Presenting a pick of interesting wines made in the country
Can you recommend five Indian wines worth drinking, someone asked the other day. It's a tricky question because desi wine can be notoriously inconsistent – and in more than one respect. Taste can alter, sometimes drastically, between one vintage and the other. Worse, how lucky you get could depend on which batch you drink – a reflection on the uneven manufacturing process and the flaws in the transportation-storage chain.
Still, at the risk of missing out on some worthwhile product, in a market when more and more new wines are launched, here are five suggestions.
Sula Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc
Among all wineries, Sula serves up the most consistent range in terms of quality. Overall, their whites are better than their reds; their ubiquitous Cabernet Shiraz for instance is exasperatingly prosaic. If you like your whites dryish, then the Sauvignon Blanc, with its crisp and slightly herbaceous note, holds up very well and rarely disappoints.
Grover La Reserve
This was the red everyone drank before the wineries started mushrooming in the country. A blend of Cabernet and Shiraz, the Grover La Reserve is full and intense and redolent of dark fruit. The grapes are sourced from select vines and briefly oaked after fermentation. If you happen to get a good bottle or batch, the wine is free of that green vegetal character that mars many an Indian red.
Reveilo Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
The 2005 or the first vintage of this wine was quite remarkable. Unlike its easygoing fruit forward successors, this had the muted and sober quality of a serious Cab. The problem is it is very hard, if not impossible to get a bottle of this vintage. I haven't drunk the recent vintages but the three years that followed 2005 were not bad. They were very fruit-forward in comparison and although not quite the same wine, they would have done well with some ageing.
Alpine Wineries Vindiva Classic
This is not the top-end offering from this newly established Karnataka winery, but it is their most interesting. Unlike the more expensive Vindiva Reserve version, which is something of a full-bodied fruit bomb, the Classic is a medium-bodied wine that may not be as rich and sturdy, but has the more restrained and peppery overtones of a Shiraz from the Rhone.
Sula Vineyards Chenin Blanc
Sula's other white is the popular and easy drinking Chenin Blanc, favoured by those who have a sweeter tooth. This off-dry wine is consistent, the mineral flinty element tempered by the soft white fruit. The surprisingly good but not so easily available Viognier, launched relatively recently, with its heady and seductive aromas, adds another dimension to Sula's white portfolio. The problem is that it is not easily available everywhere.