With temperatures at 45 degrees Celsius in most parts of North India the torrid summer is at its peak - a bad time for those who can't escape to cooler climes or don't have the luxury of air-conditioning. This is a good time to moderate one's drinking habits: have lots of water, and certainly don't emulate what 1930s songwriter Noel Coward said: "Mad dogs and Englishmen venture out in the midday sun!"
This is the time to have white wines, rose' wines, and sparkling wines - the colder the better.
In whites, I favour Sauvignon Blancs. The award-winning Grover Art Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Rs 665 - which seems to have never reached retail shelves) comes to mind, as does the Krsma Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Rs 750) - as crisp and intense a wine as any. Among imported wines, one of my favourites is the Saint Clair Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (Rs 2,700), with its unique aroma of ripe guava (among others) that simply leaps out of the glass - indeed, this is a characteristic of all the better Sauvignon Blancs from this area (Cloudy Bay is probably the best-known, but there's also Dog Point, Brancott and Mahi).
I also like Viogniers - the wine combines a floral aroma with a dry but soft mouth-feel that's most attractive, and the warm Indian climate tends to bring out the best in this somewhat neglected grape internationally. The Sula Dindori Reserve Viognier 2014 (Rs 790 in Bengaluru) is very nice, although the Grover Vijay Amritraj Reserve Collection White 2014 (Rs 1,100) I had seemed to need more time to open out. Grover also has a Viognier (Art Collection) at Rs 665 that's excellent value.
Rose wines are the least-understood or appreciated wines, despite the fact that a good Rose will combine the best features of both whites and reds: perfumed aroma, some sweetness, soft tannins, low alcohol, and an ability to pair with a wide variety of cuisines, including spicy Indian and Oriental dishes. All the major Indian wineries make a Rose - I recommend you try the Sula Zinfandel Rose produced at its Nashik winery, and the Vallonne Vineyards Rose (Rs 670 in Mumbai); I also quite liked the Seagram Nine Hills Rose 2013 whose quality has improved by leaps and bounds of late.
Which brings us to sparkling wines, of which there's an embarrasment of choices now available: apart from six Indian wineries, there are multifarious labels available from overseas, with Prosecco/Spumante wines from Italy leading the charge and duty free Champagnes (particularly Moet) holding the fort in the big hotels.
Sula Brut Methode Traditionelle (Rs 945 in Bengaluru) is very much the market leader, having improved its quality (and upped the price) last year in response to the imminent launch of Chandon from Champagne major Moet Hennessy. In quality terms, however, the best bubbly is probably the Zampa Soiree Brut (Rs 900), with a new but little-known Casablanca Sparkling wine from Nashik (Rs 850 in Mumbai) coming in second. On the other hand, the Chandon Brut Rose (Rs 1,400 where available) is considered by many to be the best Indian sparkling wine - try it and you'll see what I mean.
Wines I've been drinking: The Krsma Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Rs 750) has an intense aroma of lime and tropical fruit that carries through to the palate; fresh, crisp and light, there is a residual softness that makes the wine eminently quaffable. From the new Krsma Estates winery near Hampi in north Karnataka, I am told that it's available only in Bengaluru and New York!