By Alok Chandra
The New Year will undoubtedly bring with it a slew of new wine labels onto retail shelves and hotel wine lists – the question is, how many of these wines are worth the price? And what are the good wines available? Here are a few tips to help you choose.
First, remember that wines costs a lot more in India (than overseas) simply because taxes are a lot higher here – customs duties on imported wines at 160% of CIF is among the highest in the world, while state duties are between 25% – 50% of the end consumer price.
There are many good Indian wines that are much better than imported wines at twice the price. Imported wines cost more not because they are better but because they suffer higher taxes – so the assumption that an expensive wine is better (than a less expensive wine) is just not true.
We all know wines from Sula – good-to-reasonable quality, found everywhere, “can’t go wrong” wines. The Sula Dindori Reserves are among the best Indian wines – but explore a little, try some of the following wines:
Big Banyan: I quite like both their Sauvignon Blanc and the Cabernet Sauvignon as both have a good aroma and mouthfeel, with the Cab displaying decent varietal character without being over-the-top. What impresses is the consistent quality and outstanding packaging.
Reveilo: Apart from the conventional 4varietals (which include Chenin Blanc and Shiraz), Reveilo is the first to launch Italian varietals: Sangiovese, Nero d’Avola (both reds), and Grillo (a white). Not only are their other wines really good, their reserves are definitely a cut above – no wonder they are the only Indian wine to be listed under Starwood Hotels’ “Wines of the World”.
York: Located just down the road from big brother Sula, York not only makes good wines under its own label, it is also the only winery in Maharashtra that produces wines under contract for three different vendors – inducing Moet Hennessy’s first foray in Asia (sorry, that Sparkling wine will hit the market only in end-2014). The eponymous label (“York”) is not distributed widely, but is well worth seeking out.
Grover: Well of course you know Grover – the second-oldest Indian winery. They’ve had their ups and downs with quality, and I am glad to say that they seem to be winning that war; their La Reserve is as good as it ever was, while their whites (the Sante Chenin Blanc and Art Series Viognier) are well worth revisiting.
Luca: The new kid on the block, growing up fast, with quality improving by leaps and bounds. The really interesting label is their Luca Lychee Wine, which smells and tastes of … Lychees!
Prices for all wines are about the same; Rs. 500 – 600 per bottle for the regulars, and Rs. 750 – 900 for the reserves. Watch out for blind tastings being planned by industry magazine Sommelier India that will provide a lot more information about relative quality.