Sommelier India Issue 3, June-July 2015 in circulation
The issue you hold in your hands has a new look. Our diligent and talented designer has been burning midnight oil to give Sommelier India a fresh, more contemporary look.
In a bid to make the magazine even more striking and compelling we have embarked on an ambitious programme of ongoing change. Does this mean redoing its identity? No, not at all. We don't want to tinker with that and hence it's still a work in progress.
We are building on what was there before to produce a magazine with a look that's bold and confident but not gimmicky, with design flourishes that make it difficult to navigate - as some design-led magazines tend to be. The readability and legibility of the writing is paramount. As a former lecturer in English, I'm keen on giving the magazine a literary quality and making it a really good reading experience.
My brief to the designer was to avoid cliché with smart, understated design. I wanted clean, crisp layouts that make the writing look less dense. With the cover, we go back to the original headline emphasizing the brand, Sommelier India.
Our cover story and the wines reviewed in the Sommelier India blind tasting are red reserves. So, if red is your personal preference, these are amongst the best in their category and drink remarkably well accompanied with food.
"The first duty of a wine is to be red," remarked Harry Waugh famously, the English wine writer who died at the ripe old age of 97. The idea that people who drink red wine are connoisseurs has long held sway. But this is not necessarily true. As many experts will aver, white wine is fresher, more versatile and has broader possibilities. It is also easier to drink without food, as an aperitif.
Red wine, however, is more complex and has greater ageing potential. Because of its tannins, red wine doesn't spoil as easily in a tropical climate or under adverse storage conditions and has perceived health benefits.
Vinexpo Bordeaux 2015 sets its sights high
"You are the world leader, there are not many areas where we are leaders. Where we are, make sure to stay that way. This is the purpose of my visit," said the President to wine professionals on the occasion of the inauguration of the 18th edition of Vinexpo, last Sunday, June 14, 2015 in Bordeaux.
Two strong trends emerged in Vinexpo 2015. One is the quality of visitors which was appreciated by exhibitors. The other is the international scope of the show with wine and spirit professionals arriving from 151 countries - a new record according to an official release.
Visitors from outside France accounted for 36% of the total. China was at the top of the pyramid with a 14% increase compared with 2013. The United States (designated Country of Honour this year) was second, with an increase of 14.5% in the number of buyers.
French visitors showed a slight drop, compensated for by an increase of 2% in international visitors. According to a statement released by Vinexpo the strong presence from Spain (third place) and Italy (fourth) shows that Vinexpo remains a major business hub for professionals from the south of Europe. The number of visitors was similar to 2013. The latest figures will be announced next week.
Napa Valley Vintners hosted a stand at Vinexpo for the first time this year bringing more than two dozen winemakers to Bordeaux. The group also hosted seminars throughout the week.
This year's fair saw several innovations including the new Flights Tasting areas, where visitors could sample and select the wines they were interested in before visiting the stands. This new pre-sampling was a considerable time-saver.
Another innovation that was well received was One2Wine meetings, a personalised meeting service that enabled the setting up of more than 1,000 business meetings. The One2Wine meetings are likely to become a permanent fixture.
Special conferences at Vinexpo had a strong educational component. At "Inside the US Market" and "Global Connections" (in partnership with Wine Spectator) the quality of the presenters and the level of discussion of the topics was particularly high, while "Africa, the future destination for wines and spirits" analysed the opportunities of this potentially strong market.
Finally, gastronomy - an integral part of wine and spirits - had a special place at Vinexpo. The new layout of the exhibition featured a gastronomic promenade where food and wine workshops led by top international chefs were set up in partnership with Gault & Millau.
Another first was the DigiZone which allowed bloggers and web communicators to exchange views about digital technology as well as wine discoveries. The Vinexpo app was downloaded 5,000 times. Vinexpo also developed a virtual digital strategy via its twitter feed, Facebook and online videos highlighting the dynamic nature of the exhibition.
Under its new leadership, Vinexpo has set its sights high for the future with more improvements. At a final press briefing, Xavier de Eizaguirre, Chairman, and Guillaume Deglise, CEO of Vinexpo, respectively, also announced that the next edition in 2017 would be more concentrated and focused with a four-day exhibition, starting on a Monday.
Vinexpo Hong Kong will take place from May 24 to May 26, 2016, and Vinexpo Tokyo from November 15 to November 16, 2016.
Mizoram vine growers bemoan the lifting of prohibition
What are Indian wine newbies drinking?
Moët Hennessy splashes out with Ice Impérial
Elise Losfelt, winemaker at Moët & Chandon, said that the Ice Impérial is their boldest innovation in 100 years. It's irreverent, it's fun and it is priced 10% higher than regular Moët & Chandon.
A daring product that breaks all the rules of Champagne, Moët Ice Impérial is the qualitative answer to a non-traditional way of drinking champagne, ie, diluted with ice. This is the reason for its very special blend based on a higher proportion of mature Pinot Noir grapes for strong red fruit aromas, a third of Pinot Meunier for fruitiness and 10% Chardonnay for acidity.
Tropical fruity aromas of mango and guava waft to the nose while the sweetness of caramel and a pleasing acidity of gooseberries along with ginger linger on the palate making it a truly unique experience. Some contact with grape skins during fermentation gives the champagne structure while less time spent on the lees produces bigger bubbles to offset the effervescence lost at low temperatures. It has a dosage of 45 gms per litre making it a demi sec.
Without ice cubes it would be too exotic, too exuberant, with too much sugar and too much acidity. "In fact, it is too much champagne," says Elise. "But it is meant to be too much, to reach harmony and balance when its ice cubes are added."
Moët Ice Impérial is a great sparkler on the go. One can carry bottles of the Impérial with glasses and ice in its very own Summer Escape Trunk! Since the season of summer is synonymous with escapes and getaways, Arnaud de Saignes, International Director of Marketing and Communications, defines the Ice Impérial perfectly by saying it "signals summer with just the clink of an ice cube!"
Available at luxury hotels and premium retail stores in Mumbai and Delhi, Moët Ice Impérial will be launched in Goa and Rajasthan later this year.
Coming soon, Prosecco in India by Constellation Brands
"India is a key wine market and there is a huge opportunity (to grow). We want to make sure we have big footprint with the right brands," Constellation Brands Asia regional director Joe Milner told the Press Trust of India.
At the moment, Constellation Brands' Ruffino Wines is marketed in India by Sula Vineyards' import arm - Sula Selections. Ruffino has about 20 different brands in the world market with six or seven in India. While the company is planning to expand the reach of Ruffino in India, they are also looking to launch new brands in a couple of years.
About the Indian market, Milner observed, "There is a huge opportunity to grow. There is young population which enjoy wine so growth will come. However, high taxes pose challenges but we expect India to be one of the biggest wine markets in Asia in five years."
For wine enthusiasts who love sparklers and often get confused between Prosecco and Champagne - the former is an Italian sparkling wine from the Veneto region in Northeast Italy. Champagne is made in Champagne, France. Apart from the geographical distinction, the main area of difference lies in the fermentation. A wine is fermented twice for it to become a sparkling wine. In the case of Champagne, the second fermentation takes place in the bottle while in Prosecco, which is made using the Charmat (shahr-MAH) method, the second fermentation is done in large vats.
Negroni week in India all for a good cause
Till then the favourite and most popular style was the Americano - simple Campari and soda - a beverage to be drunk leisurely over a long summer afternoon. Then suddenly a new dimension was given to Campari, when bartenders started experimenting by adding red and sweet vermouth, or dry vermouth with the gin.
Today, the Classic Negroni, one ounce each of Campari, red vermouth and gin mixed with a few ice cubes and topped with an orange peel has become a great hit with young jet setters. While the traditional Campari served with orange juice or tonic water is still doing the rounds, you can be as inventive as you like and create your personal favourite.
Aspri Spirits, importers and distributors of Campari, recently celebrated Negroni week all over India. It was a week-long celebration of one of the world's greatest cocktails when bars and restaurants raise money (minimum one US dollar for each NEGRONI sold) to support a local charitable organisation of their choice.
We toasted Negroni with Arun Kumar, the dynamic co-founder of Aspri, at Zerruco, a hip restaurant cum lounge bar at the Hotel Ashok in New Delhi owned by Prashant Agarwal. For me personally, the Negroni is yet another variation on an old theme. We have always enjoyed Campari and are never without a bottle in the house!
Q&A with Piero Masi on winemaking in India
1. How did you get interested in viticulture and winemaking?
It was always in my genes. Oenology and winemaking have been a part of my family and have been passed on from one generation to the next, from my ancestors to my family who have lived in the countryside. I intend and hope to continue the same through my son Giovanni who is currently studying oenology at Florence University.
2. When did you make your first wine and where?
I clearly remember making my first wine - which incidentally was also my first job - at the age of 22 years. I started my career with Casa Sola, a Chianti Classico DOCG winery 15 kilometres away from my house.
3. What made you decide to come to India?
Well, it is a mix of professional as well as personal reasons. In European and American viticulture and oenology, there is hardly any space left for research or changes, both in vineyards or in the wineries. Laws and regulations have been set up and made rigid due to a long tradition, not only in terms of time but, in particular, regarding the levels of quality in the vineyards. In India, we have recently started to think of how to establish a protocol that will guarantee a quality result. This was a big challenge for me and also the biggest incentive to be in India.
From a personal perspective, I have known Alessio's and Andrea's father, Claudio Secci, for a very long time and through him I met the the Sekhri family, Kapil in particular. I felt that there were also perfect human conditions in terms of reliability and trust to take up this project and make wines in India.
4. What are some of the difficulties of growing grapes here?
The main difficulty is related to the tropical climate. In winter, it forces the plants to keep growing without a period of dormancy which is a very vital time in the cycle of the vine plant, in order to make reserves for the production season. In India, therefore, all our agronomical activities must be concentrated on the goal of letting our plants accumulate as many reserves as possible in order to obtain better quality grapes and wines. This is also a boost for the longer life of the vine plants.
5. What's the easy part?
The positive side too is connected to the peculiar climate of Akluj. Being mainly hot and dry, apart from the two months of rain, the development of pest diseases is very much reduced and not so vigorous, making it easier for us to produce high quality grapes.
6. What is your favourite grape? Why?
Sangiovese! In the Tuscan region, where I have always worked, there has always been Sangiovese, which is a typical Tuscan grape varietal out of which Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino are made. I have selected and developed several different clones of Sangiovese which I have also planted here in Akluj, at Fratelli Vineyards. I am very pleased and positively surprised to see the quality of grapes and the wines we have made so far.
7. Do you have certain wines that you regard as reference models for winemaking?
There are many wine regions which I appreciate. I do love very much Montalcino and Chianti in Italy and Bourgogne (Burgundy) in France, particularly the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from there. All these areas are very important wine regions which produce high quality wines which are very much sapid and long lasting. I do appreciate their elegance and longevity.
8. What should one look for in a good wine?
For me, I look at the balance of all the elements that make a wine. I believe that while judging a wine, the actual taste of the wine has to be predominant, around 70% of it, and the balance left to the nose.
9. What do you think of vine age? Does it affect the cellaring potential of a wine?
Yes it does. A young vine plant is by nature always unbalanced and gives more rough tannins in red wines and a more rough acidity in white wines. The ageing of the vine, on the other hand, contributes to smoother, rounder and more elegant tannins in red wines and in white wines the acidity tends to be less pungent. This result is due to a backlog of mineral salts and sugars in the old wood of the vine which are then released into the grapes, giving the wines more flavour. The grapes become rich in minerals with a much higher quantity of polymerized tannins inside the grapes themselves. This makes the wine high in quality and perfect for ageing.
10. How do you see Indian winemaking developing in the next 10 years? How long do you think it will take for our wines to gain international recognition?
I definitely feel Indian wines are coming of age. It is good to see that the trend Fratelli started of focusing on grape quality has caught on. I can't speak for others but we are confident of putting Fratelli on the world map in 10 years, not forgetting that by then our vineyards will be 15 years old. I can't wait to make Sette with these mature plants!
This interview is extracted from a longer article that appeared in Sommelier India - The Wine Magazine, April-May 2015
Touring India's Wine Country - Nashik Part III
SULA VINEYARDS, NASHIK
Sula Vineyards, founded in 1999 by Rajeev Samant, has steadily expanded with new vineyards and wine brands to become India's top producer of wines. A short drive from Nashik city, Sula Vineyards makes a convenient day trip from Mumbai and offers a choice of wine-related experiences.
Sula's winery is well located as it enjoys views of the vineyards around it, the Gangapur Dam waters and mountains in the distance. The winery is designed with many wine-related design elements from wine bottles to oak barrels. The tasting area is a wide deck overlooking the vineyards and backwaters of the Gangapur Dam while the cellar with its stone walls makes a charming place for wine tastings.
With its bouquet of offerings - scenic views, tours, wine tasting, restaurant and resort - Sula Vineyards is the most popular destination for wine lovers. It also hosts the very popular music festival, Sulafest, every year on the first weekend of February. Grape stomping is organized during the harvest season at ₹ 250/- per head for a 15-minute stomp.
Reds: Rasa Shiraz, Dindori Reserve Shiraz, Sula Zinfandel, Sula Cabernet Shiraz and Satori Merlot Malbec, Mosaic Grenache Syrah, Dia Red, Madera Red and Samara Red.
Whites: Sula Sauvignon Blanc (the winery claims it is the first in India and it is their highest award winning wine even now); Sula Chenin Blanc, Dindori Reserve Viognier, Sula Riesling, Sula Chenin Blanc Reserve, Mosaic Chenin Sauvignon, a sweet semi-sparkling Dia, Madera White, and Samara White.
Rosés: Sula Zinfandel Rosé, Mosaic Grenache Syrah Rosé, and Madera Rosé. Sparkling: Sula Brut, Sula Brut Rosé, the lighter Sula Seco and the new Sula Seco Rosé.
Dessert: Sula Late Harvest Chenin Blanc.
There is a winery tour every hour followed by a wine tasting session starting from 11:30 am. The last tour starts at 6:30 pm. Each tour takes about 20 minutes. The tour comprises a visit around the Sula estate and the tasting includes a set selection of wines at the Tasting Cellar.
₹ 100 per head for the winery tour.
₹ 750/- per head for tour plus VIP tasting (7 wines)
₹ 250/- per head for tour plus Premium tasting (6 Wines)
₹ 150/- per head for tour plus Regular tasting (4 Wines)
No prior reservation required for the tour and tasting session if the group is of fewer than 15 people. In case of a larger group, contact: Sameer Kazi at 99700 90039 or email@example.com
Open every day barring excise holidays. Wines are available for sale at a discounted price at The Bottle Shop. Discounts ranging from 5% to 12% are offered on takeaway purchases at the store. Two wines, Rasa Cabernet Sauvignon and Chenin Blanc Reserve that one may not come across easily in other stores are also available at the wine shop. There is a separate merchandise outlet called The Store where souvenirs are sold. Cold-pressed grape seed oil, produced by Sula, is also available here.
Visitors can enjoy light fare at the Tasting Room along with wine. For a hearty meal and wine experience head to Soleil, a French restaurant with an Indian twist, on the winery premises. It has a good dessert menu as well. Chocolate lovers could opt for the Chocolate Thali, easily shared by two. Reservations required. Contact Amit Kulkarni on 99700 90019.
Beyond by Sula is a 32-room resort close to the vineyards. With dining, a range of experiences, spa, swimming pool and choice of leisure activities, it is a great place to enjoy a countryside holiday with access to vineyards and wine tastings. Call: 78755 55725/99700 90010 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The winery is located about 10 km from Nashik and takes about 20 minutes to reach.
SOMANDA VINEYARDS AND RESORTS PVT LTD, NASHIK
Launched a year ago, Somanda Vineyards and Resorts Pvt Ltd has been designed around the concept of wine tourism by Pradip Pachpatil. Realizing the importance of wine tourism to develop the industry, Pachpatil offers varied wine-related experiences at Soma Vine Village, his winery complex, located on the Gangapur Road about three kilometres ahead of Sula Vineyards, with panoramic views of the countryside, vineyards, Gangapur Dam and mountains in the distance.
Chenin Blanc in two styles, one slightly sweet and the other dry, as well as a dessert wine made with Chenin Blanc. Sauvignon Blanc also in two styles. The one produced following the Oxidative style has slightly grassy flavours and the other following the reductive style is slightly fruity, plus a dessert wine made from Sauvignon Blanc. Zinfandel, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, a Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz blend, rosé from Shiraz, sparkling wine Brut, sparkling wine Sec and sparkling wine rosé.
Open between 11am and 7pm every day except excise holidays. No prior appointment required. Tours include visits to the vineyard and winery as well as wine tasting. Tasting: ₹ 150/- a head for five wines: one sparkling, two whites, one red and one dessert wine. The tasting takes place in the cellar. Wines can be purchased at the winery, with a 10% discount on purchase of three or more bottles. Souvenirs like t-shirts, caps and wine glasses are also available.
Parallel to the winery is Culture Kitchen, a multi-cuisine restaurant, a lounge and meeting hall. Soma wines are served at the restaurant. Diners can enjoy a meal seated in the balcony overlooking the vineyards and Gangapur Dam.
Two villas with seven rooms each. There is a conference hall and amphitheatre, sports facilities including cycles and adventure sports. Events and weddings can be held here.
Visit www.somavinevillage.com. Call 7721885885 or email Ajay Kumar Singh at email@example.com
The winery is about 13 km from Nashik and it takes about 25 minutes to reach.
VINTAGE WINES, NIPHAD, NASHIK
Vintage Wines is located at Niphad, near Nashik and owned by the Patil family who have been involved with farming in the area for generations. It was set up by Yatin Patil and his wife Kiran, who gave up their corporate jobs to produce Italian style wines under the brand name Reveilo.
Reveilo Regular: Chenin Blanc, Syrah and Merlot. Reveilo Premium: Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Reveilo Super Premium Reserve: Chardonnay Reserve, Syrah Reserve and Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve - all aged in French oak for one year. Reveilo also produces Italian varietals, Grillo, Nero D'Avola and Sangiovese. It is the only winery in India that produces Grillo and Nero D'Avola.
The winery, built of stone and surrounded by vineyards makes a charming sight. Vineyard and winery tours are free of charge, conducted by the assistant winemaker who takes visitors through the winemaking process. There are two tasting options:
• ₹ 500 per head for any five Reveilo wines (barring the Reserves)
• ₹ 1000 per head for any five Reveilo wines plus Reserve wines and the Late Harvest Chenin Blanc
Food can be arranged from a good nearby hotel with 48 hours prior intimation and is charged at actuals. Wines can be purchased from the winery at a 20% discount. Prior intimation is also required if visitors would like to experience grape stomping or any other wine-related activity for which there will be a charge.
Open from 10 am to 6 pm every day except Sundays and excise holidays. Contact: Ramesh Shinde - 937177780840 and Ruben Pinto - 9371780832, 9833492422. The winery is around 40 km from Nashik city and it takes about one hour to reach. The winery suggests visits in the first half of the day as light is low in the evenings. For more information, visit http://reveilo.com