Diwali has come and gone, and the week that was would have seen the Great Indian Gifting Tradition in full force: a round-robin of parcels of mithai
and dry fruits (and sometimes much more) being sent by all and sundry to their principals, customers and the high-and-mighty.
And increasingly, the hampers doing the rounds also contain a bottle of wine.
So what wine did you give or receive? Was it a bottle of imported plonk, or an Indian Reserve? Did you automatically assume that Indian wines are not as good as imported wines just because the latter cost more? Or was it more to do with how the gift would be perceived: that gifting a desi
bottle would mark you out as a cheapskate? Fortunately, this need no longer be the case.
There was a time when there was a clear divide between Indian and imported wines: till about 2005 there were no Indian wines priced more than Rs 500 per bottle, and no imported wines below that level. That barrier has blurred: today there are a host of Indian wines priced between Rs 1,000 and Rs 2,000, while entry-level imports start from as low as Rs 1,000.
Of course, the sky's the limit for imported wines, with retail prices for the better ones ranging from Rs 5,000 to even Rs 50,000 per bottle! And, of course, the best imported wines are still way better than the best Indian wines: after all, they've got hundreds of years of grape-growing and wine-making under their belt, whereas the Indian wine industry is still in its infancy.
So, for Diwali gifting I would have gone for either the best Indian wines or mid-range imports (costing about Rs 2,000 per bottle).
The best (and most expensive) Indian reds include the Zampa Chene Grand Reserve (Rs 1,850 in Bengaluru, Rs 1,800 in Delhi), the Fratelli Sette (Rs 1,642 in Bengaluru and Rs 1,800 in Delhi), the Sula Rasa Shiraz Reserve (Rs 1,395 in Bengaluru, Rs 1,290 in Delhi), Charosa's Reserve Cab and Reserve Tempranillo (both Rs 1,500 in Bengaluru), the Grover Vijay Amritraj Collection Reserve Red (Rs 1,395 in Bengaluru and Rs 1,200 in Delhi), and, of course, the Krsma Cab (Rs 1,500, available only in Bengaluru).
Indian sparkling wines made by the methode traditionalle
(the in-bottle second fermentation method used traditionally for champagnes) have all broken the Rs 1,000 price barrier, with the Chandon Brut Rose (Rs 1,450 in Bengaluru and Rs 1,400 in Delhi) leading the pack in both quality and price. There are also Brut sparkling wines from Fratelli, Sula, and Zampa - I had written about the new Sula Brut Tropicale last fortnight.
The range of imported wines available is too large for this article, so I'll focus on just a few: from South Africa my favourite is The Wolftrap Boekenhoutskloof Red, which at Rs 1,500 (in Bengaluru) is great value and a nice tipple; from the same winery is the improbably-named "Chocolate Block" (Rs 4,400 in Bengaluru), with hugely complex aromas and flavours (yes, including that of chocolate). From Italy, I like the Bibi Graetz Casamatta Rosso (Rs 1,990) - a solera Sangiovese that is surprisingly smooth and complex. Go north to France and pick up a bottle of the St Cosme Little James Basket Press Red (Rs 1,995), a Grenache also produced using the solera system that is a big hit with hotels. And from Portugal, you should surely try the Mouchao Dom Rafael Red (Rs 1,822), made using grapes whose names even I can't pronounce, but whose wine is just fantastic for the price.
So there you have it: a limited selection of reds and bubblies that you could have gifted - maybe you'd want to explore picking up a bottle or two to try for yourself.
With a happy belated Diwali to all!
Alok Chandra is a Bengaluru-based wine consultant