India – where there’s a will, there’s wine by Leigh-Ann Luckett

Wine fundi, Leigh-Ann Luckett, has decided to take some time out and travel the world in search of wine! Excellent plan so we start with a few of her experiences in India.

Better known for curry than Cabernet, India is certainly making moves to catch up with the Western wine world. Currently home to 77 wineries producing just over 17 million litres of wine per year with consumption growing at a rate of 30% year on year, wine is becoming all the more popular.

Being wine-loving South Africans, we decided a trip to the winelands had to be a part of our India trip. A few hours by car takes you from the madness of Mumbai to the “heart” of the winelands, Nasik, where around 80% of the country’s wine is produced.

Following a few recommendations & being guided by time constraints thanks to religious dry days cutting our tasting time short, we visited 4 wineries in the area – 2 of the 3 biggest producers in the country, 1 of medium size & reputation & 1  new small boutique estate.

The country’s only sloping vineyard can be found at Grover Zampa while the only Riesling in the country is available at Sula. York sounds particularly western but the name is made up of the initials of the Indian owner’s children & Vallonne uses only locally made tanks to produce their small selection of fine wines.

From sugary Chenin Blanc driven by consumer demand to create the “sour sweet water” they expect, to experiments with barrel fermented whites; from Brut Tropical to small volumes catering to the niche of curious young wine appreciators; there’s huge contrast between the wines & the philosophies of the wineries in the area. The brave young winemakers face many challenges in the vineyards & in the marketplace. Competing against hugely successful commercial brands means adjusting quality of wines; ensuring quality in the vineyard means close vineyard management including dropping 1 of the 2 crops grapes produced by the vines per year; & lack of cooling during transport & storage along the supply chain means risk of wines spooling before they’ve even reached the consumer. Fortunately, little things like alcohol content can be adjusted with a little extra “encouragement” to the authorities approving the labels.

At the end of the day, the wines are interesting with a huge scope in terms of quality. There are the quaffable crowd pleasers, there are some I’d prefer not to drink again & some I would happily take home & line up against some of my favourites from South Africa. If this is what how far the industry has come in the last 32 years (that’s even younger than our controversial young grape, Pinotage), there’s definite scope for some exciting things from the vineyards lying far beyond the traditional latitudes for producing wine, especially given the inherent optimism & resourcefulness of the Indian nation.

Kind regards

Leigh-Ann Luckett

More images can be found here Google Photos

Leigh-Ann’s blog can be found here Finding Wining