While Nasik is where most Indian wineries are located, Karnataka is now producing fine wines and some of them will soon be available outside the home state.
Most wine lovers are aware of Grover Vineyards, around since 1992, and whose La Reserve (` 725) still commands a loyal following. Those days’ getting a license was difficult and Grover had to start from scratch, as producers only knew how to make Golconda from Bangalore Blue grapes. Grover roped in popular winemaking consultant Michel Rolland to help out, and never had to look back since. Grover today has its top-line “Art Collection” series (`550 – 600), the lower-priced Sante (` 340), and the entry-level Raya (`275).
However, Grover has competition from Alpine Winery, whose state-of-the-art winery and vineyards are only three hours away from Bangalore (towards Mysore), and who have support from the equally famous winemaker Stephane Derenoncourt (who also happens to be from Bordeaux). The company claims to have spent ` 125 Crore to build 1 million litres/year winery on their 1,250 acres of land. Their wines reflect the experience and the investment that has gone into the project.
The Vindiva Reserve Shiraz (`875) is terrific, their Vindiva Shiraz Classic (` 685) is quite good, while their entry-level Oro Cabernet Shiraz (` 415) is quite drinkable. We await the launch of their Sauvignon Blanc. The preview tasting of the wine reveals that it matches the quality of New Zealand wines from this grape with its intense aromas of ripe guava and passion fruit and a crisp, clean and balanced taste.
Then there is Krsma Winery, near Hampi, set up by Hyderabad-based industrialist and marathon runners Krishna Prasad and wife Uma. Their wines are not yet in the market, but he’s produced some stunning Cabernet Sauvignon (100% matured in French oak) that is to watch out for when the wine is launched. The wine will be expensive, and rightly so.
Also interesting is the fact that the area near Grover Vineyards’ winery can be used to promote wine tourism as there will be five wineries within a short drive from Bangalore – Grover Vineyards, Bangalore Soma (on the far side of Makli Hill), Nandi Valley SDU Winery (presently marketing ‘Kinvah’ at `430), SDU Winery (launching in December 2012), and Krishnamurga wines (Black Buck Viognier and Cabernet Shiraz, both at ` 482).
Also on Bangalore retail shelves are locally produced wines like Surya Divine (` 495), La Bella Beautiful (`500), Darbar/ Elite/ Gagan/ Silver Dew/ Ulhas (` 380), Seasons (`480), Rico (` 460), Jouvin (`475 – 500), and Heritage (`400 – 430). These wines are of varying quality, but provide opportunities for the adventurous to explore brands that are ‘off the beaten track’.