriander and Orange peel, the Simba roars with some added goodness of Lemongrass.
Mad King Dufa: This one was thought of in Delhi but made in Belgium. The other one from the brewery is a lager call the Kolga.
White Owl Spark: It started off as a microbrewery in Mumbai and continues to but has also added to bottled fare.
Bira White: The craft behemoth which started the wave for bottled craft beer in the country continues to grow.
White Rhino: India’s first craft brewery in the bottled business, they also flavour their wit bier with Himalayan coriander.
Mahou Maestra Wheat: Although owned the Spanish Mahou, this one’s made in Indian and used Himalayan Coriander and Seville orange peel for the brew.
Willy's Witbier: The latest entrant in the bottled witbier segment, the Will's by Briggs Brewery Bengaluru is now launched in the Bengaluru market.
This German cloudy wheat beer has aromas of banana and cloves owing to the yeast so much that it can’t be handled by many palates and hence a slice of lemon can help uplift. It can be made with made with both malted and unmalted wheat. In Germany Hefe come from yeast or beer with yeast that is typically unfiltered and that is showcased by Weihenstephan which claims to be oldest brewery in the world through their beers.
Thirsty Simona: This one’s a Indian co but they brew in Bosnia under Alex their brew master.
American Wheat Beer
This style is America’s take on the traditional Bavarian Hefeweizen but without the spice. The beers are summer beer which are thirst quenching with great balance of malts and hops. The bittering units are low and so are the hops. The style has been making waves and become mainstream over the last one decade.
Arbor Easy Rider:
An easy drinking beer for the tropical weather with good balance of hops and malt. Hence the name perhaps!
IPA or India Pale Ale was created for India, not for Indians bur for the British Colonists in India. The British got their ration of beer directly shipped from England; however, a lot of beer was spoilt during the long and arduous sea voyage. To overcome this, the brewers started to work on different ingredients and then finally decided to harness the power of two ingredients which were already a part of the beer, Hops the flavouring agents in beer and alcohol the by product of fermentation. They made a more alcoholic beer and hopped them more than usual. When the beer reached Indian, it wasn’t spoilt, it was more aromatic, and it was bitter. The soldiers loved it and Voila, the India Pale Ale was created.
IPA’s have got popular in India over the last decade majorly owing to the craft beer scene in India, and we heard recently about Kimaya brewing co based out of Pune created the ‘IPA Divas by the Pune Beer Mandal’ , translates from Marathi to ‘IPA Day by the Pune Beer Association’. It just reiterates the increasing popularity for the beer category; however, IPA is not for all; specially the Indian palate. The bitterness is the hurdle and hence most brewers keep the IBU (international bittering units) relatively low. low for the Indian palate. IPA hence has flourished in our opinion and now also coming in bottles for those who do not have access to brew pubs around them.
Here the 4 Indian IPA beer brands:
Bira IPA: The Bira version of how Indian would love an IPA. This one is brewed with pomelo and is very zest and citrusy. It used a blend of barley and wheat and is flavoured with Citra and Mosaic hops.
White Rhino: At 40 IBU the bitterness is very controlled. The brand uses Ahtahnum, Cascade, Mosaic and Styrian Goldings hops for their brew.
Arbor Beach Shack IPA: They call it a session IPA, session refers to low alcohol beers this IPA at 6 is much lower than traditional IPAs. Citra and Centennials hops give it that aromatic thrust.
Eight Finger Eddie by Goa Brewing Co: Gutsy attempt and a successful one at lauching an IPA as their maiden and flagship product. This one with 30 UBU is a very easy drinking IPA with pleasant aromas.
Hoppy Feet by Briggs Brewery: The latest entrant to the bottled craft beers segment in India , this American IPA is brewed in Bengaluru and now available in the city's retail.
Cognac is the world’s best-known brandy. In India Cognac if often associated with Bollywood, “Cognac sharaab nahi hoti” said Rishi Kapoor in Chandni 1989 and then Shahrukh Khan to Kajol in DDLJ 6 years later. If you read between the lines and try to understand the deeper meaning, may be it relates to what the Indian upper classes generally think of the beverage, sophistication. Well Cognac certainly deserves the respect for all it undergoes to come into ones lead free crystal.
Cognac is made from the Ugni blanc grape, double distilled in a special copper pot still called the alembic charentaise and then ages for a minimum of 2 years in oak barrels, either new or in the ones that carried a wine or a wine-based spirit. These days a sherry or a port cask finish is quite common in the Cognac world. The time they spend in the barrel in indicates as VS, VSOP and XO in an ascending order of 2 years, 4 years and 10 years. The years indicate the youngest cognac in the bottle, the oldest may be 5 decades old. This is where the art of Cognac blending comes into picture.
The Cognac market in India is most in the Southern states of India, Tamil Nadu and Kerala where the blue collared drink locally made brandy (mostly made from molasses) and the upper strata drinks Cognac. So, the following brands of Cognac are available not so readily in India but for the top 3.
Martell: The oldest of the big four in Cognac, the house of Martell was found in 1715 by a Englishman. The brand is now owned by Pernod Ricard and is known for its Borderies focussed Cognac, Borderies being the sub-region where the terroir or the growing environment gives it’s a floral overtone.
Remy Martin: Known for its specialty the ‘Fine Champagne’ Cognac which is a blend of grapes grown in Grande and Petit Champagne the most prestigious regions known for its long-lived Cognacs. It also produces the Louis XIII Cognac, it goes at Rs 3 lakhs plus a bottle.
Hennessy: The market leader of the Cognac world, Hennessy commands a 50% market share globally. It was found by an Irishman, Richard Hennessy in 1765 and today is owned the conglomerate LVMH. They claim to have over 70 cellars in Cognac.
Delamain: Established in 1759, Delamain is one of the oldest and still family run Cognac house. They make only Grand Champagne Cognacs and only XO Cognac which put them in the top tier immediately.
Pierre Ferrand: This house was only found in 1989 and emphasises on 100% Grand Champagne Cognacs which are richer in style. They do not use the known VS, VSOP nomenclature but use proprietary ones. One called the Reserve which is equivalent of a VSOP is available in India.
Otard: Made in the building Chateau de Cognac where Francis the 1st the initiator of the French renaissance was born, Otard was found in 1795 by Jean Baptiste Otard. He was the Mayor of Cognac until his death. The brand is owned by Bacardi now. This Cognac ages in cellars which are at the level of the Charente river with very high humidity and dry cellars over ground which give more blends for the final.
Camus: A family owned company found in 1863, Camus starting 1990s emphasizes on Borderies and also have a 100% Borderies XO Cognac which is their signature. They are also one of those have wine aged expressions in their repertoire.
Courvoisier: Being the only official supplier to Napoleon , Courvoisier has basked in the glory of the title ‘Brandy of the Napoleon’ ever since. They were also the Cognac to toast the ‘unveiling’ of the Eiffel tower.
Godet: Found in 1783, this is an outlier of the lot as the house is based in La Rochelle a town in Cognac on the Atlantic coast. Going back in history this was the town where the technology of distillation met the wines of today Back then they called it "Brandwijn" in Dutch which translated to burnt wine.Today Cognac is the greatest of the burnt wines in the world.
Hine: Found in 1763 and based in heart of the Grande Champagne , Hine is know for its vintage Cognacs and specially "Hine Early-Landed Vintage Cognac" the barrels of which are aged in the damp cellars in Bristol, England. This English connection goes back to Thomas Hine who was originally English.