UK based, Australian winemaker John Worontschak lets his magic loose at a single winery in India –Indus Wines, Nashik. While two of his first wines received the Seal of Approval at the International Wine Challenge, he is enjoying himself fussing over the next vintage. “2006 Shiraz Reserve and 2006 Sauvignon Blanc are ready,” he announces, enjoying sunny Nashik as much as his work at the Indus winery.
Though Worontschak handpicked a single Indian winery for his work here, he is hardly new to India. “20 years ago I travelled all over India by train. I lived on a houseboat on Dal lake in Kashmir, visited Agra to see Taj Mahal…” Touristy stuff, you’d say, but that is when it dawned on John that Kashmir, with its “Europe like climate” could be growing wine grapes. Even though it hasn’t happened as yet, Nashik is pretty good for him. “Awesome,” is how he puts it. “The wines are getting better and better and are pretty good already”. We quite agree about the “getting better” part, going by the India Wine Challenge results, and reported increase in sales.
Nashik with its share of monsoon rain and sunshine is quite different from other wine growing districts in the world, says John. The land, the climate, its people and the way things are done here, make Nashik stand out in his radar. Even though he was in Russia a week before landing in Nashik and in Bulgaria the week before that, his excitement about being in sunny Nashik to check on his wine tanks, outweighs any travel fatigue.
While in India, is he having a fill on Indian cuisine to pair with his wine experience? You bet. Traditional Maharashtrian and Iranian has been his current interest. Roasted potato wafers from a Maharashtrian kitchen turned out to be a delight in particular. Well, what about the spicy stuff, that Indian kitchens are famous for? Not one to be scared on that front, “I love spicy Indian food, and can cook curries from scratch!” says the winemaker, adding, “I enjoy fried green chillies.” Well, after a lot of tasting and testing, he shares his recommendations on the Indus wine labels.
On another note, if you ask the visiting winemaker of his perspective of the Indian wine industry, he has suggestions on the economic front too. “Indian wines should focus on selling locally,” the untapped market, of course. “But, the market being small, it is difficult competing for the same piece of the pie.” True. “Players with a previously established distribution system have an advantage. Had there been a totally normal distribution system, quality and price competition would have been easier.” On the export front, his reading is that, “Indian wine should compete in premium wines. Cheap wines from South Africa are already flooding the international market.” Point taken, John!
Considering that India has established itself as a wine producing country, John feels the need for education. “To begin with, basic learning courses should be made available,” he opines, reasoning, “In India the wine market is very embryonic. People have yet to understand wine. You can’t drink whiskey if you have to go to work the next day, so more people will be drinking wine…” Indian wine is growing in credibility on the international front. In India, people are exploring wine, some of them switching over from hard liquor. Right, we get the picture, forward is the way to go. Thanks, John.
Special reporter Anisha Sharma for indianwine.com