"Ring out the old, ring in the new" is an appropriate aphorism as 2014 draws to a close - a year which has seen the political landscape in India change completely, and a year when we've seen crude oil prices crash from $125 to $60 per barrel and are expected to go still lower in 2015. "Never mind all that," you might well say, "What does it mean for my wines? Will they become less expensive? Will I get better-quality wines?" While shipping costs will certainly reduce, I'm not sure how much of that would get passed on to consumers by way of lower prices. In India, the pernicious effect of the new FSSAI regulations have pushed-up costs (as indeed is done by any authority with the power to say "yes" or "no") and have all but nullified the impact of lower transport and production costs. Notwithstanding all that, my recommendations for Indian wine to try in 2015 are: WHITE WINES: A clutch of wines, some old and some new: Seagram's Nine Hill Chenin Blanc is well-balanced and aromatic; Krsma Estates' Chardonnay is just sublime as was the SDU Deva Chardonnay Reserve. The Grover Art Collection Sauvignon Blanc and the Charosa Sauvignon Blanc are two crisp and grassy wines worth trying out. All Viogniers (Sula, Seagram's, and Charosa) are worth checking out for their soft and aromatic character; and lastly the Sula Riesling - which is dry but with sweet notes and a crisp finish. RED WINES: All the reds from SDU winery (unfortunately, still available only in Bangalore) are worth a try. The wines have a complex and sweet character that's quite appealing.
I like the York Shiraz, the Big Banyan Limited Shiraz 2010 as well as the Alpine Vineyards Vindiva Reserve Shiraz. The latter has strong tannins that mellow with some decanting. Among Cabs, I would recommend the Vallonne Cab Classique 2011 (reserve) and the Charosa Cab Reserve, as well as the Krsma Estates Cabernet Sauvignon. And last (but not the least) are the blends: my favourite is still the Grover La Reserve, followed by the Zampa Chene Gran Reserve and the York Reserve red. ROSÉ WINES: The Rose wines made here are generally aromatic and well-balanced and deserve a much wider audience than what they get right now. The Rose by Sula (from Zinfandel), Vallonne (from Cabernet Sauvignon) and Seagram's Nine Hills (Shiraz) are all excellent wines, as good for a Sunday afternoon brunch as for pairing with Asian cuisines. SPARKLING WINES: Few sparklers match the Chandon Brut Rose in sheer quality - provenance tells! But there's also the Sula Brut Rose, the Zampa Soiree Brut (from Chenin Blanc) and 'Casablanca' from Good Drops: all terrific bubblies, good for any festive occasion. DESSERT WINES: Few Indians really drink dessert wines - the best is the Vallonne Vin de Passerillage, which has a luscious but balanced character; also of note is the Sula Late Harvest Chenin Blanc - well worth a try. So there you have it: the top 29 wines, by category, for 2015 - and if you and locate and try even half or less, you're doing well. With cheers and warm regards for a great 2015.
Alok Chandra is a Bengaluru-based wine consultant