Discovering the Indian Wines
You might know about French wines, Italian wines, Czech wines, South African wines and more, but did you know about Indian wine. Yes, Indian wine, oh don’t worry, you won’t get the Indian accent or suddenly write English with an Indian accent with this wine! You will surely enjoy a fantastic wine that will marvel your taste-buds and will make you come for more. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane to know from where wine originated.
Wine has been produced for more thousand of years, the earliest proof of wine was from Georgia from 6000 BC, Iran from 5000 BC, and Sicily from 4000 BC. Well, the earliest archaeological evidence of wine was produced from grapes was found from some sites in China 7000 BC, Georgia 6000 BC, Lebanon 5000 BC, Iran 5000 BC, Greece 4500 BC, and Sicily 4000 BC. The oldest extant that was used to make wine was found in Armenia 4100 BC. Ouf! That’s too many numbers to remember, but that history flashback helped in knowing that wine is international and not to one country only.
India and alcoholic drinks have an old bond of almost 4,000 years. Red wines such as Syrah and Shiraz were based on an ancient Indo-Aryan drink called Sura. It is believed that most Hindus scriptures that proof of kings and queens to have consumed wine at some point in time. This country is being considered as a lucrative and majorly unexplored destination for alcoholic drinks by mostly everyone. The wine industry in India is growing considerably well, and the competition is getting tougher day by day. Grape growing and winemaking in India traces back to the Bronze Age, where Persian traders brought the practice to the region. It soon became common throughout the area to find wine made from grapes or fermented grain beverages. During British rule, winemaking was widespread; however, at the beginning of the 20th century, the wine industry was wiped out because of the disapproval from part of the government. Later in the 1980s, wine production returned to India along with a growing middle class taking an interest in luxury goods and dining out. The majority of wine consumed is domestic as the tax on wine brought into India is 150%. Seventy producers account for the 24 million bottles that India produces per year. A little more than 10 per cent of that total is exported. The principal red grapes are Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir. White varieties include Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. There are two main winegrowing regions: Nashik, in the state of Maharashtra, near Mumbai; and Nandi Hills, in Karnataka, near Bangalore.
Nashik is now known as the hub for grape cultivation and amazing vineyards. Apt because of the perfect combination of soil texture and weather conditions, this belt is conducive for the growth of grapes for winemaking. Maharashtra has become the forefront of homegrown wines and has some of the finest wineries and vineyards in India, such as:
Sula Vineyards is India’s best-known winery. From humble beginnings in 1999, Sula has admirably developed into a world-class winery with a market share of more than 65% in India. The company is a prolific producer of many different varieties of wine. Tours and tastings are frequently conducted every hour from 11.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. daily. Little Italy restaurant serves delicious Italian cuisine made with organic ingredients from Sula’s garden to complement the wine. There’s an Indian cuisine restaurant called Rasa as well. Both restaurants are open until 10.30 p.m. daily. Also, the winery hosts the iconic SulaFest music festival in early February each year.
Sula Vineyards also established India’s first vineyard resort, called Beyond. It has 32 rooms with private balconies situated a short distance from the winery. There’s a restaurant, swimming pool, spa and gym, and games room too. A newer Tuscan-style property, called the Source at Sula, is another option for staying near the winery.
York Winery and Tasting Room
Situated not far from Sula Vineyards, and with a view over Gangapur Dam and the hills, York Winery is where you should head for sublime sunset tastings. The tasting room is open daily from noon to 10 p.m., and tours are offered until 6 p.m. Foodies will appreciate the Cellar Door restaurant, which serves Indian cuisine expertly paired with York wines.
York Winery has won a range of awards for its wine varieties, both red and white. However, most impressive is its Arros reserve blend of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, released in late 2014. York also released its own sparkling wine, York Sparkling Brut made from 100% Chenin Blanc grapes, towards the end of 2014. Notably, York is now one of only a few Indian wineries that produce Chardonnay. It’s decent too, with just the right amount of oak.
Grover winery, India
Grover Vineyards, one of India’s oldest winemakers near Bangalore in Karnataka, merged with Maharashtra-based Vallée de Vin (producer of premium wine brand Zampa) in 2012 to better compete with Sula. In 2019, the company bought Four Seasons Wines and Charosa Vineyards.
Grover Zampa focuses on producing premium wines, with the standout being its award-winning La Reserve brand of oak matured Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz reds. There are extensive wine trails across the 410 acre Karnataka property. It’s also possible to visit the winery’s barrel room. Tours start at 10.30 a.m. and 1.30 p.m. daily. Shorter tours and tastings are also available at the atmospheric but much smaller Maharashtra vineyard, with its attractive courtyards.
Soma Vineyards is possibly Karnataka’s (and India’s) most scenic winery. The 100 acre vineyard is bordered by Makali Hill on one side and fronts Gundamagere Lake on the other. Apparently, it’s the only winery where grapes grow together with coconut palms and other fruit trees. Soma was founded in 2001 and has, not surprisingly, become a sought after spot for weddings and other events.
Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz are the specialties there. The winery supplies most of its grapes to Grover Zampa Vineyards but has recently started producing its own boutique wines. Comprehensive four-hour tour and tasting experiences are conducted from 3.30 p.m. to 7.30 p.m. daily. The tours are excellent and you’ll get to try some exclusive limited edition wines that are only available on the premises. Do book ahead.
Nandi Valley Winery/Kinvah Vineyards
Nandi Valley Winery is situated closer to Bangalore than Grover Zampa and Soma. Although its wines aren’t quite as good, the winery is really well set up for wine tourism. If you’re looking to have some fun, it’s a happening weekend hangout with grape stomping and DJ. Three-hour wine tours start at 11.30 a.m. and are ideal for beginners, as they cover everything from the history of wine to bottling. Lunch and tastings are also provided, and you can choose the wines you want to try.
The winery produces a diverse range of wines but is most well known for its flagship Kinvah brand, named after a wine of the Mauryan Era. Bookings need to be made a day in advance.
Fratelli (meaning “brothers” in Italian) was stated in 2007 by three pairs of brothers from Italy, Delhi, and Maharashtra. This remote vineyard is one of India’s biggest wine makers (along with Sula and Grover Zampa) and produces some outstanding reserve wines on its 240 acre estate. The Sette reserve red is rated among the best red wine in India.
A full day package includes a guided tour, lunch, and use of recreational. However, it’s recommended that you stay at least one night in the winery’s modern accommodations, as it’s not easy to reach. The rate is fully inclusive of meals plus a welcome drink of sparkling wine, and it’s cheaper during the week. It’s also possible to rent the whole place for groups.
If you’re a fan of sparkling wine, you’ll be pleased to know that globally-renowned Chandon made a much-anticipated entry into India in early 2016. The vineyard is located on 21 acres of land near Nashik. Its pristine facility (the sixth in the world) sparkles, just like its splendid Brut and Rose wines. Winery tours are possible. There’s also a tasting space and patio overlooking the manicured grounds, for future wine tourism. Prior reservations are required to visit.
If you want to have a taste of this Indian wine, then head to Curry Vault in Melbourne, VIC, where they offer the best wines from around the world at the best prices. You can also dig in for authentic Indian cuisine there.