My journey to the wine regions of India began very recently. It was only after I decided to speak on the “Potential for Wine Tourism in India” at the International Wine Tourism Conference, La Champagne 2015, that I set forth to explore our own wine country. Prior to this I had been to vineyards in Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Italy & France, but never to one in India. While there been a tremendous growth in the Indian wine industry and an improvement in the quality of Indian wines, I was keen to see for myself if there was an exponential growth in wine tourism and to check out the facilities on offer.
I began my explorations with a wine tour to Grover Zampa Vineyards situated in Nandi Hills Karnataka, an hour and a half drive from Bangalore and just 40 minutes from the airport. The reason why I chose this vineyard is because it is the oldest surviving winery in India and their iconic red wine La Réserve, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon & Shiraz, has been an old favorite and the most consistent Indian wine in terms of quality. It was awarded the best New World red wine by Decanter magazine in 2005. The recent launch of VA Reserve Collection White, a barrel fermented & barrique aged Viognier and VA Reserve Red, introduced the concept of celebrity wine labels in India, with tennis star Vijay Amritraj lending his name to the label.
Grover Zampa has also been in news recently for winning a spate of awards (36 awards for 12 wines in the last 18 months) at various International wine competitions and making inroads into international markets, exporting to over 20 countries. The merger of Grover Vineyards Ltd (GVL) with Nashik based Vallée de Vin (VDV) resulting in the creation of Grover Zampa Vineyards in 2012 has infused new life into the company helping it to catch up with the market leader Sula, though it still has a long way to go.
Bangalore is blessed with a salubrious climate and Grover Zampa Vineyards, located at the foothills of Nandi Hills, around 40 kms from the city, is a perfect destination for wine tourism if one wants to learn about grape growing, wine making and tasting from the barrels. However it is only possible to make day trips as there are no facilities for staying at the vineyard itself. Being in close proximity to a city like Bangalore, there are plenty of options to choose from. I stayed at the Angsana Oasis Spa & Resort, a beautiful property situated on the main Doddaballapur Road, and only 15 minutes away from the winery.
At the winery I met Karishma Grover, a dynamic young woman who wears many hats, that of the Assistant Winemaker of Grover-Zampa Vineyards, part owner of the company being the daughter of Kapil Grover, and someone whose passion for wine begins showing the moment she starts talking. Over a glass of Art Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2014, which has won the prestigious International Trophy for Sauvignon Blanc at the 3rd Decanter Asia Wine Awards (DAWA) held recently in Hong Kong, she told me how her grandfather Kanwal Grover, was a pioneer of Indian viticulture as he was the first to plant French varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon on Indian terroir and who enrolled the services of wine makers like George Vessels, Michel Rolland and Bruno Yvon, to come out with quality Indian wines as far back as 1992.
Like her grandfather Karishma Grover is a pioneer in many areas related to wine especially in the field of wine tourism. Armed with a degree in Viticulture & Oenology from University of California, Davis and an internship at the cellars in Napa valley, she is now focusing her attention on stabilizing quality control, introducing wines in the premium segment and doing her bit towards wine education by organizing guided wine tours. These include a visit to the vineyards which are at a little distance from the winery and where the nuances of viticulture are explained in lay man’s terms. This is followed by a tour of the winery where the entire process of wine making is explained, often by Karishma herself.
Wine tasting is done in a Barrel Room where premium wines are aged. This is a lovely experience as one can soak in the unique atmosphere of the winery with the smell of oak permeating the air as well as taste 5 wines and learn about food & wine pairing. The entire wine tour which lasts approximately 3 hours ends with a delicious lunch buffet comprising only of Veg & Non-Veg Biryani right now, but plans are afoot for opening a fully functional multi-cuisine restaurant. One can also buy wines at discounted prices from the winery.
Karishma Grover is also responsible for introducing the Art Collection, which includes Merlot, Cabernet Shiraz, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chenin Blanc & Rose and features designer labels painted by famous Indian contemporary artists. Under the direction of French wine consultant Mathais Pellisard who has been associated with Grover Zampa since the last four years, and a dynamic CEO Sumedh Singh Mandla at the helm, huge inroads have been made into the Premium wine segment with the launch of new labels like La Réserve Blanc, VA Reserve Collection both white & red, Chêne, Grover Zampa Soirée Brut & Rose and others.
It is heartening to see how far the Indian wine industry has progressed, though in terms of wine tourism as we know of it in the West, we still have a lot of ground to cover. The availability of good quality Indian wines will help the cause of wine tourism because at the end of the day, this is what will prompt visitors into planning a wine trip despite the lack of infrastructure to support a thriving wine tourism industry.
Grover Zampa Vineyards Ltd
63 Raghunathpura, Devanahalli Road Doddaballapur, Bangalore 561203
By: Lavina Kharkwal
To read more on Grover Zampa click on this link
All the pictures used in this review are clicked by the author.