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Tasting Indian Wine
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Tasting Indian Wine - Visiting Indian Vineyards
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Discover our Temple of Wine & Share our passion
Two of India's three most respected Wine products are located in Maharastra's hardy Sahyadri Valley, Se out from Mumbai early in the morning on a mission to gaze deep into the State's soul - The Vineyards. Drive to Nashik coasting past the lush jowar fields. You are at Chateau Indage, looking out on the country's largest vineyard.

Though most Indians do not know it, the country has a 4000 year tradition of making wine. Early European visitors to the Mughal courts recorded that they had tasted wines from the vineyards of Akbar, Jehangir and Shahjehan. In the 19th century, the British encouraged the establishment of vineyards in Kashmir and in the Maharastraian region of Baramati. Several Indian wines were exhibited and favorably received by visitors to the Great Calcutta Exhibition of 1884. However, Indian vineyards were totally destroyed by phulloxera in 1890s. It has taken about a century to reclaim that legacy.

Chateau Indage Chateau Indage in the high Sahyadri Valley of western Maharashtra kick-started the Indian wine revolution in the 1980s with a surprisingly appetizing method traditional fizz sold on the local market as Marquise de Pompadour but exported with considerable success as Omar Khayyam. Chateau Indage also sells a range of still wines on the domestic market under the names Riviera and, apparently superior but untasted by me, Chantilli.

The Riviera red based on Pinot Noir is well made and attractively dry; it takes chilling well." The company's winery in Narayangaon, Maharashtra, produces a wide range of high-quality wines under the watchful eye of Californian winemaker John Locke. The company's wineries have a capacity to produce over two million bottles of wine per year.

Pioneer of French-style wines in India, CI Limited. produces a variety of exquisite still and sparkling wines. In the Indian market Indage holds 75 % share of the premium Still wine category and virtual monopoly in Sparkling wines. Chateau Indage, pioneered by Sham Chougule was established in 1984, with the technical collaboration of Champagne's Piper Heidsieck. The ultra-modern winery in Narayangaon, Maharashtra, produces a wide range of high-quality wines under the watchful eye of Californian winemaker John Locke.

Chateau Indage's Riviera label includes a fruity, well-balanced white blend of chardonnay and ugni blanc and a soft fresh red made from pinot noir. The Chantilly label wines--a white (chardonnay) and a red (cabernet sauvignon)--are aged in French oak and show their varietal characteristics. Omar Khayyam is a top-quality chardonnay-based sparkling wine, made by the methode traditionelle, that compares favorably with champagne. The company also distills a fine oak-aged grape brandy. Their wines are also exported to U.K., Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Bhutan. Nepal, Srilanka, Mauritius, New Zealand, Japan and U.S.A.

Sula Wine Your next stop is at Sula vineyard, the brash entrant into the Indian market. Founded by Rajeev Samant, who trained as an engineer at Stanford, Sula is as determinedly New World as Chateau Indage prides itself on its oak matured European methods. Sula manages its vineyards with an amalgam of techniques influenced by California and Australia, adapted to Indian conditions. It keeps its wine fruity and spice with pleasant aromas. Sula's wines are young; its whites get to the stores four months after crushing; its reds take between eight months and 18 months to reach the shelves. "" Anyone can come in and drop by "" is how the vineyard welcomes visitors. The vineyard has a tasting room in which visitors can sample its products and buy wines that would not be available in the general market.

Sula - The most recent entrant into the Indian wine market, complete with labels of almost California sophistication. This is not so surprising since it was set up about seven years ago near the town of Nazi, 200 km northeast of Bombay, at an altitude of 600 meters, by a young returnee from Silicon Valley. Sulfa Brut and Sauvignon Blanc will be a welcome addition to India's smarter wine lists. None of these wines is of premier cru rank but they are certainly up to good Van de Pays status - although, as in all hot countries relatively new to wine, both local and imported wines are clearly extremely vulnerable to poor storage and transport conditions." - Jancis Robinson

Another of India's best known wineries, Grover Vineyards, is situated in South India in the Capital city of Karnataka state, Bangalore on its outskirts. Tulleeho Wine Trail - a day long visit to the Grover vineyards, which includes a tour of vineyards, production facilities, wine sampling and a chance to buy Grover wines.

Grover Vineyards, in Dodballapur, 40 km north of Bangalore at the foot of the Nandi hills, on the other hand, uses French grapes Vitis Vinifera in its vineyards in Bangalore. It exports wine worth $435,000 every year. "The Grover range produced from high-altitude vineyards north of Bangalore, with help from the ubiquitous Michel Rolland of Pomerol, is extremely respectable. The reds, particularly the Reserve red, are a distinct notch above the slightly dull Clairette-based white."

Grover Vineyards Fifteen years ago, the Grovers took on the task of reviving wine drinking in India. The company, together with Mr. George Vesselle accepted the immense challenge of growing, for the first time, French varieties of grapes, suitable for wine production in India. Grover Vineyards is jointly owned by Kanwal Grover and Veuve Cliquot. Kanwal Grover is advised by two top French winemakers, Michel Rolland and Georges Vesselle. The vineyards are planted at 2,000 feet above sea level and produce two crops a year. Still white and red wines from Bangalore purple, cabernet, shiraz and Thompson seedless grapes are made under the supervision of winemaker Bruno Yvon. The white is medium-dry and fairly bland; the red is cabernet-style with good depth of fruit.

Bangalore, with the ideal combination of rich, well drained soil, warm sunny days, cool nights and temperate climate, was finally selected over six other places as the most suitable site. Thirty-five important varieties used in France for making wine were planted. In the next five years there was an invasion of French penologists to study their adaptability to Indian conditions, as well as to assess the quality of wine they would ultimately produce. In 1988, Grover Vineyards was established on 40 acres of land at the foot of the Nandi Hills. Here nine varieties, which had responded well to Indian conditions, were planted on an industrial scale. Today, Grover Vineyards has over 100 acres under plantation.

Unlike other wine makers in India today, Grover Vineyards is the only company, which shuns ordinary table grapes, while exclusively using French wine grapes, selected from the original thirty-five varieties of the Vitis Vinifera species.

"So began in earnest Grover's quest to produce India's only wine made exclusively from French grapes and to world standards - and to persuade the great whisky drinking Indian dinnertime to drink wine. Neither quest has been easy." - Mark Nicholson, Financial Times, London, September 14, 1997.

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