v for vino
While a lot of wine
companies like to pair red wines with Indian food with its thick gravies, Indians like to drink chilled white wines because of the warm weather and their penchant for vegetarian food and chicken. Red wines are for the more serious drinkers
With the festive season gaining momentum, gift giving is metamorphosing into something bigger and often better, with corporates and the well-heeled looking for newer avenues to please their discerning clientele alongside making a statement. Wines, once the domain of hotels for corporate gifting, is finding favour with an increasing number of companies hoping to make a good as also a lasting impression.
While imported wines are not very popular for gifting to a large number of clients on account of their high prices inflated by high duties, Indian winemakers are bringing out their bubblies at reasonable prices. Akluj-based winery Fratelli recently launched their Gran Cuvée Brut made from Chenin Blanc grapes, a bottle of which retails at a sweet ` 995. The world’s biggest champagne house, Moët Hennessy, launched their first ‘made in India’ sparkling wine, Chandon, in a bid to convert a typically whiskey-drinking country from grain to grape. The launch of Chandon is indeed an interesting development as Moët Hennessy India—part of LVMH worldwide—is known for some of the best bubblies since 1743 including Dom Perignon, Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot and Krug champagnes. Chandon, which was launched in Mumbai recently, is retailing at `1,200 for Chandon Brut and ` 1,400 for Chandon Brut Rosé.
Mark F. Bedingham, managing director, Moët Hennessy Asia Pacific said, “Moët Hennessy has traditionally been a pioneer in developing sparkling wines in new locations around the world and India is the latest example. A recent addition to the ‘new world’, Nashik is certainly the wine-making heartland of India and offers grape growing conditions that are conducive to creating world-class sparkling wines.”
Vinsura Sparkling Brut and Platine Rose Brut are among the largest selling sparkling wines in India retailing for ` 850 and ` 1,100 each. Grover Zampa Vineyards offerings in sparkling wines are Zampa Soiree Brut Rose made from Shiraz grapes that retails for ` 1,090, and Zampa Soiree Brut made from Chenin Blanc grapes that retails at ` 790. Sula offers a Sula Brut and Rose for ` 800 and ` 1,000 respectively.
Moreover, Four Seasons wines is planning to launch India’s first vintage sparkling wine under the label Ritu. The company will possibly introduce a blend of Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, and a sparkling Rose with a blend of Shiraz and Zinfandel.
Besides sparkling wines, Indian still wines are also gaining prominence. Hotel chains like Starwood Asia Pacific Hotels & Resorts are also trying to promote Indian wines. One of their hotels, The Westin Pune Koregaon Park, curated wines from prominent Indian wineries to promote and showcase their best wines at an exclusive blind tasting. Wine aficionados, bloggers, food and wine critics, colleagues from the wine industry from across India, socialites and wine enthusiasts were invited for this event that featured a variety of wines from the finest Indian wineries including Sula, Grover, Fratelli, Reveilo, Zampa, Kiara, Turning Point, Vallonne, Four Seasons, York and Nine Hills. Wines were paired with gourmet tidbits to delight, inform, educate and engage everyone from the novice enthusiast to the seasoned wine connoisseur.
Informal wine festivals also help consumers taste the best wines. Riona Wines, an importer of wines and an Indian company with Italian collaboration that plans to produce wines in India, takes part in many festivals. At the Bandra Wine Festival 2013, it showcased its Le Vele Verdicchio, Le Silve Montepulciano, Braccano Ciliegiolo-Merlot, Tordirutta Verdicchio and Templi Nero D’Avola along with 14 other Indian wine companies.
While a lot of wine companies like to pair red wines with Indian food with its thick gravies, Indians like to drink chilled white wines because of the warm weather and their penchant for vegetarian food and chicken. Red wines are for the more serious drinkers, and besides, these wines are better suited for red meat lovers. William A. Fisher, export director of Grand Chais de France which has its famous brand J P Chenet sold in its famed bottle with a twisted neck, says that he has seen people expounding how to pair wines with Chicken Tikka Masala and other spicy Indian delicacies, but opines that if you want to appreciate wine, you should drink it independently. To try and copy Europe, he says, is not the solution for us.
It so happens that many of the patrons of wine are women. The women’s market, although still relatively small, is expected to grow by 25 per cent over the next five years, according to the Indian Centre for Alcohol Studies, a research body.
Yodissen Mootoosamy, regional business manager at Treasury Wine Estates which sells its famous Penfolds wine through Mohan Brothers, says that the fact that India consumes over 300 million cases implies that there is an already an established drinking culture in the country and that it represents untapped opportunities for wines. Women have traditionally shunned alcoholic beverages, he says, but now are a potential market for wines.
Indian wine companies are targeting women as well, and some expect that women will account for one third of their sales in the near future.
Although imported spirits form a small percentage of wines consumed in India, Aspri Spirits—one of the leading importers and distributors of premium wines and spirits in India— regularly hosts wine dinners to present and explain the nuances of its wide range of wines from around the world. One of Italy’s leading and most sophisticated wines, Zenato, was their wine brand for November, 2013.
Various countries too offer wine tastings of some of their famous wineries. Wine companies from Chile, France, Italy, California, Austria and Australia aggressively promote their wines in our country. Recently, celebrity chef Gary Mehigan presented an authentic Victorian food-and-wine experience to India during a special Master Class at the Grand Hyatt, Mumbai, led by Tourism and Major Events Minister, Louise Asher.
Good wine sells itself and as Indian wines get better, they could soon be seen on the shelves of your neighbourhood stores as well. Yes, it is time to make wine the ambrosia of this festive season.
||The writer is Executive Editor,
|WHAT A PAIR!
The right harmony between food and wine is a source of ultimate bliss for every connoisseur. The perfect wine and food pairing can accentuate unexpected finer nuances of food and vice versa. Rather than paring food with wines, it is better to look at the bottle and see the grape variety. Choose the wine company of your choice or the wine based on price but ultimately, let the grape variety decide the food pairing.
* Soup: Sparkling wine, Champagne
* Seafood: White wines like Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc
* Red Meat/Tandoori Chicken: Red wines like Zinfandel, Cabernet, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah/Shiraz or Merlot
* Chicken/Cheese: White wines like Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc
* Spicy food: Chenin Blanc or Rose
* Dessert: Sweet wines like Ice wines, Gewürztraminer or Riesling