India’s first ‘Reserve’ wine, La Reserve was launched by Grover Vineyards in 1997, five years after the company’s debut in India with their modestly-labeled Grover Red, Grover Rose’, and Grover White wines.
It quickly gained a loyal following: the wine had a good aroma and body and a mouth-filling complex taste – stuff none of us had seen in any Indian wine.
The wine itself is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah (Shiraz) grapes, and the company claims it has been matured in French oak barrels for 6 months. The wine was the personal creation of Michel Rolland, a famous international wine consultant, whose signature appears on every label.
The old label (with its embossed gold stamp) was years ahead of other wine labels and reinforced the premium positioning of the wine. Good stuff – for years I rated this “the best Indian wine”, and even in 2005 it was selling at just Rs. 390 per bottle.
The brand’s high point was probably when its 2004 vintage was adjudged “Best New World Red” by Steven Spurrier in the August 2005 edition of Decanter, the wine magazine.
Somewhere down the road the wine lost it’s way, and quality suffered. Maybe this was a fallout of their long-standing winemaker Abhay Kewadkar moving to head Vijay Mallya’s Wine Division in 2006, because around 2007 the opinion on the wine was “not what it used to be”.
Having tasted the wine recently in their brand new cellar and ‘wine library’ at the Bangalore winery, I am glad to report that the wine’s quality is now every bit as good as it ever was.
The ‘new avatar’ is a deep, dark red colour, with a marked aroma of fruit, berries and oak, a full-bodied mouthfeel, and a complex but smooth taste that includes chocolate, coffee, vanilla (from the oak casks), and a hint of spice (that’s the Shiraz talking).
Fittingly the wine has new livery – a modern label, with less clutter up front, that quite ably conveys the premium positioning of the wine.
Pricing: Rs. 625 in Bangalore, Rs. 580 in Delhi, and Rs. 672 in Mumbai.
While La Reserve is no longer either India’s best or most expensive wine, I give it full marks for delivering very good quality at a reasonable price, and am happy to quaff it whenever I go out dining or have people over.