Sommeliers will learn to say Holesalu in T. Narasipura taluk

The rich red loamy soil of the Cauvery basin has a new aroma added to its list. So far known for millets, paddy and sugarcane, the basin now has an appellation and a vineyard to boast of.

Nestled amidst paddy fields by the Cauvery, Alpine Wineries is Karnataka's latest vineyard with state-of-the-art winery, and its effort has also helped the region get Cauvery Valley, the appellation (a protected name under which a wine can be sold) by the Karnataka government.

Third valley

While the wineries founder Raghavendra Gowda started the spadework for the vineyard in 2005-2006, the work on getting the appellation also started simultaneously. Months before the first bottles hit the market, the government acknowledged Cauvery valley as an appellation region, the third in the State after Nandi Valley and Krishna Valley.

Plants from Europe

At a time when the wine industry is teetering on the brink, the 247-acre vineyard at Holesalu village in T. Narasipura taluk, Mysore, is set to face many challenges. “The soil was sent to France for testing, varietals were identified and imported to India, labour was [painstakingly] trained to handle the plants with care and I had to struggle to get approvals,” Mr. Gowda, told The Hindu. “We continue to send our soil for testing in France as testing in India is not reliable. Viticulture is still in nascent stage here.”

While 5.5 lakh plants came from France and Austria, state-of-the-art viticulture and wine-making technologies come from 16 countries. “Everything was meticulously identified and we wanted to be on a par with the vineyards in the West,” he said.

Soil type and conditions were tested before deciding on the root stocks, clones and varietals. After considerable work, the vineyard has selected six each of red and white varietals for its wine while 28 varietals, including the 12 selected, are in the experimental block.

“The mortality rate was about 30 per cent. But it was not due to climatic conditions, but due to problems in transit and temperature,” said Mr. Gowda, who has worked for nearly eight years in vineyards across Europe.

As weather predictions available locally are not very accurate, the vineyard now collects and transmits data to the University of Basel. The data is interpreted and both disease and weather forecast is provided in real time. “Accurate forecasts help us in managing the vineyard better. Sprays are an expensive affair, and in the absence of an accurate forecast, a mild shower soon after a spray could cost us considerably,” he adds.

New varieties soon

The winery currently has the capacity to process 8 lakh litres, which can be expanded to 15 lakh litres. The Bordeaux-based Stephane Derenoncourt, one of the famous winemakers, was roped in to make the best wine from Cauvery valley. Currently, Alpine Wineries offers shiraz, cabernet shiraz, sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc, while it is set to introduce seven more varieties in 2013-2014. “The new introduction will be very different,” says Mr. Gowda, without divulging the details.

Coming as a shot in the arm, the winery, which produced its first consignment in 2011, already has enquiries from China and United Kingdom. “We have the potential to export if the product is good,” he says. He is already working on projects like wine tourism, restaurant, shop, sommelier school and so on.

Those interested in wine tours can contact Alpine Wineries at info@alpinewineries.com or call 40942447.