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Wines from India

I had always wondered why India wasn't well-known for its wines, because it has exactly what you need for good red wines - sunshine and heat.

I was interested to read an article about Indian wines in the Daily Telegraph recently (31 Aug 04) by Peter Foster. This is the gist of what it said:

Wine has been produced in India for centuries, and with help from technicians from Australia and France, international acceptance of Indian wine may not be far away.

Its three main producers have announced increases in exports to Britain. Up to now, exposure to Indian wine has been limited to the sparkling Chardonnay-based "Omay Khayyam", sold in some Indian restaurants and shops.

The Daily Telegraph went to the Nandi Hills outside Bangalore, where the Grover vineyard (200 acres) will produce 600,000 bottles this year. A quarter of these will be exported to Britain, America, France and elsewhere. The Grover vineyard was started by Kanwal Grover in 1992, who was at that time a businessman often journeying to Paris and enjoying the wines there. On one of these trips he read over the breakfast table in the newspaper that the French agriculture minister, Michel Rocard, was offering technical help to the Chinese to grow vines. Grover telephoned him and asked for some of the same - which he got.

Rocard later became Prime Minister of France, 1988-91. Grover promised him the first bottle, and this was delivered to him in December 1992.

Last year the operation made a profit for the first time. The revival of Indian wine takes up where the British left off in the 1890s when phylloxera (an aphid) wiped out the Indian vineyards, just as it had done in Europe.

Consumption in India is increasing at 35% per year.

There are two impediments to India joining the front rank of wine producers:

1. The temperatures don't fall low enough at night, which affects the colour and composition of the grapes. (Not sure if this is true, but it's what the Telegraph reported)

2. There's a 250% tax regime in India. So a bottle retailing produced for sale at about 1-50 costs around 6 to buy.

TASTINGS (Jonathan Ray)

Grover vineyards sauvignon blanc 2003: better than expected - floral and petrolly on the nose, clean and light; well-made and interesting.

Shiraz rose 2002 - light and gragrant on the nose, with a dry finish. Ray says he has had many worse examples from France.

Cabernet-shiraz 2003: not so good.

2002 reserve - way beyond expectations: well structured, with plenty of blackberry flavour and soft tannins.

These were all 7 per bottle except the reserve, which was 8. They struggle to compete on price with Australian / French, but are worth investigating.

Nigel Deacon / Diversity website

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