GLAZING OVER RED WITH CHATEAU INDAGE, INDIA
This is the first of a new 'GLAZING' series of reviews on the WFED forum. It is for short articles focused on the produce (wine, beverage, condiment, sauce) rather than the restaurant. The phrase 'glazing over' has a multitude of meanings and need not be restricted to 'being in glass'.
Historically, India has not been associated with fine wine. It was consumed by the aristocratic Ksatriya Hindu caste and the descendents of the Macedonian invasion by Alexander the Great. The Moghul (Mughal) emperors were appreciative of grape wines; red (Kandhari) and white (Bhokri, Fakdi and Sahebi). Akbar the Great was succeeded in 1605 by Jahangir, whose effectiveness as a ruler was limited by addiction to both alcohol and opium. Two other princes (Jahangir's brothers) had succumbed to alcohol. The masses stuck to strong drink made from barley, wheat and palm-fruit rather than grape.
The three main religions (Hindu, Muslim and Sikh) had traditional acceptance of alcohol in moderation. Only the Buddhist and Jain religions forbade alcohol but with the start of the decline of the Moghul empire from the rule of Shah Jahan and his son, Aurangzeb, onwards, Muslim religious intolerance and suppression of alcohol increased.
Colonial influence resulted in limited production in pockets, notably near Goa through the Portuguese and Kashmir/Baramati through the British. In 1890s, all vineyards suffered from phylloxera like their European counterparts. As of 2005, 60,000 hectares are planted with vine but only 2% are for wine production. Most of the vines are in the three southwestern states of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh with a few plantings in Kashmir, Punjab and Tamil Nadu. Indigenous grapes are Arkawati, Arka Shyam, Anab e Shahi and the gloriously named - Bangalore Purple!
The Government of Maharashtra has nominated Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) as the nodal agency for establishment of grape wine parks in that state, to coordinate efforts of various organizations and the stake holders such as farmers, processors, service providers etc. Under this policy, two wine parks have been established; Godawari Wine Park at Vinchur, Nashik District and Krishna Wine Park at Palus, Sangli district. In addition a Grape Processing and Research Institute (GPRI) was established at Palus by Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed University.
A few wineries:
In 1984, Sham Chougule set up 'Chateau Indage' in Narayangaon (near Poona) with technical help from Piper Heidsieck. It is no surprise that they make a passable sparkling wine - 'Omar Khayyam' with the champagne method. Surprisingly, the early vintages were made with Thompson Seedless grapes (!) but recently, more Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are added. One of their red wines is reviewed below.
Grover Vineyards in Bangalore is jointly owned by Kanwal Grover and Veuve Cliquot. Grover is advised by Bordeaux superstar Michel Rolland and Georges Vesselle. Unlike other wine makers in India, Grover Vineyards claims to be the only company to shun table grapes, while exclusively using French wine grapes, selected from the original 35 varieties of Vitis vinifera spp. I have not tasted anything from this vineyard yet....
Sula Vineyards in Nashik, northeast of Bombay (Mumbai), is apparently up and coming. It was started by Rajiv Samant, a Stanford trained software engineer and returnee from Silicon Valley. Initially, he was trying to plant Alphonso mango trees but switched to grape when he saw that conditions near Gangapur Lake were similar to Napa Valley. I have yet to see a bottle....
Riviera Red Wine, Chateau Indage, Sahyadri Valley, Maharashtra State, India
Although no vintage year is noted, this varietal Pinot Noir wine was probably harvested in January-February 2005 and bottled in October 2005.
The young wine in natural light is medium ruby red edged with brown tints.
I quite like the 'glazing over red' double entente of the 30th Anniversary Royal Oak City of Sails chronograph....
Being a thin-skinned red grape, Pinot Noir produces delicate fruity wine with medium tannin and colour but the potential for a myriad of subtle aromas and flavours. This particular bottle had a raspberry fruit and violet flower bouquet. I could not convince myself that it was 'stawberry' as the manufacturer claims. On first tasting, it was fruity berry and medium dry with a smokey sawdust finish. Later, as the tannins built up on the tongue, a wet hay overlay could be enjoyed in the middle.
Interestingly, serving temperature made a bigger difference than expected. This wine likes to be colder than is usual for "Bordeaux-style" wines (18 - 20 degC) and was at its best at 14 - 15 degC.
I am a little perturbed by this bottle. At 30% discount off the price of cheap Australian red, why was it so agreeable? Was it a fluke or the transportation conditions (ambient temperature in South Asia is 33 degC) that made this 1-year old wine seem like aged Burgundy? Are my tastebuds so out of practice that this Indian table wine is hinting at mature D.R.C.? Egads! The wine-snobs will have my guts for garters. They will shriek, "Heretic!" and take my WFED Junior Woodchuck badge away. I'll just buy a case or three for myself and say that I'm on medication that affects my taste as a side-effect. At these prices, you know what I'm drinking for Christmas Dinner!
Photos and Text Copyright Melvyn Teillol-Foo, 2006.
All rights reserved.
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