2014 is a year to celebrate with good wine. The Indian wine industry has made important strides in improving the quality of our indigenous wines through better use of technology and viticulture know-how. Kudos also to the wine importers who continue tirelessly despite the punitive taxation and complex regulations, to discover value-for-money wines from vineyards around the world. You may pat yourself for being a wine-enthusiastic consumer.
Like anything, wine too has its fashionable elements. Certain styles go in and out of fashion. What may have been hip to drink in 2013 may be replaced by another fanciful ‘something else’. Personally, I don’t worry too much about fashion. What is noteworthy is to spot consumption trends and capture what wine styles, grape varieties, or wine regions are grabbing more attention than others. Here is a list of wine trends, in no particular order that will pattern through 2014, with recommendations of wines that are getting everyone hot under the collar.
Trend 1: Champagne – The King of Good Wine
For the most discerning, champagne has always been and will always remain the ultimate luxury beverage. India today, is one of the fastest growing markets in the world for the consumption of champagne. This trend is not fading away anytime soon. Whilst great historic champagne houses of Moet en Chandon, Roederer and Veuve Cliquot continue to woo the Indian consumers for larger market share, artisanal champagnes from small owner-growers such as Billecart Salmon and Philippe Gonet are proving to be the hidden gems in a brand-led market. A wine aficionado will heartily recommend these smaller scale hand-crafted champagnes claiming that they come from a wine farmer and not a factory. It is all about the scale of production. Try one to know the difference.
Trend 2: Prosecco for all other Occasions
Widely known as the champagne substitute, the Italian Prosecco has found itself a nice place in the sun on Indian shores. It is fizzy alright which can still be enjoyed in lavish champagne flutes. Moreover, it is refreshing, lighter and fruitier than the complex champagne making it the perfect accompaniment at an afternoon brunch. Add to it the significant cost savings compared with champagne, that allows us to guzzle Prosecco with decadent abandon. And in India, we merrily get away with saying “we are drinking champagne” when in fact we are consuming copious amounts of Prosecco. Zardetto and Carpene Malvolti are top quality Proseccos available in India.
Trend 3: Value-for-Money Wines
The more expensive the wine, the better the quality – is now a well established myth. Technology and science in viticulture are enabling superior wine-making to an extent that well known winemakers of established wine estates often joke that it is now impossible to make a bad wine. Exciting labels of value wines such as The Accomplice Chardonnay from Australia, Chateau Parenchere from Bordeaux, Santa Rita 120 series from Chile and Paula Malbec from Argentina are well priced under Rs 1500 and are also incredibly well made wines. These wines are great finds and can be exciting gift options too.
Trend 4: Aromatic Whites
I see people moving on from ‘give me a dry white wine’ to ‘an aromatic white wine please’ trend. Women and youth especially are latching onto wines with an inviting nose, made from grape varietals such as Muscat, Rieslings and Viognier. Torres Vina Esmeralda from Spainmade from the aromatic Muscat grape, Australian Brown Brothers Crouchen Riesling and the Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier are excellent aromatic wines which will appeal to the novice palates and are perfect matches for spicy Indian cuisine.
Trend 5: Ripe Reds with Rich Silky Tannins
There is no doubt that Indians prefer fruity New World reds to restrained styles coming from the Old World. We may pretend to like our earthy, leathery, savoury notes in wine but the complex Burgundian Pinot Noir and the chunky tannins of the Bordelaise struggle to find its fan base here. Succulent, vibrant reds with ripe, rich, silky tannins of the Australian Shiraz (Bird in Hand Shiraz or Ben Glaetzer Bishop Shiraz), Argentinian Finca Flinchman Misterio Malbec and Stags Leap Merlot from California-USA, are popular choices. The fruit in these wines is brighter and more expressive and tannins easily dissolvable on the palate.
Trend 6: Cool Climate Wines from New Frontiers
In this age of rapid global warming, the cool climate of Tasmania and Austria are proving to be a boon, producing a wide variety of refreshing wines with brisk acidity, balanced alcohol and a mineral-like character. Furthermore with wine, there is always curiosity to try something new and from somewhere new. Tamaridge Pinot Noir from Tasmania is elegant and perfumed, while the Johann Donabaum Gruner Veltliner from Austria is mouth-watering, minerally and complex.
Trend 7: Indigenous Grape Varietals
Oh, how we love our Sangiovese and Tempranillo wines! And why not, they are utterly delicious. Italy is blessed with over 10,000 home-grown grape varietals that make superb wines; one need not look any further. White grape varietals such as Vermentino from Tuscany, Garganega from Soave make beautiful crisp white wines that are a must-try. Top recommendations are Casamatta Bianco IGT Tuscany made from the aromatic and refreshing Vermentino grape, and the fuller apple notes of Guerrieri Rizzardi Soave Classico from Italy. Spain occupies a special place in the world of wines due to its rich history, and the Tempranillo grape which makes distinct wines. Bodegas Roda from Rioja, the most significant region, makes rich velvety reds that will delight your senses.
Trend 8: Fines Wines for Ultimate Pleasure
Limited supply, solid reputation and sheer quality have thrust many of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Australian, Italian and iconic Californian wines onto the world stage. These luxury wines are hugely sought after by those with a penchant for the finest things in life. Investments in fine wine as an alternative asset class is not new to the traditional markets of Europe and USA, but is now slowly yet surely emerging in India among the discerning well-heeled Indian. This trend is likely to grow. Chateau Pontet Canet, Montrose, Lynch Bages (Bordeaux, France), and the Penfolds Grange from Australia are not only precious wines to keep in your private cellar but their intrinsic good quality will fetch you rich dividends as the years go by.
Trend 9: Healthier Wines
The health conscious and the environment conscientious both have hugely popularized the concept of biodynamic wines and those made from organically grown grapes. Much remains unresolved on whether these wines actually taste better than those made from conventionally farmed grapes. However, it is a great marketing concept and in the competitive world of wines, you better have a good story to tell. Querciabella - Batar Chardonnay & Chianti Classico from Tuscany Italy, and De Martino Sauvignon Blanc from Chile are both made from biodynamic practices at the winery and are both delicious wines.
Trend 10: Wines of the Motherland
Love them or hate them, Indian wines are now the mainstream choice for a vast majority of the Indian wine drinking population. Superior technology and intellectual capital in the form of flying international wine-makers and consultants has been instrumental in improving to some extent, the quality of wines being made in India. Some of the meticulously made Indian wines such as those made by Fratelli Vineyards, Grover Vineyards among others, are now being applauded at international wine shows and competitions. This is a sign of better things to come in 2014. Fratelli Chenin Blanc, Chandon Sparkling Rose, Vallonne Merlot and the York Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve are certainly worth a try.