The country of India conjures up thoughts of exotic spices; colorful fabrics, woven with golden thread; intricate hand-drawn henna hand art; elaborate gold jewelry; and beautiful temples; but did you know that it is a growing wine region? Grape growing in India dates back a couple of millennia, but modern-day winemaking in India saw its start around the 1980s, with the rise of the middle class and its demand for wine.
India is a large country, encompassing both diverse climates and geologies, much of which aren’t suitable for grape growing, due to the extreme temperatures and tendency to have monsoons. The wine regions fall into tropical areas, but this is mitigated by planting vineyards at higher altitudes and along slopes, to take advantage of the cooler air and protection from winds.
Heat and humidity determine much of the farming practices used in the vineyards. Vines are often grown in a pergola style, where the vines grow up and over trellises or wires, so that the grapes are far from the ground. This configuration allows more air flow around the grapes, reducing the likelihood of molds and funguses that would come along with the high humidity. Vineyards usually require irrigation, due to the hot weather.
There are approximately 111,000 acres of vineyards producing 1.2 million tons of Indigenous grapes a year, however less than 10 percent are used for wine production, as the rest are table grapes. Nashik is the top wine producing region in the country, and is known as the wine capital of India. Other top wine producing regions are Pune, Bangalore, Hampi Hills, Bijapur, and Northern Karnataka. Harvest usually takes place in February; however, there are a few warmer areas like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka, where the grapevines produce crops twice a year. Many international varieties like Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Sangiovese, Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon are grown here.
This week at City Vino, we are featuring two wines from India alongside the Bob's Chenin Blanc 2018 from, the Paarl region of the Western Cape in South Africa and Las Perdices Viognier 2019, from Mendoza Argentina.
The first featured wine from India this week is the Grover Zampa Vineyards La Reserve Blanc 2016, from Kamataka, India. Grover Zampa was founded in the 1970s by Kanwal Grover and George Vesselle, who was formerly the technical director at Champagne Mumm. Kanwal’s daughter Karishma, who studied enology at UC Davis, is the winemaker. This wine is a Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc blend, aged in French oak barrels. The wine has a refreshing-yet-rich texture, with aromas of peach, apricot, and tropical fruits, in conjunction with lovely floral notes, and a hint of honey. This would be a great accompaniment to pork, chicken, salads, or a mild cheese.
The second Indian wine is the Sula Vineyards Chenin Blanc Estate Bottled 2019 from Maharashtra, India. Rajeev Samant started Sula Vineyards in 1999, after a few visits to his family’s land. He spent a few months working with a friend at a small winery in California, and the seed was planted, so to speak. That friend, Kerry Damskey, is now the winemaker at Sula. Sula is India’s leading wine company, and sees well over 300,000 visitors a year. This wine is 100 percent Chenin Blanc and is, in fact, the first Chenin produced in India, and is its best-selling white wine. The wine is a refreshing, semi-dry wine, featuring tropical fruit aromas, and flavors of pineapple, pear, and green apple. This wine will pair beautifully with something with some spice or with a seat in the shade on the porch. The Sula wine has a beautiful, brightly colored mustached sun on the label, and would be a great wine to pair with the upcoming Summer equinox!