One of the joys of publishing a web-based wine magazine like wine-pages is that in amongst the reports and features on world-famous wines and great wine regions, it is possible to spend some time looking on the fringes of the wine world at some of the more off-piste products and producers. In the recent past I’ve reported on Peruvian wines and Chinese Wines amongst other less well-trodden regions of the viticultural world.
Now its the turn of India to come under the spotlight. Indage, is India’s biggest wine producing company. It’s Director, Santosh Verma, is on record as saying “India has the perfect soil for grapes. With the Himalayas in the north and Western and Eastern Ghats towards the south, we are taller than any European mountains. Our wines are on a par with any superior-quality wines from any part of the world.” Well, having “tall” mountains is not in itself any indicator of wine quality, but in fact Indage must be doing something right: the company has doubled its sales since 2003 and recently won five awards at the International Wine and Spirit Competition. Although not tasted here, Indage’s parent company is also the biggest sparkling wine producer in India, and is the name behind the famous Omar Kayyham sparkling wine, which was once a staple of the Oddbins portfolio and won many friends in the UK.
Indage’s vineyards are situated in the Maharashtra region of western India. Apart from the oddities of climate – with the monsoon being a particular challenge – Indage is confident that India does have the potential for quality wine production with the altitudes to provide a range of temperatures, and a skilled agricultural workforce. India grows a similar volume of grapes to Australia, and though much of that is table grapes, winemaking has been known here for 5,000 years. It is Australian winemaker, Paul Nelson, who is in charge of the 18 varieties in commercial production at Indage, and no less than 120 more being trialed in Indage’s own nursery. Like Europe, the vineyards were decimated by Phylloxera in the 1890s, and Indage is one of the modern day pioneers having concentrated on quality wine production since the 1980s. Today they have 1,200 acres of estate vineyard (485 hectares) plus a network of contract growers.
Dometic consumption of wine among India’s billion-plus population is still negligible at little more than seven million bottles per annum. That is equivalent to a couple of millilitres per capita, compared with a little over 27 litres per capita in the UK. But in such a large market, even tiny percentage increments in growth will create tens of thousands of new drinkers amongst India’s middle classes. And there is growth – a recent forecast says domestic consumption will grow by 23% between 2008 and 2012. Though companies like Indage – one of 30 producers in India – will continue to look towards export markets, wine production in India seems to have a secure future.
The wines can be found in Indian restaurants, but there may be some retail availability for around £6.99. For all UK stockists of Indian wines see wine-searcher.com
These wines sat in my “to be tasted” racks for longer than intended. I’m sure the Sauvignon Blanc, for example, would have been fresher six months ago. All have 13.5% alcohol, except the Sauvignon Blanc at 12.5%, and the bottles are closed with natural cork.
Indage Sauvignon Blanc 2006
From the Sahyadri Valley, this has an appealing nose of bright tropical fruit with suggestions of pineapple and passionfruit, and just the merest hint of something grassy in the background. There’s a touch of lemon too in a nicely expressive Sauvignon nose. On the palate there are no fireworks a la Malborough, but it does have definition and a bit of cut, with lemony fruit and a solid, rather than crisp finish. 85/100.
Indage Chardonnay 2006
This is a clean, fresh and appetising style of Chardonnay, with a little creamy, oatmeal background and ripe pear and apple fruit character. On the palate it is a middle of the road style of Chardonnay; quite nice lemon and apple fruit, but again lacking in a bit of decisiveness and length on the finish. 84/100.
Indage Merlot 2006
There’s just a background trace of TCA (cork-taint) on this which is a pity, but it is of very low level and a curranty quality of fruit comes through as well as a touch of cedar. The palate is quite crisp and fruity, and definitely a fruit-driven style, though there’s no great length. Again, that low level TCA may well be stripping some of this wine’s character. No score.
Indage Syrah 2006
There’s an attractive boldness and crunchy gloss to the black fruit on this wine, with blackberry and cherry notes to the fore. On the palate the fruit comes through very nicely, with good blackcurrent jam ripeness and a bit of attack that gives it some substance. Tannins and maybe a touch of oak gives a chewy quality on the finish, but again that creates a sense of robustness to the wine that I like. For me, well-made and balanced. 86/100.
Indage Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Nicely expressive Cabernet, with bold blackcurrant fruit and a little balck olive edge. There’s a background touch of cedar too. On the palate this has nicely rounded, soft and sweet fruit. there may be a little more residual sugar in this than the Syrah, but it has good acidity and quite fine tannins, which along with a bit of smoky, quality French oak gives a rounded, lingering finish. 87/100.
For all UK stockists of Indian wines see wine-searcher.com