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quiet flows the red

The number of labels of Indian wines has multiplied over the years along with the emergence of new wineries in Maharashtra and Karnataka. Of the many we choose the ten best Indian red wines

The wine story in India is just one and half decade old, but what a long way Indian wines have come in that short time, both in quality and price.

Actually, there is not one ‘best Indian wine’ – rather, a number of wines come to mind when considering that question, and here I begin with reserve red wines (‘reserve’ indicates the wine has been matured in oak casks for anything from four months upwards).

The first (and oldest) is certainly the Grover La Reserve, which still retails for ` 800 in Bengalaru – it’s the grand-daddy of reserve wines in India, with the first vintage coming to market in 1996 and the 2004 vintage being named the ‘Best New World Red wine’ by Wine Spectator, a New York-based lifestyle magazine that focuses on wine and wine culture, sometime in 2006. A Cabernet – Shiraz blend in unstated proportions, this is still the best-value reserve wine available. Thanks to its good aromas of fruit and spice, this is a full-bodied wine with smooth tannins, some complexity on the palate, and a good longish finish.

Then there is a coffle (look it up, folks) of wines from the better wine companies: Sula Dindori Reserve, Four Seasons Barrique Reserve, Seagram Nine Hills Reserve, York Estate Reserve, Mandala Valley Estate Selections, York Estate Reserve, and Vindiva Reserve: largely Shiraz or Cabernet or blends, priced between ` 800 and ` 900 per bottle. Decently-produced wines all but with not much to choose between one brand and another. Of the lot I like the Vindiva Reserve, but unfortunately they are only available in Bengalaru.

Last (but not least) are a few reds that I think are really good (all prices for Bengalaru):

Krsma Sangiovese 2013
The Krsma winery is located near Hampi, in North Karnataka, and uses only grapes grown on their own vineyards. This yummy wine has been matured in imported French oak casks for six months: classic aromas of dark cherries and some spice and a soft smooth medium-bodied taste. (` 1,000)

Big Banyan Limited Spring 2008 Shiraz
From the eponymous Goa-based winery which uses grapes sourced from Nashik in Maharashtra. This wine was a revelation when I first tasted it in early 2012 – matured for 12 months in oak casks, it has a lovely and complex aroma of fruit and spice, a silky-soft but fullbodied mouthfeel, and a generously long finish. (` 1,200)

Sula Rasa Shiraz
Sula is of course India’s largest wine company. When this wine was first produced in 2007 it was terrific – of late it seems to have been withdrawn from both their website as well as the markets, so perhaps they’ve simply sold out what they had on hand and the next vintage is not yet ready. Worth watching out for when it becomes available. (` 1,250)

Krsma Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
While this wine also has spent 12 months in imported French oak casks, it’s still young but displays hints of what it will be like some years hence: complex aromas of fruit and berries and a tannic but complex and full-bodied taste. The only still wine also available in Magnums (1,500 ml bottles) – buy and keep away for at least 1 year and watch the development. (`1,500)

Charosa Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
The Charosa Vineyards are in the Dindori region near Nashik and have been set up by infrastructure moghul Ajit Gulabchand. While they also have a Tempranillo Reserve, I prefer the Cab: 15 months in Oak casks, the wine has complex aromas of fruit and wood and a full-bodied taste – even though the tannins are still quite assertive. (` 1,500)

Fratelli Sette 2010
Sette means ‘seven’ in Italian, and is the number of partners involved with this unique Indo-Italian joint venture at Akluj village in Maharashtra. The Fratelli Sette 2010 is a Cab – Shiraz blend with 14 months in oak casks with aromas of jam and oak and a fullbodied taste with strong tannins. (` 1,650)

There are others: The erstwhile Vallee du Vin (now Grover Zampa) winery, near Nashik has brought out the Chene Grand Reserve (‘Oak Tree’) red @ `1,700 per bottle, but I’ve yet to taste it and so cannot comment.

There’s no doubt that the best Indian wines are getting a lot better - you will notice that most now declare their vintages, but they are also getting to be expensive – not so long back there were no Indian wines priced above ` 500. The best Indian reserve wines definitely hold their own against lowerpriced entry-level imported wines, and some also give higher-quality imports a run for their money.

So there it is: the best reds in India. Go ahead and choose you like.

The author runs Gryphon Brands Inc, India’s only wine consultancy


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