While Sula rules the roost with both the best Indian wines and the highest sales, there are an increasing number of other good quality wines vying for shelf space and listings — time to check them out.
I think that the top Indian wine is the Sula Dindori Reserve Shiraz (Rs 862 in Bangalore) — way ahead of imports at similar prices, with a great aroma, good mouthfeel, smooth tannins, and a taste (with some woody notes) that lingers. In whites it would be difficult to beat the Sula Dindori Reserve Viognier (Rs 840) which has a delightful flowery aroma and a soft balanced taste. Their Sula Brut sparkling wine (now Rs 795) is a delightful aperitif, and a natural for all celebrations — of course, there’s little competition at present.
Close behind in quality are the several wines from Big Banyan (all between Rs 600 and Rs 650): their reds have this smoothness and taste that calls for another bottle when the first is over, while the Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc both have a distinctive balance and taste.
They also have a Bellissima Late Harvest (Rs 375 for the half-bottle) which makes a terrific dessert all by itself.
Another favourite is Reveilo , produced by Yatin Patil at his family-owned estate and winery at Niphad (near Nashik). Apart from the usual range of Cabernet Sauvignon/ Shiraz/ Sauvignon Blanc/ Chenin Blanc, they have the first wines made from Italian-origin grapes (a Nero d’Avola, a Sangiovese, and a Grillo) that are definitely worth checking out; their Reserves (both reds) are superlative (if a tad expensive at Rs 1000 plus), while the Late Harvest (375 ml) is probably the best dessert wine in India.
I would be failing in my role as wine critic if I did not mention Grover’s La Reserve (Rs 750 in Bangalore), a Cabernet-Shiraz blend, matured in imported oak casks, that has a distinctive aroma & taste and a loyal following. In fact the entire Art Series range of wines from Grover Vineyards (located near Bangalore) have been restored to their former quality levels, and are highly recommended for any occasion.
For sheer innovativeness and originality I would pick the Luca Exotic Lychee Wine, made at a new winery in Haryana. This wine smells and tastes of well, lychees, reminding one of a good-quality Riesling or Gewurztraminer: aromatic and off-dry, with a balanced and lingering taste.
Last (but not least) on my list are wines from York winery (the brand is called, what else “York”), down the road from Sula (outside Nashik) — another family-owned setup run by Ravi Gurnani, and which has been chosen by Moet Hennessey to produce their Indian sparkling wine Chandon.
The reserves from Four Seasons and Nine Hills are also among the top wines in India, and are widely available, being backed by the distribution muscle of big companies.
Whatever your personal choice, do experiment with different wines from different Indian producers — the wines are fresher and probably far better than the imported drop at a similar price point, and in any case worth supporting and trying.
Alok Chandra is a Bangalore-based wine consultant