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  • Monday, January, 2023| Today's Market | Current Time: 10:30:25
  • The fact that India now serves a wide variety of fine wine stems from an ancient culture of winemaking and consumption. Winemaking has been practised since the Bronze Age. The Persian traders who brought the practise of winemaking to India are responsible for our ability to enjoy a fine glass of wine while sitting in our homes or a fine dining restaurant. Chanakya’s warnings about drinking too much Madhu or Madira in the 4th century BCE demonstrate wine consumption at the time. Neeraj Sachdeva, the director of Lakeforest Wines traces the history of wines in India and explores the different wines.

    There is little evidence of winemaking in India before the 1500s, when the Portuguese introduced Port in Goa. In the late 18th century, the French also planted the ‘Angoori Bagh’ in Hyderabad, but they failed in the face of British whiskey. However, production of Cinzano Vermouths began in the 1970s, thanks to Vittal Mallya’s collaboration with Dr Rossi. Shaw Wallace began producing Golconda in a small vineyard in Hyderabad around the same time. However, phylloxera and government opposition brought a bad omen for the industry prior to the 1980s.

    With the release of Marquise De Pompadour, made from Vitis Vinifera grapes, wine production in India resumed in 1986. Sham Chougule of Indage was a pioneer in the production of the first genuine wines. Along with Chateau Indage, Rajeev Sawants’ ‘Sula Vineyards’ and Kanwal Grover’s ‘Grover Vineyards’ entered the domestic winemaking industry, paving the way for numerous other vineyards throughout the county. Rajeev Sawant brought back Vittal Mallya’s Cinzano in 1996 to reconnect India with its wine roots.

    “These three wineries produce some of India’s most exclusive wines today. Grover Vineyards is well-known for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux-style blends, whereas Sula is well-known for its Chenin Blanc and Sula Shiraz. With vineyards sprouting up all over the country, the prime wine-growing regions are Nashik and Nandi Hills,” says Neeraj Sachdeva, the director of Lakeforest Wines.

    From Jammu and Kashmir in the north to Tamil Nadu and Kerala in the south, the Indian subcontinent is a vast stretch of land in South-East Asia with a variety of climatic conditions. However, the majority of wine production occurs in two south Indian states: Maharashtra and Karnataka. Therefore, the majority of the 2,500 hectares (6,178 acres) of vineyards, or roughly 2% of Bordeaux’s total, are subtropical, with two distinct seasons: the wet summer months and the cooler dry winter months.

    The south-westerly monsoon brings the majority of the annual precipitation between May and September, accompanied by high temperatures frequently exceeding 30°C and, in some areas, approaching 50°C. “During the winter, there is usually no rain and temperatures range between 35°C during the day and 15°C at night, providing much needed diurnal temperature variation,” says Neeraj Sachdeva, the director of Lakeforest Wines.

    In the vineyard, this has two implications. One is the vines’ complete lack of dormancy, which causes them to restart their growing cycle as soon as they are pruned after harvest. Therefore, quality-conscious producers prune twice a year: after harvest in May and immediately following the monsoon, from early August to late September, before the new growing season begins.  Neeraj Sachdeva, the director of Lakeforest Wines says, “The other implication is the reverse cycle of temperatures during the winter period: temperatures drop at the start of the growing season, peaking in December, and then rising again as the grapes reach the end of their ripening cycle.”

    Regional variation, on the other hand, is discernible. The amount of rainfall is affected by the distance between the Equator in the south and the Arabian Sea in the west. For example, in Nashik, one of India’s eight wine regions and home to the majority of commercially significant producers, the Western Ghats break the monsoon clouds first, dumping 3,500mm of rain in the Igatpuri area while the more inland sub-regions receive only 500mm. Nashik, India’s wine capital, is also a wine tourism hotspot due to its convenient location: it is only 190 kilometres, or a 3.5-hour drive, north-east of Mumbai and is one of four centres for the Kumbh Mela, a mass pilgrimage held every twelfth year, with Hindus congregating to cleanse themselves.

    Altitude affects both average temperatures and the extent of diurnal temperature variation. Bangalore and the South, a wine region in the state of Karnataka located at an average altitude of 950m, has more moderate summer temperatures than Nashik, which is located at an altitude of 600m. Therefore, the temperature difference between day and night decreases slightly, influencing grape ripening.

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