A Wine Expert's List Of Top 10 Premium Indian Wines You Must Drink
The Indian wine consumer today is more informed and better travelled than ever before. Little wonder that the best wines are now made right here in India for discerning oenophiles.
For the longest time, the Indian wine industry was little more than either a playful indulgence of the rich and bored or the last resort for the poor and ignorant. At first, the latter made wines out of table grapes, which didn’t do much for their dwindling revenues. Then, some people invested in wine like they do with any other commodity, purely for gain and with no sense of what really goes into making a brand reputable and sustainable. Neither they nor the industry benefited from such short-sighted and far from altruistic forays.
Today, the scenery is a lot changed. The people behind the best wines aren’t winemakers (well, some of them are) but they have left no stone unturned in ensuring making the best skill set available. The experts who have since then stepped in, for their part, have stopped trying to make European or American wines on Indian soils and are instead focusing on finding out the local terroir. The result is that nearly a decade since the big wine boom, we finally have some commendably sippable wines throwing our shelves and now, the latest, premium wines from Indian estates which could give the big boys from vineyards around a world a good jog for their money.
So, without further ado, if I were stocking my cellar and wanted to feature some prime Indian superstars, I would make sure to include some quantities of the following wines:
1. J’Noon Sparkling No. 47: By far the finest bubbly to come from Indian soils has to be this one! J’noon, as a series, makes white, red and sparking wine, each of which is limited to a 2400 bottle count, so by the time you finish reading this, there would already be fewer in their cellars. Super premium pricing (Rs 2500-4000/bottle) but definitely worth the hype.
The project is a tie-up between Fratelli of India and Jean Charles Boisset from France. The two came together and their combined expertise and experience has yielded forth this range to us. The sparkling No. 47 (a tribute to India’s year of independence) is a lovely 100% Chardonnay Classic style bubbly that shows depth and character, length and balance. It’s a touch toasty, citrusy aplenty, and with an elegant aromatic persistence.
2. J’Noon White and Red: Close on the heels of their bubbly, is the barrel-fermented white (Chardonnay-Sauvignon in 60:40 ratio), which shows great power and the red (predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon with Petit Verdot-Marselan-Sangiovese making up the remaining 42.5% ), which, although closed and young when I tried it, held in its folds great potential for ageing and maturing. I list them together here for both are deserving candidates for this list (but I don’t want to invite allegations like Fratelli paid for this article and is thus crowding the list.)
3. Fratelli Sette: Once again, this is free-standing opinion, and Sette (Sangiovese-Cabernet blend), for me, was India’s first attempt at making an iconic red cuvée. Today, as both winemaker (Piero Masi) and vineyards have matured, the wine has become a more seamless statement of structure and strength. This wine definitely needs time so when you open it, keep a decanter on hand for you will surely need it. I do feel that Sangiovese, as a variety, flourishes in most Indian terroirs and good Indian wineries are going for it. Sette can be heavy at times which is why I prefer Vitae, their single-vineyard produce, the softest wines in Fratelli’s premium portfolio. It’s my go-to wine when I want something that is complex and layered and yet won’t take a good part of a day to open up in the glass.
4. KRSMA Cabernet Sauvignon: KRSMA is the only winery in India which only makes premium wines exclusively. The tiny property singularly defines the appellation of Hampi Hills and all their wines are laudable. The Cabernet is their pride and joy and with each vintage, the owners (Mrs. and Mr. Prasad) take much care in ensuring that no grape that is not at optimum ripeness makes it into the vat. The tiny quantities that they then get are oak-aged before being released well after a year of making the wine. Juicy, fleshy, grippy, vibrant, are just some of the words that come to mind with this wine.
5. KRSMA Sangiovese: Growing Sangiovese in India certainly seems to be working well, even in the water-starved soils of Hampi. Trouble is that Sangiovese does need water and as a result, it can become an expensive investment of a crop. For the moment, this wine is a medium-to-full bodied wine, broody and boisterous, but goes down easy and develops well in the glass. Coming up soon is their Syrah, which also promises to become an iconic Indian premium.
Also Read: 5 Wine Myths You Need to Stop Believing
6. Grover-Zampa Insignia: The most expensive magnum India has seen yet, the first single-varietal barrel-fermented single-vineyard Syrah… this wine certainly has more than your average share of firsts to it. But coming from the first family of Indian wines, one would expect no lesser. The wine shows class and pedigree and an almost unmatched softness of fruit and texture. Limited edition and only sold out of the winery, they show us all how premium should be done!
7. Grover-Zampa Chêne Grande Reserve: The wine is a blend of Tempranillo and Shiraz with 15 months in French oak, a fruity and flavourful one with ample tannins and grip. Definitely a strong contender for one of our top wines, it also shows the potential that good Tempranillo can exhibit on Indian soils.
8. Grover-Zampa Vijay Amritraj Reserve Collection (VA) White and Red: The VA wines, be it the barrel-fermented Viognier white or the Cab-Shiraz-Viognier red, are an absolute delight. They are drinkable straight out of the bottle and can nevertheless be put down to mature for a few years easy.
9. SDU Wine Maker’s Selection: A relatively new wine from a house that has been consistent wines in the base-level segment, this Syrah-Cabernet blend is a rich oak-aged blend of which only 999 bottles were made. 10-year old vines or older provide the fruit for this which is aged for almost 18 months before being released. This Super-Tuscan style red will certainly need time to open up.
10. Reveilo Reserve Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon: Although marred with some consistency issues, they were undoubtedly India’s first lot of reserve wines and remain among the finest of wines that can be had for that price. The wines were way ahead of their times and definitely among the finest that India has ever produced. In value for money, these sit ahead of most other brands mentioned here.
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