India is developing a reputation for wine

 

Of all the great food and drink pairings, one of the UK's favourite in recent years has got to be curry and lager. However, despite being billed as the perfect complement to chilli and spice, Indian lager may now have found competition in its fruitier cousin, Indian wine.

India produced more than 13.5 million litres of wine last year (five times more than the UK) and although it has been making it for decades, this is the first year it has made a real splash among British oenophiles.

The white Ritu viognier 2010 and red Zampa syrah 2008 flew off the shelves when Waitrose became the first UK supermarket to stock Indian wines during a special promotion in August and the Ritu had such success that the supermarket's online arm now stocks it permanently. Indian producers had a strong visible presence at the London wine fair for the first time this year and Sula Vineyards' Sauvignon Blanc 2010, which is produced in Nashik in Maharashtra, was awarded a silver medal at the prestigious 2011 Decanter World Wine Awards.

Critics may have been quick to express a lack of enthusiasm for the newcomer and many say novelty plays a significant part in this recent success. But Indian wine also has its champions, not least in Zoltan Kore, sommelier in charge of the 150 bottle-wine list at London's Moti Mahal Indian restaurant. The list features two Indian wines – a 2009 Sauvignon Blanc from the Grover Vineyards of Nandi Hills near Bangalore, and a 2010 Shiraz from the Sula estate near the Maharashtran city of Nashik – which may not seem like many, but it's two more that the majority of UK restaurants.

"I would say 90 per cent of our guests have never tried wines from India and they are surprised that India even makes wine," says Kore. He believes that offering Indian wine adds a sense of authenticity to the restaurant and something "out of the ordinary" for guests, but insists that the main reason for carrying these two wines is that he regards them as "outstanding". "The feedback I get from our guests shows that these are impressive wines. They are entry-level in terms of price, but in terms of quality, they are untouchable," he says.

Kore recommends the refreshing, floral, crisply acidic white with fish dishes, and says the rich, cherry tones of the red perfectly complement the smoky taste of marinated meats, especially roasted lamb chops, cooked in the charcoal-fuelled tandoor oven.

He insists that neither is overpowered by spices in the food and both are easily matched with a host of different flavours, which allows them to "offer a challenge to any of the French or Italian wines".

Most vineyards in India are in Maharastra in the west, where high, hilly terrain provides a fairly stable microclimate, shelter against adverse weather conditions and exposure to cool air. This is where Sula, one of India's most established wine producers, is based. The other, Grover, is based in the Nandi Hills of the southern state of Karnataka, which are only moderately affected by monsoon rains and benefit from temperatures which usually only range between 10 and 29 degrees. Indian vineyards mostly grow French, Italian and Turkish grape varieties, which Kore says allows the soil and climate to create a taste offering "a new twist on old styles".

However, Kore concedes that not all Indian wine is as good as those he favours for his menu: "I'm not so keen on other [Indian wines]. They are really at the beginning of their journey, but there are some very promising signs." Bordeaux consultant Michel Rolland, a consultant at Grover for more than 16 years, recently said that India could produce "good but not great wine". But Alok Chandra, of Sommelier India magazine in Bangalore, says that is only because Indian wine industry is currently hampered by "low investment, federal rules and tax [up to 300 per cent in some states], and high costs". He believes the sheer volume of potential demand from India's burgeoning middle classes will ensure that that promise Kore mentions will be fulfilled. The figures back-up Chandra's argument.

Wine production in India has increased 300 per cent since 2003 and there are now 30 more wine companies than 10 years ago, offering a greater sense of competition.

"Quality is improving all the time," argues Chandra. "Indians are quick learners. Watch this space in five, 10 and 20 years from now".

Chandra is a fan of the Ritu voignier that proved so popular among British supermarket shoppers. He also recommends Luca Exotic Lychee wine, which he says is "reminiscent of a Gewurztraminer", the sweetness of which works well with spices.

Matt Smith, wine buyer at Waitrose, says that, following the success that Indian wines have seen in the UK this year, the supermarket is "keeping an eye on Indian wine producers as the industry develops". It appears he is not the only one. Indian lager can keep its title as the ultimate accompaniment for curry – for now.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Content Assistant / Copywriter

    £15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Situated in the heart of Bradfo...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reception Manager

    £18750 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Hotel in Chadderton is a popular ch...

    Guru Careers: Marketing and Communications Manager

    £Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing and Co...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence