Andrea Valentinuzzi, Italian winemaker for Vintage Wines in India gets talking about ground realities that rule wine quality in India. With 24 years of experience in the global wine industry and the pioneer in creating India’s first Italian style wines, Reveilo, Andrea’s wisdom leads the way to gold in the Indian wine industry. Quality after all is king here, or should be.
The big players here are looking for large volumes. Backed by marketing and distribution logistics they have it good, yet quality is all-together a different ballgame. “Most of them are talking about the quality but there is no meaning to it,” says Andrea. “Vintage Wines concentrates on quality and knows how to achieve it,” he assures. Marketing is the pitfall for small wineries, even when they come up with good wines, says he. “Chateau D’Ori and Indus Wines are the only quality conscious names other than Vintage Wines,” the Italian winemaker airs his view.
And why is that, when the market is booming, production is increasing, grape cultivation is on a high, and state governments are opening up to the idea of cashing on the boom? Marketing takes over all else, may be the straight answer, but wine is a product that gains repute on the basis of its quality in the long run, which also accounts for repeat customers. Therefore, quality consciousness is the deciding factor, long after the initial marketing hype is over. True, this one.
Quality begins with grapes, and wine grapes are doing well in Maharashtra and Karnataka, so far, says Andrea. “The reason why winemaking is comparatively easier in India,” indicates Andrea, “is that good wine grapes are growing in Nashik and around. From this point vinification becomes easy.” Sorting of grapes is best done manually and some western countries may not afford this labour intensive exercise, yet at Vintage it is possible.
Maharashtra and Karnataka are getting better with grape growing by every harvest, he adds. What is categorically good about wine grapes grown here, is the next plausible question, and Andrea answers in detail about both red and white grape varietals. “The red grapes are especially good, says he, because the climatic conditions in January and February are good for the wine grapes. Lots of sunshine helps red grapes ripen while adding great aromas to white varietals. Red grapes develop soft tannins and account for the velvet finish in wine.” The peninsular climate gives an Indian character to the wines that are made from these sun-soaked grapes, red or white.
At the same time, the biggest challenge is also the climate! Now what? “A harvest in January or February is ideal,” says Andrea, “while harvest in warmer weather can play around with the acid content of the grapes. The white grapes are especially sensitive to this, where ph value is essential for preserving aromas of the resulting wine.”
“In Karnataka, which has dry, red soil, the problem is better resolved when compared with the black clayey, water-retentive soil of Maharashtra,” reveals Andrea. “The problem to some degree is the clayey soil of Maharashtra, which is prone to waterlogging as well as excessive drying out and cracking, which again affects the roots. The soil conditions need constant monitoring and correcting,” sounds the winemaker, closely associated with his wines right from the vineyards. “In addition, nutritional supplements to the soil are also vital.”
From life in the vineyards can we now take a look at what’s readying in the steel tanks? Time too! The winemaker obliges with a peek into his wine-tasting notes…
He begins by listing his favorites: Vintage Wines’ Reserve, Late Harvest and Cabernet wines. The Cabernet in particular he believes to be one of the best wines he ever made. “Our volumes are very little,” he shares, “and there is a lot of investment in good materials to produce high quality wines. That is why people consider Reveilo to be a benchmark in India. That’s the reason Reveilo price is slightly higher than others.” After tasting his Syrah, Howling Wolf from Australia decided to build the winery in India, beams the proud winemaker.
Now for the actual tasting notes:
Late Harvest Chenin Blanc: Dessert wine, aromas dry apricot, honey, dry figs, almonds and nuts. Color: Gold color with orange reflection, taste, volume is very big, not flat, preserved acidity. It is totally different from any other late harvest wines from India. This natural acidity helps to clean your mouth quickly and ready to drink again.
Syrah Reserve: On the nose, red berries, fruity, spicy notes, also flint stone aroma. It is a typical Syrah when you grow the vine in a hot climate like Australia. Color: Deep red purple color, blend 60% oak aged 40% stainless steel. Woody complements and does not interfere with fruity character of the wine. In the mouth, the volume is important, structure is very deep, tannins are very soft and smooth because of the grape being very ripe. It is great balance. Very fruity character and a very long finish.
Creating Reveilo wines that have gained recognition for Indian wines, Andrea sure knows what sells and to whom. Talking about wine consumers in India, he says, “It is a new market. People who really know about wine are not many. Businessmen who are travelling around the world are drinking. The middle class is approaching wine, though not with a clear picture, yet learning fast. Everybody understands what is good.” According to him, regular drinkers do not need to be academic masters on wine. The wine should give a good feeling. The concept is simple: the wine people like, they will buy again.
In fact, his association with India’s Vinatge wines has made him more receptive to Indian philosophy as well, and landed him another couple of projects in Karnataka. So we see this winemaker rooted to India in more ways than one.
Venki for indianwine.com