Category Archives: Indian Wine

SulaFest 2017: 10th edition of this Gourmet Music & Wine Festival to get bigger & better.

If there is one company that has put India firmly on the world wine tourism map, it is Rajeev Samant’s Sula Vineyards, situated in Nashik, Maharashtra. And if there is one event which has taken snobbery out of wine drinking and succeeded in attracting hordes of youngsters to this magical beverage, it is SulaFest, held every year on the first weekend of February, since 2008 in the idyllic environs of Sula Vineyards.

The 10th edition of this trendy wine, music and food extravaganza is just two days away. It promises to be its best ever, looking at the exciting line-up of 120 international and national music artists slated to play at the festival. The setup in 2017 is bigger too, as the festival is spread over three days 3rd 4th and 5th February, compared to the previous two day format.

To accommodate the large number of artists, befitting a “World Music Festival”, three stages have been constructed, a Greek style Amphitheatre, Atmasphere and a new addition, Tropical Stage. Some of the renowned artists performing at SulaFest 2017 will be Bloc Party, an indie rock band from London, Dana Ruh and the Israeli duo with a catchy name “Infected Mushroom”.

Indian artists will be out in full force on Day 1 (3rd Feb) of the fest, when homegrown talent like Indian Ocean, Nucleya, The Raghu Dixit Project will be setting the stage on fire (not literally I hope)

Music across all genres will be featured, from techno, house, electronica, indie, reggae, afro, world fusion to psychedelic trance. Along with wine, this promises to be quite a heady combination.

Complete day wise artist line-up of SulaFest 2017 on 3rd 4th & 5th Feb 2017
Complete day wise artist line-up of SulaFest 2017 on 3rd 4th & 5th Feb 2017

Talking of wine, which of course will be there in plenty, there will be grape stomping sessions since it is harvest season at the winery, winery tours and organised wine tastings. Sula sold nearly a million cases of wine in 2016 and SulaFest is a great occasion to showcase its various labels and make people understand how that bottle gets from the vineyard to the table. It is also an exposure to Nashik, Maharashtra (about four hours drive from Mumbai), India’s most important wine growing region which many term as India’s own Napa Valley.

However, wine will not be the only beverage served. There will be other spirits too like Mount Gay Rum, Asahi Beer, Cognac all imported through Sula Selections, the import arm of Sula Vineyards. For teetotallers and health freaks, cold press juices from Raw Pressery will satiate your thirst.

And there will be food. Plenty of it from popular Mumbai restaurants like Bombay Food Truck, Mainland China, Busago, Maroosh, Woodside Inn and lots more.

There is a “Tent City” that has been set up amidst the vineyards, complete with a little weekend flea market “SulaFest Bazaar”. What you can expect to enjoy here are Sunrise Yoga Sessions, SulaFest Run and Foot Massages. There will be a Tarot Card reader to give you a little peek into your future.

The three day affair promises to be a lot of fun. The romance of a vineyard setting is unparalleled as it is. Couple that with great music and food and it becomes intoxicating. You will not know till you experience it.

To book tickets (hopefully there will be some left still as last few years have been completely sold out) here is the link.

By: Lavina Kharkwal

Indian Wines Showcased at Winemakers Dinner at Pullman New Delhi Aerocity

Tristan Beau de Lomenie, the handsome and suave General Manager of Pullman New Delhi Aerocity made a telling statement while addressing the guests at “Taste of India”, a Winemakers Dinner at Pluck & Pling, the all-day fine dining restaurant at his hotel. He said, “This is not a competition but a collaboration among India’s top wine producers”.

He was referring to the winemakers from Sula, Grover Zampa, York and Charosa, who had flown down to Delhi, to present their wines at a well curated dinner at Pullman, the purpose of which was to highlight the tremendous progress made by the Indian wine industry, both in terms of quality and styles.

Tristan also made a little confession and admitted that four years ago, when he and his wife Isabel came to India, they were not very fond of Indian wine. However, over the years, he has been amazed by the improvement in the quality of Indian wines and now, not only has he become a fan, but is actively promoting them in his hotel.

This dinner was notable for several reasons. Four of India’s well known winemakers, Ajoy Shaw of Sula Vineyards, Karishma Grover of Grover Zampa, Ravi Gurnani from York and Ashok Patil from Charosa Vineyards had gathered together, taking time out from their busy schedules since it is harvest time at the wineries, to showcase their premium wines at the Pullman dinner.

While most wine lovers in Delhi are already familiar with established names like Sula, Grover Zampa and York, this was the first time that wines from Charosa (a winery located 55kms from Nashik in Maharashtra) were being presented in the capital. There has been a buzz around their Sauvignon Blanc and Reserve Tempranillo (India’s first 100% Tempranillo), and guests at the “Taste of India” dinner got a chance to try out both, along with Charosa Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. The presence of Ashok Patil, chief winemaker of Charosa, who spoke a little about his winery, made it special.

The four wines from Sula Vineyards, India’s biggest and most well known wine producer commanding the largest market share, were Brut Tropicale (my current favorite among Indian sparkling wines), Sula Riesling 2016, Rasa Shiraz 2014 and a lovely Late Harvest Chenin Blanc 2016 which had a good balance between sweetness and acidity and a touch of Muscat. Ajoy Shaw, chief winemaker of Sula Vineyards revealed that Rasa got its name after the initials (Ra Sa) of the founder of Sula, Rajeev Samat. I was not aware of this and it is always good to learn something new.

Karishma Grover, chief winemaker at Grover Vineyards Ltd, presented Zampa Brut Soirée 2014 and Grover Zampa Chêne Grande Reserve 2010 along with two house labels that she has collaborated with Pullman. “Blanc by Pullman” is a Sauvignon Blanc while “Rouge by Pullman” is a blend of oak aged Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, both easy drinking styles.

Ravi Gurnani from York winery was the only person among the four, who is technically not a winemaker but takes care of sales & marketing. It is his brother Kailash, who is incharge of winemaking operations at York Winery, also situated in Nashik very close to Sula. The wines that he showcased at the dinner were York Sparkling Blanc de Blancs (100% Chenin), York Chenin Blanc 2016 and, York Arros, one of the best value for money premium Indian red wines in my opinion.

It goes to the credit of Tristan and his team of sommeliers and chefs, in particular Director Food & Beverage Vishrut Gupta and Assistant Director F&B Deepak Shettigar, that the event was a huge success.

The efforts of the sommelier of Pullman & Novotel New Delhi Aerocity, Kriti Malhotra, were recognised and praised by everyone present. Kriti is certified sommelier from Court of Master Sommeliers and it was she who had coordinated with the winemakers and persuaded them to participate. She is a passionate and dedicated sommelier who is making a mark on the wine scene and setting a great example which should encourage more and more Indian women to enter this field.

Taste of India Winemakers Dinner at Pullman New Delhi Aerocity
Taste of India Winemakers Dinner at Pullman New Delhi Aerocity

Taste of India wine dinner was also a fabulous opportunity for the chefs of Pullman to showcase “Farm-to-Table”, a concept that they so zealously advocate. In fact, quite a few ingredients used in the dishes were plucked from their in-house organic garden. No surprise that the Cafe is called “Pluck”. The miniature Chef’s Garden created for the dinner, complete with root vegetables which guests had to dig out from faux soil and the different types of fruit and vegetable caviar, came in for a lot of appreciation. There were some hits and misses in terms of wine and food pairing, but there is always an inherent risk while attempting something unconventional.

Tristan Beau de Lomenie and his team need to be applauded for promoting both the “Farm-to-Table” concept and Indian Wines at Pullman & Novotel New Delhi Aerocity.

The Wines from Sula, Grover Zampa, York and Charosa ; Chef's Garden at Pluck; Caviar and Dessert
The Wines from Sula, Grover Zampa, York and Charosa ; Chef’s Garden at Pluck; Caviar and Dessert

Tristan’s concluding words at the “Taste of India” wine dinner were that Indian wines are becoming a force to reckon with and can now complete with the best in the New World. Coming from a Frenchman whose wife Isabel, owns a vineyard in Barsac Bordauex, this is quite an endorsement.

By : Lavina Kharkwal



On a Sangiovese Trail with Fratelli Wines

Talk about a Sangiovese Trail and the mind immediately takes you to the beautiful Tuscan countryside and its lush wines, Chianti, Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Super Tuscans. This is only natural as Sangiovese is a grape, so firmly rooted in the Central Italian landscape, that it is difficult to picture it in any other scenario.

So imagine someone taking this fussy little fella outside its natural environment, planting it far far away in a remote village in rural Maharashtra, India and producing not one, not two, but five different styles featuring this temperamental Italian superstar, Sangiovese, which literally means “Blood of Jove” referring to the Roman god Jupiter.

Had anyone told me this five years ago, I would have probably scoffed in disbelief and asked them what they were smoking. But this was before Fratelli Wines and Piero Masi happened to India.

It took a maverick Italian winemaker, Piero Masi, from Tavarnelle di Pesa, a small town in Chianti Florence, creator of the famous “Chianti Classico Casa Sola”, someone with a deep cultural connect with Tuscany and enough experience with this Italian varietal, to hero the Sangiovese in his wines at Fratelli Vineyards in Akluj Maharastra.

After months of extensive research Fratelli’s Chief Winemaker, Masi, chose a clone of Sangiovese, most suited to the mineral and limestone rich arid Akluj soil, nurturing and tending it, till it took roots and began yielding good quality fruit. He managed to tame the asperity of this highly acidic light coloured grape and produce wines with a distinct character.

A winemaker’s expertise lies in how well he can use one grape to show its many different expressions and this is what Piero Masi has done with the Sangiovese in Akluj.

However it takes a couple of vintages even for the best in the business to make good wine and now Fratelli Vineyards can proudly display what it has achieved with the Sangiovese, by showcasing it in a manner like it did at a recent seven course “Modern Indian Dinner” held at Pluck, Pullman New Delhi Aerocity, where five styles of Sangiovese were paired with some excellent dishes.

Magandeep Singh, India’s most well known sommelier, wine educator and host of countless television shows on wine and spirits along with Craig Wedge, Brand Director Fratelli Wines, explained the story behind each of the labels.

The trail began with Fratelli Vineyards Sangiovese Bianco. This crisp refreshing white wine with a smokey mineral thread running through is made from 100% Sangiovese which is a red grape. A technique which requires great expertise indeed.

Next was Fratelli Vineyards newest label Fratelli Vineyards M/S Red Sangiovese, a blend of 60% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Franc and 20% Syrah. M stands for Piero Masi while S is for Steven Spurrier, a man whose exploits relating to Judgement of Paris have been well documented in the film Bottle Shock.

A couple of months back when I had tasted M/S Red, I found it had a few rough edges. But now the oak and the fruits seem better integrated and the tannins felt smoother. Fruit showed well and the wine had a spicy lingering finish.

Third was Fratelli Vineyards Classico Sangiovese, a simple straightforward crowd-pleaser with a nice juicy vibrancy. This wine is a great introduction to Sangiovese for those who are not familiar with this grape. Since there is no oak used, the fruit shines in all its glory.

Fratelli Vineyards Vitae Sangiovese was next. This is a single vineyard wine and comes from Plot C in Garwar. Keeping up with growing trend world-wide towards single vineyard bottlings, Fratelli has come up with another first in India. Their endeavour is to make a Burgundy style Pinot Noir from low yields, low extraction and use of new french oak.

Some of the greatest wines of the world like Burgundy grand crus and premier crus come from single vineyards and the most revered name is Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.

The last wine of the evening was Fratelli Vineyard’s flagship Sette, a wine which hardly needs an introduction. A blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and tiny bit of Cabernet Franc, fashioned after Super Tuscans, this wine created a benchmark, by showing the world that India was capable of producing age worthy premium quality wines. The 2012 vintage of Sette is their best yet as it the most balanced.

Sangiovese Trail by Fratelli Vineyards at Pluck & Pling, Pullman New Delhi Aerocity
Sangiovese Trail by Fratelli Vineyards at Pluck & Pling, Pullman New Delhi Aerocity

All the wines at the Sangiovese Trail were paired with dishes made with a lot of creativity, keeping in mind the flavor profile of each wine. Tristan Beau de Lomenie, the suave French General Manager of Pullman New Delhi Aerocity is a wine lover and a proponent of “Farm to Table “concept. A lot of ingredients which went into the meal that evening at Pluck came from his hotel in-house farm.

Meanwhile the House of Fratelli India is ready to come out with more firsts. I will not be surprised if we have a Brunello style 100% Sangiovese from them in the near future.

By: Lavina Kharkwal

Sangiovese Trial by Fratelli Wines. In the photographs Craig Wedge Brand Director Fratelli Wines, Reva Singh Editor Sommelier India, Isabel & Tristan Beau de Lomenie, Chefs of Pullman New Delhi Aerocity.
Sangiovese Trial by Fratelli Wines. In the photographs Craig Wedge Brand Director Fratelli Wines, Reva Singh Editor Sommelier India, Magandeep Singh, Isabel & Tristan Beau de Lomenie, Chefs of Pullman New Delhi Aerocity.

Read more on Fratelli Wines here



Globe in a Glass : Wine & Spirits Roadshow 2016 by Sula Selections

The festive season has well and truly kicked off with Sula’s “Globe in a Glass”. Trust them to pull off their first ever Wine & Spirits Roadshow with such aplomb.

Even the sultry Delhi weather could not put a dampener on the enjoyment and one could hear the guests rave about how well organised and how much fun the event was. I am talking about the Delhi leg of Sula’s day-long wine and spirits event which took place on 3rd October 2016 at Lodi, The Garden Restaurant.

From Delhi the three city roadshow travelled to Bangalore on October 5. It will conclude  today in Mumbai.

While Sula Vineyards is India’s largest wine producer with a projected sales figure of 12 million bottles in the year 2016 and commands a lion’s share of nearly 60% of the domestic market, it is also one of the leading importers of wine and spirits in the country, through its import arm Sula Selections.

It is the most visible wine brand in India and to gauge how well recognized it is let’s just say that Sula is to wine what Colgate is to toothpaste in terms of brand recall.

Team Sula at Globe in a Glass Roadshow 2016
Team Sula at Globe in a Glass Roadshow 2016

This event was a showcase of Sula’s domestic and international portfolio where the invitees got to taste 40 wines and 20 spirits from all across the globe. It was a great way to reach out to consumers and help them connect with the suppliers, brand managers and wine makers.

Prestigious international wine brands like Cono Sur from Chile, Trapiche from Argentina, Accolade Wine company’s popular brands Hardys of Australia, Mud House from New Zealand , Kumala from South Africa and Ruffino from Italy, Piper Heidsieck Champagne, Bouchard Aine & Fils, and Le Grand Noir from France were represented by their spokespersons. The event offered a splendid opportunity to engage with them and learn more about these products.

Wines from across the world. In the picture Emma Hammonds and Ann-Marie Battista Sharp from Accolade Wines.
Wines from across the world imported by Sula Selections. In the picture Emma Hammonds and Ann-Marie Battista Sharp from Accolade Wines.

There was an entire spectrum of spirits from rum, tequila, cognac, whiskey to liqueurs. Prominent brands represented were Remy Martin Cognac, Antica Sambuca, Cointreau, Mount Gay Rum from Barbados, Don Alejandro Tequila, William Grant & Sons (Glenfiddich, Grant’s, Hendrick’s Gin, Monkey Shoulder-only Mumbai). Janus and J Brandy were only for Bangalore.

An interesting addition to Sula Selection’s spirits portfolio is Brazil’s famous Cachaça brand Pitú represented by third generation family owner Maria das Vitórias Cavalcanti. Cachaça (kah-sha-sa) is a popular Brazilian spirit distilled from sugar cane juice which can be had on its own or used to make a variety of cocktails like Caipirinha (ky-per-een-yah).

Maria very sweetly took on the role of bartender and was seen making some refreshing Pitú based cocktails. In fact there were some interesting rum, vodka and tequila based cocktails on offer at the Sula Roadshow 2016.

Spirits portfolio of Sula Selections. In the picture Maria das Vitorias Cavalcanti from Pitu Brazil and Nick Rees Marketing Manager Remy Cointreau with Pankaj Tripathi of Sula Selections.
Spirits portfolio of Sula Selections. In the picture Maria das Vitorias Cavalcanti from Pitu Brazil and Nick Rees Marketing Manager Remy Cointreau with Pankaj Tripathi of Sula Selections.

Cecilia Oldne, Vice President Marketing & Global Brand Ambassador at Sula Vineyards called “Globe in a Glass” a “global experience put together by Sula for our valued customers”. She said that they plan to make the event into  an annual affair as it was “a fun way to bring together sommeliers, ambassadors, oenophiles and people who want to learn more about these products”.

Cecilia Oldane, VP Marketing & Brand Ambassador Sula with Ajoy Show, Chief winemaker Sula Vineyards. Representatives from Accolade Wines, Bouchard Aine & Fils, Le Grand Noir and Trapiche ; Team Sula Selection
Cecilia Oldne, VP Marketing & Brand Ambassador Sula with Ajoy Show, Chief winemaker Sula Vineyards. Representatives from Accolade Wines, Bouchard Aine & Fils, Le Grand Noir and Trapiche ; Team Sula Selection

And there is no denying that Sula does value its customers. What a great way to bring people together over wine.

I just hope that the next edition of the Wine & Spirits Roadshow is a ticketed event open to public where wine lovers get a chance to taste the different wines on offer. More and more events like this will go a long way towards developing a wine  culture in India.

By: Lavina Kharkwal

Credit for some photos goes to Prarrthona Pal Chowdhury, Head of Marketing International Brands and Head of Trade Marketing Domestic Wines at Sula Vineyards

Four Seasons Wines launches its limited edition Vintner’s Reserve Select Barrels 2011

Diageo seems to be as serious about its recently acquired wine division as it is about its spirits business. The grand launch of Vintner’s Reserve Select Barrels 2011 by Four Seasons Wines Ltd (FSWL), now under Diageo’s control after the liquor giant bought UB Group’s United Spirits Limited (USL) of which Four Seasons is a subsidiary, makes their intent quite clear, along with laying to rest rumours about the demise of the Four Seasons wine brand.

Given the growing popularity of wine in India, it makes Diageo’s portfolio even more attractive and the liquor conglomerate is doing all it can to push the sales of Four Seasons wines. Which is great news really for the Indian wine consumers as they get more wines to choose from and healthy competition never hurt anybody, certainly not the Indian wine industry.

Vintner’s Reserve Select Barrels 2011 was unveiled on 16th July 2016 at the French chateau styled Four Seasons Winery, located just over an hour’s drive from Pune at Roti village in Maharashtra’s Baramati district.  A delicious full-bodied spicy blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz chosen from the best parcels, this Rioja meets Amarone with dark fruits, sweet vanilla  and smooth ripe velvety tannins has been aged two years in French oak barrels and another two in the bottle. In terms of intensity, depth and flavour this wine is right up there among the best Indian reds in the super-premium category. Though price wise at just Rs 1500 a bottle, it is the most reasonable.

However it is a limited edition wine with only 700 cases (1200 bottles for each region) produced for seven markets, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune, Kolkatta, Arunachal Pradesh & Andaman & Nicobar Islands. So grab that bottle before the stocks run out. And decant it for an hour to enjoy its full aromas and flavors.

Wine lovers in Delhi will have to wait a wee bit longer to get their hands on this beauty as Mr Kejriwal’s government is yet to announce the new excise policy for Delhi, much to the consternation of Wine & Liquor companies, importers and the hospitality industry.

Four Seasons latest launch Vintner's Reserve Select Barrels 2011
Four Seasons latest launch Vintner’s Reserve Select Barrels 2011

Four Season’s Vintner’s Reserve Select Barrels 2011 is a feather in the cap of FSWL’s Chief Winemaker and Director Abhay Kewadkar. After the launch of two fantastic reserve wines a few years back, Four Seasons Barrique Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon & Four Seasons Barrique Reserve Shiraz, this latest addition to the Four Seasons Wines portfolio took a while coming but was certainly worth the wait.

It strongly confirms Abhay Kewadkar’s expertise as a wine maker. In fact, he is India’s most experienced winemaker having been involved in the implementation of path-breaking wine projects in India, Indage India’s first Indian sparkling wine “Marquis de Pompadour” in 1988 and Grover Vineyards “La Reserve”, which till date remains India’s most well-known red wine.

Four Season’s Wines Ltd has been Abhay Kewadkar’s baby right from the start. He had his task cut out when he joined FSWL in 2006 after parting with Grovers with whom he worked for 16 long years. From selecting the land for setting up the winery, planting the grapes, making the wine to marketing it, this has been his project all the way.

Since its inception the winery has won 48 international awards in the wine circuit. The classic Four Seasons range which only had single varietals in its portfolio is now venturing into blends and the Vintner’s Reserve Select Barrels 2011, is a foray in this direction.

Four Seasons Winery at Roti Village Baramati Maharashtra, just an hour and a half drive from Pune
Four Seasons Winery at Roti Village Baramati Maharashtra, just an hour and a half drive from Pune

The launch function at the winery was very impressive and the pool-side setting could not have been more perfect. An elaborate three course sit down lunch catered by the team from Taj Vivanta Pune led by Chef Sachin Joshi was just one of the many moments to remember from my first visit to the Four Seasons winery. Right from the time one entered the palatial chateau and was welcomed with a glass of the yet to be released Rosé bubbly, a delicious barbeque dinner, an early morning walk around the property with Abhay Kewadkar and his three adorable Dobermans Caesar, Lucy and Max, a Maharashtrian breakfast where the sparkling rosé was paired with “misal paav”, to a dip in the swimming pool, it was a memorable visit indeed. The wine just did not stop flowing and the generous hospitality of Four Seasons left a lasting impression.

Mr Abhay Kewadkar, Chief Winemaker & Director FSWL with his team at the launch of Vintner's Reserve Select Barrels 2011
Mr Abhay Kewadkar, Chief Winemaker & Director FSWL with his team at the launch of Vintner’s Reserve Select Barrels 2011

Four Seasons Winery is a gorgeous property recently opened to public giving a great fillip to wine tourism in India. It makes the most beautiful “grape escape destination” with its ten well decorated rooms and four suites, all equipped with modern amenities and a tasting room to try out the wines. There is a swimming pool, outdoor jacuzzi, mountain bikes to explore the vineyards and a pool side deck to throw parties. To find out about Four Seasons Wine Tour you may click here and the link for booking a tour is this.

The successful launch of Vintner’s Reserve Select Barrels 2011 augurs well for Four Seasons Wines Ltd and one looks forward to many more new wines from their stable. As for me, I am eagerly awaiting the release of their sparkling rosé which I was fortunate to taste.

By: Lavina Kharkwal

Following are the Four Seasons Brands available in Delhi & Haryana

  1. Four Seasons Barrique Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Rs 1000) Only Delhi
  2. Four Seasons Classic Barrique Reserve Shiraz (Rs 900) Only Haryana
  3. Four Seasons Classic Sauvignon Blanc (Rs 650) Both Delhi & Haryana
  4. Four Seasons Classic Shiraz (Rs 650) Both Delhi & Haryana
  5. Four Seasons Classic Cabernet Sauvignon (Rs 650) Only Haryana
  6. Four Seasons Classic Chenin Blanc (Rs 650) Only Haryana