The good thing about writing on wine in a country which is still a nascent market is that one gets to revisit the shelf again and again to see how things are coming along. Thus, what would pass as a strong habit, bordering on addiction, can be underwritten as an earnest effort to merely keep oneself well informed of what’s happening in the wine world. We still don’t have the concept of vintage in India, which means that even the top wines will more or less taste similar, no matter which year they are made in. Part of the reason for this is that we don’t store wines long enough to see a marked difference show up, but the other reason is that very few wines are made in a manner to exhibit individuality over uniformity. Nevertheless, the quality of wine produced in India has been going up steadily over the years, as wineries get better at what they do.
Here then are my top picks of red wines – some are properly cellar-worthy while others will pack a mean punch wrapped in a silken glove. With all of them, I recommend decanting for a good part of an hour (if not two) before serving.
A big brooding boisterous red, the kind that makes steaks melt. The fruit is present but sits beneath the oak which impart rich chocolate-coffee-toasty primary notes. With a name like Chêne (French for oak) one wouldn’t expect anything else.
A very complex reserved wine, layered and structured. This wine needs decanting —minimum 2-3 hours but if you can manage 4-5, even better — and then it evolves into an elegant full-bodied wine.
A very drinkable fruity red wine with body and length. This grape is India’s rising star and KRSMA does a good version, fruity and yet with some spiced richness.
Charosa Tempranillo Reserve
The only Tempranillo exploit out of India, and one good enough to take on Spanish Rioja. If this is a sign of things to come, Tempranillo stands to become a big Indian superstar.
Grover-Zampa La Reserve
A very drinkable wine, absolute crowd-pleaser. The first red wine that put India on the world wine map. Michel Rolland was crucial in helping put this Shiraz-Cabernet wine together. It’s made in both our winemaking states but, as always, prefer the Bangalore-origin stock over Nashik.
KRSMA Cabernet Sauvignon
The most iconic red in India, one that definitely ages well. Cabernet normally doesn’t do great in Indian soils but this one is quite the anomaly. Also available in Magnums which will age even better.
Vallonne Malbec Reserve
A juicy floral-fruity red wine with intense berry-spice notes. The oak is gentle and never masks the fruit. Again, this winery is paving the way for Malbec to become an Indian staple.
A red that shows an impressive breadth of flavours but not heavy or daunting at all. Mostly Shiraz but also Cabernet, the philosophy for this blend is guided by one simple principle: only the best estate wines go into it.
Reveilo Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
Another serious and worthwhile expression of Cabernet Sauvignon (I already mentioned that India generally makes below average Cabernet S.). This is a balanced wine, decent fruit and then honed further with barrel ageing.
Alpine Vindiva Shiraz Reserve
A good expression of Syrah with plenty of fruit on the nose and palate. There have been some inconsistencies somewhere along the road but the wines are always well above average.
One very well-priced Reserve-level balanced wine with nuanced complexity. It drinks well straight out of the bottle (as in no need to decant, not that you can give the bottle lip service). Proceeds from the sale of this wine go to charity, in case you need another reason to go for it.
Because somewhere in India there is always a Sula being opened, safest to make it a Rasa then. The wine is big and oak-rich and makes no bones about it. Not for the faint-hearted.