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‘Country roads, take me home, to the place, I belong…. ’continuously played on my mind as we drove through sharp turns and hairpin bends in the region of Priorat, a 2 hour drive; down south from Barcelona. Priorat a wine region is like that buried treasure which was excavated and is now hogging the lime light and rightly so. I was on my first trip this summer only to leave happy high with my teeth stained with the big and bold reds. Not to forget my lunch with Alvaro Palacios at his winery in Gratallops drinking L’Ermita the most expensive wine from Spain and this one the 2014, going at a cool 800-1000 Euros a bottle.
Priorat lies in Tarragona, Southern Catalonia and it is flanked by Mont Sant mountain range in the North, the Figuera and the LLoar peaks in the west, Mollo mountains in the east and the south opens up to river Siurana. The region has a total area of around 17629 hectares of which only 1900 hectares is worked on by 576 grape growers. The terrer (terroir in French) with the highlight of Licorella, an easily breakable slate which forms the top soil is what the regions basks in. One of the only two DoCa s (highest ranked wine region) in Spain, Priorat’s wine making history actively began in the 12th century when the monks of the Carthusian order established their Priory in Scala Dei and ruled over seven villages, giving the region its name. These monks brought the knowledge of viticulture from the time in Provence France. Priorat wine continued to get popular and were exported all across Europe till Phylloxera struck in the 19th century. Vineyards were lost, the rugged terrain was then planted with nut trees, the region got depopulated and poverty beckoned! The good times are here and the region has seen a renaissance in the last 20 years. It being awarded the DoCa in 2006 was a major boost to the sheer quality of wines the terroir can produce.
95% of the wines made in the region are red with Garnacha or Grenache and Carinena or Carignan being the forerunners. Carignan gives wine body, coupled with astringency and high pigmentation and Garnacha is more suitable for fine, aromatic wines which are full bodied, have little colour and which are easily affected by oxygen. It is a popular grape variety for making “vins rancis” and “generosos” or old wines made using the solera method like in Jérez. In the last few years, other varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah have been introduced and have yielded good results. I witnessed it on tasting the Le Tercera 2014 from the house of Alvarez Duran of Porrera.
Priorat is divided into 12 villages and each with a different topography climatic influences and they are recognized by the term ‘Vi de Vila’ (village wines) and the rare ‘Vi de Finca’ (Single vineyard wine). The villages being, Bellmunt, Scaladei, Gratallops, El Lloars, El Morera, Poboleda, Porrera, Torroja, Villela Alta, Villela Baixa, Falset and Molar. Even ‘Torres’ a brand that is synonymous to Spanish wines in India have their winery in El Lloar and their Perpetual 2014 impressed.
Albeit the differences in the meso-climates, one of the few elements that helps the region to ripen the big reds and retain the flavours is the long ripening season caused by the diurnal temperature variance of more than 25 degree Celsius with night temperatures dropping to 12 and the morning racing to 40. The second being the bush-trained viticulture happening on tortuous and rocky terrain based on schist soils with many vineyards going at an incline of 60 degrees and hence the need of terracing. And lastly the low yield which can be as low as 300 Gms a vine is a result of old vines and poor soils thus yielding concentrated fruit and commanding a price.
I really hope to see Priorat wines in India soon, but price could be a deterrent. A certain ray of hope is Torres banking on its brand awareness to create a category. Until then on your next visit to Barcelona, take a day trip to Priorat amidst the ravines, rivers, steep vineyards and a lot of wines. If not for anything else, Spain better retain Catalunya for the mighty Priorat!
15 REDS from Priorat to try -
La Tercera 2014 – Alvarez Duran – Porrera
Finca Dofi 2014 – Alvaro Palacios – Gratallops
Petit Mas Sinen 2013 – Cellar Burgos Porta – Poboleda
1270 a vuit 2009 – Celler Hidalgo Albert – Poboleda
Los Torrents 2012 – Celler Pasanau – La Morera de Montsant
Porrera Vi de Vila 2014 - Celler Vall Llach – Porrera
Font de la Figuera 2014 – Clos Figueras – Gratallops
Clos Galena – Clos Galena – El Molar
Ferrer Bobet 2014 – Ferrer Bobet – Falset
GV5 2010 – Gratavinum – Gratallops
Mas Mallola – Marco Abella – Porrera
Cirerets 2014 – Mas Alta – La Vilella Alta
Doix 2013 – Mas Doix – Poboleda
L’expressio Del Priorat 2016 – Vinitum – Poboleda
Les Brugueres 2014 - La Conreria – Escaladei
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
Inheritance laws in Europe can be quite daunting to keep a business family-run however there are a few who still like to keep it private than handing it over to a conglomerate or a financial institution. I am glad I had a chance to meet such wine families in recent past and the most recent was meeting the 18th generation couple of Weingut Heinz Pfaffmann from Pflaz, Germany which was found in 1616. Their wines are now sold in the country; they were in town to showcase their wines and hosted us at a Tasting at Sofitel Mumbai.
Well the interesting part is that now an Indian is a part of the 18th generation of Pfaffmans, Pawel Hener married Kanupriya Anand from Delhi and this Indian connection seems instrumental in Germany’s biggest privately owned winery to set foot in India. The couple beamed with joy as they presented their wines, the crisp Riesling trocken, an aromatic Riesling spatlese, an opulent Gewurztraminer with medium sweetness and a floral Pinot Noir with old world allure. Certified by Bioland it is the biggest organic certified winery in Europe. Also present at the tasting was Shailender Sandha from Flipsydee the importers, he said; “Being associated with Weingut Heinz Pfaffmann the first certified organic German winery is a welcome pleasure. It’s an honor to import their wines to India as our country is getting familiar with wine-drinking and Indians have started travelling a lot and experiencing new wines.”
Weingut Heinz Pfaffmann Riesling Trocken, Riesling Spatlese, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir are now available in Mumbai at Rs 2700 a bottle and will be in Delhi soon.
French wines were the first love of India when it came to imported wines, due to various reasons and major being the taxes and of course the influx of a lot of two buck chucks that French wines slowly became elusive to an average Indian consumer. The Burgundies and the likes continued their march whilst importers also started looking for more economical and value for money wines from the South of France. Camas from the Languedoc is one such value wine brand which found entry into the country and Jean-Yves Laporte from the house was in Mumbai to showcase his wines,he did so over Indian food at Baluchi the north—west frontier place at the Lalit hotel.
If you were to look down south of France in the Languedoc region , the grapes that would first come to your mind are the likes of Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault etc which thrive well in the Mediterranean climate. But within the regions there are microclimates with warm days and cool nights which allow moderate climate grape varieties to flourish. One such region is the upper Aude valley in Limoux where wine co Cave Anne De Joyeuse is located and Camas comes from this winery. This location allows Camas to also do grapes which do well in a moderate climate or even cooler climates and their Pinot Noir is an example of the same. Radelan the importers are carrying the entire Camas portfolio in India which includes Malbec, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Cab-Sauv and Viognier. The retail price of these is approximately Rs 1450 in Mumbai and this makes them a good option for the Francophiles. We loved the Sauvignon which was reminiscent of delicate guava and passion fruit notes; it was quite easy on the palate devoid of the racy acidity (we love it too) like the Loire pours. The wine complemented the rich paneer and the flavoursome broccoli tandoori well.
The mains very paired with Cab-sauv and the Syrah, both wines showed good structure and fruit but for a hint of pear drop aromas in the latter. For the dessert was a rich date and almond halwa and Jean caught us by surprise when he paired it with a medium sweet Gros Manseng emanating floral and stone fruit notes with bracing acidity and a light body. He was trying to gather insights about another winery they own in Gascony and where Gros Manseng an indigenous variety is very popular. 'Great wine for the Indian market if the price is good; however who will move them, the Indian consumers to get to try the Manseng, they are yet to accept the Gewurztraminer.' I commented.
It is always a pleasure to see more wines coming to the market and an honour to be at the previews. And as we always say India needs more, maybe we will see an Armagnac in the market sometime soon if I picked the hints right last evening.
P.S: Camas is available in Mumbai and sold and marketed by Shailender Sandha’s Flipsydee.
It’s the fourth Cava I had in the past couple of months in India and this time it was Freixenet the largest exporter of Cava from Spain and the biggest producer, in fact around 80% of all Cava exported is from Freixenet. It is now also imported in India by Aspri Spirits and is prices at Rs 1795 a bottle.
Cava is a sparkling wine from Spain and is allowed to come from only certain areas and with particular grape varieties the most classic of them being the Paralleda, Xarel-lo and the Macabeu. They also allow use of red grape varieties for their pink sparkling or Rosados and have also permitted the French Chardonay and Pinot Noir to be used in the blends. Cava is made using the traditional method and often referred to as Spain’s answer to Champagne however with the warmer climate it comes from the fruit profile is quite distinct in most cases. Cava have to be aged for a minimum of 9 months on lees, Cava Reserva for at least 15 months and Gran Reserva for 30. The Gran Reserva can only be Brut or less sweet and have to bear the vintage on the bottle.
Aspri has got two variants into the Indian market from the Freixenet portfolio, the Cordon Negro Brut often referred to as the ‘Black Bottle Bubbly’ and touted as the highest imported sparkling wine in the world and the Carta Nevada Semi Dry a sweeter style with 37 grams of residual sugar. The former with lees aging of up to 18 months was still quite on the fruitier side with subtle yeasty notes and the latter was seaming with luscious stone and tropical fruit and vanilla nuances. Damian Clarke- Managing Director, Freixenet Group who flew down for the Mumbai launch said; “Freixenet is enjoyed by consumers in over 150 countries and we are delighted. India will now be one of them. Freixenet represents the style and energy of our hometown, Barcelona. It can be enjoyed on its own or as part of a cocktail but is always a stylish drink consumed by those people who celebrate life.”
Indians got exposed to Champagne followed by the now defunct Indian bubbly Marquis De Pompadour and then Prosecco and Jacob’s Creek. Now the rise of new Indian sparkling wines put together with the aforementioned have certainly put sparkling wines popularly called ‘Champagne’ on an Indian wine drinkers consideration set. Cava has stepped in at the right time in the country and will have lesser groundwork to do, all they have to do is reach out to the right audience and Sunday Brunches could be a good way to begin.
On my last trip to Germany a few months back I gifted a friend few bottles of Rioja Gran Reserva 2004 from Bodegas Faustino and we savored one together. Little did I know that Bacchus had bigger plans for me, the wine is now available in India and I was privee to a tasting of the 2001, 1995 and the 1971 vintages at a wine dinner curated by Kadambari Kapoor of Gusto imports at the Chambers ,Taj Mahal Hotel.
Rocio Marin of Gruppo Faustino was in town to lead the tasting of 7 wines over a 4 course meal. The evening began with a Faustino Cava Brut from the Rioja Alavesa regions, the bubbly made from Viura and Chardonnay with 26 months of lees aging had balanced autolytic and citrus aromas and was rather too crisp for a brut. The first course of Asparagus and Cranberry parfait went beautifully with the Faustino 2014 Crianza Tempranillo rose which was redolent of sweet spice, red fruits, subtle oxidative aromas and with a colour a few shades lighter than a pinot noir. Marin said, ‘Many producers are making paler roses like the popular Provence ones but we like to stick to tradition and macerate the skins for the perfect colour and flavour.’
The third and the fourth wines were the Faustino Crianza 2012 and the Reserva 20009, the former was Fruity and no fuss whist the latter showed bottle aged vegetal notes and earthy elements apart from delicate black fruit. Tempranillo which comes from Temprano meaning early ripening loves a cooler climate and the Rioja Alavesa cooled by the Atlantic provides the perfect condition for these to gather phenolic ripeness which aids aging potential. This perhaps explained the wines lined up to be paired with a forest mushroom and truffle Mille Feuille with aged gruyere followed by the chocolate velvet cake.
The 2001 Faustino Rioja Gran Reserva a sand blasted bottle one can’t miss is slated to be the best vintage of the 21st century for Faustino just like their 1964 from the 20th. The 2001 was deep ruby and with velvety tannins, there was black fruit with mushroom and forest floor notes and the finish was quite medium, I felt it was racing towards its peak. The 1995 which came up next felt even younger with a deeper ruby shade, very powerful tannins with luscious fruit, spice and cedar aromas this one seemed it could live forever. And the highlight of the evening was the 1971 which showed a pale garnet with a nose full of prunes and honey with subtle notes of spice and black fruit jam, it showed body and moderate acidity with a short to medium finish. The last two paired with the chocolate dessert wonderfully.
Spanish wines overall offer great value for money and Faustino with their portfolio in India should entice the Indian consumer. You can check Faustino wines and more from the Gusto portfolio here
In 1984 a group of Kiwis carried Sauvignon Blanc back from their land when they visited the Cape Mentelle winery in Margaret River a lesser know wine region in Australia then. David Hohnen the owner of the winery who was already creating ripples with his Cabernets tasted their wines and the rest is history! David Hohnen in 1985 launched the Cloudy Bay in Marlborough which eventually placed New Zealand Sauvignons on the world wine map and were often touted as an answer to the French from the Loire valley. Cloudy Bay now owned by the LVMH group is available in 30 countries and continues to grow as it celebrates 30th year in business. We celebrated their glorious 30 with Bruno Yvon the Managing Director of Moet Hennessy India who hosted us for a dinner in Vetro at the Oberoi Hotel.
Their flagship Sauvignon Blanc 2014 began the proceedings for the evening, it revealed elderflower, subtle green pepper notes with a burst of fruit with moderate acidity, the hall mark of a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Cloudy Bay took its name from a place located in the eastern end the Wairau Valley in Marlborough and it was named so by Captain Cook who also discovered Australia. Wairau Valley where most of the Cloudy Bay vineyards are situated also enjoys the most number of sunshine hours in New Zealand, it helps in the extended ripening season resulting in more flavours.
The second wine of the evening was the Te Koko 2011, a barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc. It was elegant, suave and had depth to it. What impressed us was the symphony of the varietal characteristics and the oak influence. This was beautifully paired with a smoked cauliflower soup. Oak aging of sauvignon blancs was a popular styles in the 80’s and then the unwooded trend came in and still continues. Expressions like Te Koko are done only when they really see the potential in the fruit to take the might of the oak. Fume Blanc, they are popularly called in the US.
Chardonnay is the third most popular in the Marlborough region after Sauvignon and Pinot Noir and the Cloudy Bay’s 2012 expression had restrained oak with citrus and stoned fruits to the fore. It paired with gnocchi in an aromatic bell pepper sauce; the caramelized onions added some sweetness to the sauce which played well with the refreshing acidity in the wine. The menu put together by Chef Adriano Baldassare and Rohan Jelkie the Brand Ambassador of Moet Hennessy in India was showing up very well indeed.
We ended the evening with a fruity 2013 Pinot Noir with some hint of tobacco and to compliment it were a range of cheeses, the Italian Gorgonzola, Provolone and Taleggio, an English Cheddar and the French Brie. The Kiwi Pinot Noir again akin to the Sauvignon Blanc is the new world’s answer to the big daddies of the old world and the Indian palates are very much ready for this style. Cloudy Bay to mark the 30th has come up with special editions of their Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir to reflect upon the last 29 vintages and to evolve further.
Last thoughts, Marlborough has approximately 109 wineries and they continue to flourish, amidst such stiff competition Cloudy Bay has to keep up their 1985 passion of wine making and we wish them good for their 4th decade in business!!!
‘Droits de succession’ the inheritance tax in France which can go to up to 45% is one of host of other taxes in France which have led to most from the wine business selling off to bigger corporations and the ones are that remain are working hard and passionately to carry their legacy and heritage. Drappier Champagne which was found in 1808 is one such house and we had the privilege of interacting and dining with the 7th generation scion, Mr Michel Drappier at the Drappier Dinner hosted by Hotel ITC Maratha.
Michel opened the evening with a Jeroboam (3 litre bottle) of the Grand Millesime Exception 2002, as a house they are always Pinot Forward to the extent of almost being a Blanc Des Noirs and this was no exception albeit with slightly lesser; 65% Pinot Noir. It certainly showed the strength. Mr. Philippe Charraudeau, VP West and General Manager of the hotel and Ms Sonal Holland the Wine Director for ITC hotels played perfect hosts as they ensured that our glass were topped up at all times.
Dum Pukht the Awadhi restaurant was all laid up for a 3 course meal to be paired with 4 more beauties from the house of Drappier. The choice of restaurant couldn’t have been more apt considering the affinity of mild and flavoursome Indian food for Champagne and to top it up the brand Dum Pukht celebrates 25 years of success. Drappier Blanc de Blancs made from Chardonnay and 5 % Pinot Blanc shows lovely freshness, was very light and crisp with vibrant acidity and it paired beautifully with Dudiya Kebab, potatoes sandwiched between paneer, shallow fried and finished with dum, Nilouferi kabab, an aromatic lotus stem seekh and the Hara Bhara Awadhi, a crumbly spinach and yellow lentil patty pan fried in ghee.
For mains the richness of the gravies with yoghurt, cashews and ghee was matched with the Drappier Charles de Gaulle edition, an 80 % Pinot which surprisingly was lighter than expected but fruity with higher residual sugar and good acidity. We would have loved to have this more as an aperitif. For the next course of floral and aromatic Awadhi Biryani was the 2010 Millesime Exception and this was our pick of the Blancs. It was a Pinot Noir dominant blend bursting with fruit; was fleshy and had a long finish.
Saving the best for the last held true in the case of Drappier Grand Sendree rose 2006 vintage which saw our perspective of rose Champagnes change completely; this was luscious and laden with red fruits, sweet spice on the palate and had a very opulent nose. Done by the Saignee method of making rose, this is one of the less 3% rose Champagnes made by this method and what made this glass or rather 2 of those exclusive was that it was one of the 4500 bottles from the vintage.
We wish the family-owned Drappier continues to flourish whilst Michel trains the next generations to take on the mantle!
P.S: Drappier is imported by Ace Beveragez- 011-40503560
After the classic Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone, Alsace and Port, Hungary introduces Szekszard bottles this September. A new bottle type named after the wine region has been introduced recently, which is dedicated to exclusively used by Kadarka, Kékfrankos varietal red wines and the traditional red blend called Bikavér (Bull’s Blood) produced in this wine region.
Szekszárd wine region is one of the 22 registered wine regions in Hungary belonging to the Southern ones of the country. As a result of a three-year process, almost 20 red wines from 2012 and 2013 vintages are bottled in the common Szekszárd regional bottles in September 2015. To date, a team of local winemakers led by János Eszterbauer, chair of the Guild of Szekszárd Winemakers has been working together in order to select the shape and appearance of the bottle trade-marking the region, as well as to choose a Hungarian glass factory being capable for producing it.
Zoltán Heimann, local winemaker, taking part in the process, explained the project, “Due to the natural endowments of this region, our assortment is based on red wines. At the same time, we consider it extremely important to create our own style in this segment and not to be a follower or imitator of any existing one at international or national level. Therefore, we found our take-off point in local grape varieties and wine types such as Kadarka, Kékfrankos (the same as Blaufränkisch) and Bikavér. Since these wines are about elegance, fruitiness and spiciness, it was completely clear for us that the ideal choice for our wines should be a Burgundy bottle type. Thus, a longer and more extravagant bottle has been chosen for the new Szekszárd regional standard bottle, where the logo of the city providing the name of the wine region with the text ”Szekszárd” can be read in four directions of the bottle.”
József Szabó, sales manager of the glass factory in Orosháza producing the bottle emphasised the advantages of having a regional bottle: ”With this common image, Szekszárd can go ahead not only in Hungary, but also in the international market, since – compared to the individual packing of smaller wineries all around the region – this common appearance of the wines of Szekszárd can be easier recognised by the consumers.”
(Excerpt from a press release)
Marlborough, New Zealand over the last few years needs no introduction in the country at least in the wine aware population or rather crowd I would say. The Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir from the regions is the New World’s answer to the Old World heavyweights. India has been seeing a lot of brands like Cloudy Bay, Villa Maria, Saint Clair, Brancott Estate, Kim Crawford etc. Sula Selections the import arm of Sula added one more to the list, Mud House a brand from Marlborough whilst it gently withdrew the Kim Crawford.
We were privee to a tasting which saw the Sauvignon Blanc from their label shine through and had a lovely finish. Priced at Rs 2575, this is about 20-25% cheaper than their competition set. Redolent of Elderflowers and Guava this wine showed on namesake greenness to it. The Pinot Noir at Rs 2800 scores on the price point again and had generous fruit in it however more concentration on the palate would have taken it a long way.
The Mud House Soiree saw Ann-Marie Battista the Adelaide based sales consultant for Accolade Wines the parent company of the wine brand, who also unveiled Kumala wines from South Africa again from Accolade. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinotage and Shiraz are the variants we tasted and our pick was the mouthful Pinotage (Rs 1350). It is great to see Accolade a renowned wine co to show interest in India and Sula Selections under the leadership of Prarrthona Pal Chowdhury accelerating their imported line up. Wine India is ready to experiment albeit with a bit of coaching and a bit of quintessential swagger!
Xenius a Spanish wine brand from the house of Covides, Catalonia, Spain was launched at a wine and dine Soiree at the Pali Village Café. The evening was hosted by Suprio Bose the Trade Commissioner of Catalonia, Sachin Rane of Ixora vineyards, the importers and Ricard Gil the Director General of Covides.
Catalonia is most known for its Cava, the generic name for sparkling wine from Spain which made in the traditional method apart from the other still wines it produces. India's encounter with sparkling began with Champagne; the Australian Sparkling came in next followed by Prosecco from Italy which is now the hottest. Cava is relatively unknown in the market and Xenius Cava made from the Classic Paralleda, Xarel.lo and Macabeu with a hint of fruity sweetness surely has the potential to delight the Indian palates especially when it comes at a price of Rs 1700. The Consul General of Spain in India Mr Eduardo De Quesada graced the occasion and popped the cork to show his support for the sparkling wine from his country. The guests for the evening included people from the wine trade and wine media, hospitality leaders and members from the Catalonian office.
Torres also from Catalonia is the brand which is top-of-mind for Spanish wine in India and they are certainly good, however they do not do Cava yet. Xenius wines apart from the Cava are also bringing in other wines which will certainly give more Spanish wines options to the consumers and they are priced under Rs 1300. Our pick of the wines were the 100% Tempranillo rose, bursting with cherries and strawberries with faint aromas of aniseed, it the one of the best in the market. The others a Merlot & Tempranillo blend and the Merlot reserve were both no-fuss easy drinking with the latter showing some oak nuances.
We at The Happy High are optimistic about the new wines and hope that the Indian consumer goes out and takes a step out of their comfort zone!
India given its demographics is certainly in the consideration set of most progressive wine and spirit companies in the world. In many cases it could be incremental revenue and in some could be brand building or and in fewer; both. Ruffino Wines from Italy showed its commitment to the Indian market at a recently held wine dinner at The Sahib Room and Kipling Bar at the Palladium Hotel. Ruffino from the stable of liquor major Constellation brands has been in the India for some time, imported by Sula selections the import arm of Nashik Vintners it does wines from Piemonte and Tuscany majorly.
Jake Jacob, Vice President Asia for Constellation Brands who was directly overlooking India operations reinstated his confidence in the market by appointing Joe Milner as the Regional sales director and the soiree was for announcing the same. The dinner was hosted by Deepak Bhatnagar, President Sales & Marketing, Sula, Abhishek Malik, Acting GM Palladium Hotel,Shraddha Nathani, Head of Marketing, Sula, Cecilia Oldne, Global Brand Ambassador and Head of International Sales, Sula, Rakesh Jalan, Head of Imports, Sula Selections, Prarrthona Pal Choudhury, DGM , International Brands, Sula and of course Jake and Joe. Jake in good banter said ‘ I used to look after the region first before moving on to a bigger role, however I loved the country so much that I continued looking after it’.
Fruity Orvieto Classico, fruity and perfumed Chianti and woody and floral Chianti Riserva Ducale were served with Indian food with a nouveau touch from the Sahib room Kitchen headed by Chef Angad Rai. The Mulberry and water chestnut samosas, Avocado and Bamboo Shoot Gilawat, the Purvanchali Saag and the Khubani ka meetha (a la halwa) were the highlights of the meal. The event was attended by wine professionals and personalities from wine retail.
Aspri spirits which was found in 2004 by Arun Kumar and Jackie Matai represents some of the finest brands in the world of wines, beer, cider and spirits. Over the last decade Aspri has developed one of the largest distribution networks in India that spreads to over 23 key cities. With its headquarters in Mumbai and branches in Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad along with 7 representative offices, Aspri is a leading player in the international Wines, Beer and Spirits business in India. On occasion of the company celebrating 10 years of success in the industry, we interacted with Arun Kumar the co-founder over a brief email interview.
Q How has been your journey from your first; De Bortoli wines?
It has been a stupendous journey from the first wine portfolio to over 150 wines today. It has been a great learning experience of what to do and what not to do.
Q You started with wines and now we see Aspri with a very diverse portfolio, what is the future path like?
We will continue to consolidate our position and are sure that we will deliver to the Indian consumer. We will continue to build our reach and distribution strength in India and the sub continent and expand further into the travel retail segment in the region. We will only add products if it complements our portfolio mix.
Q You import Austrian wines which are little known in India, How is the market responding to it and is there scope for others from Switzerland, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Greece etc to taste success in India?
Schloss Gobelsburg is one of Austria’s most iconic wines and there are niche customers for the same. We are confident that the wine market will evolve as the Indian consumers are also on the journey of discovery. We believe that there will be space for all in the future to come.
Q Which ones in your opinion are the upcoming markets in India for luxury liquor?
Pune, Chandigarh, Chennai and a few others that are showing promise.
Q What are your 3 favourite tipples from the Aspri portfolio?
Amarula Cream, Cabernet Sauvignon from DBR Lafite and Campari in summer.
Your views on the FSSAI regulations?
Whilst we support the end objectives of the regulations it could have been handled and implemented better.
Would you advise anybody to get into Liquor distribution in the current scenario?
It is a difficult business and one has to keep an eye on the ball at all times and change course at short notice. We will not dissuade anyone from getting into this line of business but whoever wishes to must be very clear that charting course is very challenging.
What is your mantra to sell Liquor in India?
Perseverance and Patience
Lastly, How does Arun Kumar do when he is not selling Liquor?
I spend time with my family which also includes my two pets. I also love to head off towards the mountains whenever time permits.
‘What do you think of Nero D’Avola, Sangiovese, Sangiovese Bianco and Grillo being grown in India and doing some brisk business??’ I asked Alessandro Guerini the export manager for Zonin , a 194 year old brand and the biggest producer of Prosecco in the world. Alessandro was taken aback as this was news to him but he regained composure and said ‘I am very happy to see Italian varietals gaining prominence and their presence will only help build a better wine culture in a high potential market that is India if not for the taxes’.
Alessandro was visiting to showcase the diversity of Zonin which is a clear reflection of Italy, the country has one of the highest diversity when it comes to indigenous grape varietals used for wine production, they have over 400 varieties and Zonin has something to contribute to from all corners of the country. Prosecco which shot the brand to popularity is certainly the closest to their heart and they can only rejoice at a point when Prosecco crossed Champagne sales globally for the first time in history last year. Prosecco is a region in North-East Italy and it is a sparkling wine made from the grape Glera. Made by the Charmat method it is a fruit forward style meant for youthful drinking, it has taken the world by a storm and so is India getting hooked on to it.
To give you a perspective of Zonin’s scale, India’s wine consumption per year, Indian and Imported wines put together stands at approximately 2 million cases and Zonin alone produces around 4 million (9 ltr) cases per year in total. With scale comes the challenge to maintain quality thus prompting the co to put their eggs in multiple baskets and come up with quality wines from regions across Italy. We tasted the Pinot Grigio from Fruili, Montepulciano D’ Abruzzo from Abruzzo, Refosco an age-worthy red from Fruili and Sicilian Nero D’Avola from Principi di Butera . The Refosco from 2008 was still young and fresh on the nose great on the palate, but I thought it had peaked. The highlight of the evening was the 2006 Nero D’Avola which was intense on Turmeric and sweet Liquorice character.
Zonin has a few more wines in India like the ubiquitous Chianti, an easy drinking Valpolicella and the big and bold Amarone della Valpolicella but one thing that Indians with the big sweet tooth cannot miss is Asti, a sweet sparkling wine made from Moscato. Try your luck it doesn't wait for you on the shelves for too long.
For now our heart sings... Give Me Deliella ..........