I begin this fortnight s story with the taste of Tedeschi wines from Italy fresh on my palate, for they have just been introduced in the country and I, for one, would encourage you to try their Valpolicella or, when the budget permits, the Amarone. Smooth, intense and delightfully fruity, these are the kind of wines, which are rich and ageing-worthy and yet approachable in youth.
Chapoutier from Rhone valley in France is a similarly well-placed and respected brand and they, too, are on the local shelf, testimony again to the fact that we are surely drinking better. Both Tedeschi and Chapoutier are among the top producers in their respective regions and having them look at India as a market is a sure sign that they see potential and envision a clientele that is discerning enough to know the difference between the generic and the pedigree.
And I wholeheartedly agree. In the past two decades, in spite of every stupid rule and regulation that the administration has thrown into the works, the industry has somehow managed to grow. But the thing to be rued is that while local palates are evolving and aspiring to better wines, the regulations are so drafted that there is a bigger influx of cheap commoditised wines, the kind that don t have any true sense of flavour or origin. The recent sixfold increase of registration fees for wine brands in the state of Delhi is one such foolish decision, which almost not-so-subtly urges importers to discard medium-to-high-end wines and instead run after cheap crappy wines where the volume of sales would be more likely to cover costs and have some left over to take home.
Going ahead, local wines will play a big role in our everyday consumption. I think we have now reached a point where it is safe to order a local brand of wine and drink it without any apprehensions. No excuses needed any more to justify faults, which used to be consistently present at one time, but now stand removed. Even at the slightly higher end, local wines fare well. Sure, I count only a handful of brands in that spectrum, but even then, it is good enough. And in case you are wondering which, here they are: KRSMA, Grover-Zampa, Fratelli, York, Chandon, Vallonne, Charosa. Outside of these few homegrown brands, which I believe do a good sincere job of churning out good wine, I d rather have a Cola!
Back to the wines of Tedeschi, the wines they make are not really a competition to local brands. The reason I say this is because while different regions can grow the same grapes, and even deploy the same winemaking tactics, they will still end up producing different wines. As long as the wine is driven and shaped by natural factors like soil and climate, the difference between wines from different parts of the world will be ever-present thereby making it more a question of preference and taste as to who chooses which. In other words, a Sangiovese from India is nothing like a Chianti and, hence, both can exist on a wine list without cannibalising each other s space.
A healthy wine market should always try to be democratic. It should be a level playing field with no advantages to either locals or foreigners, and among the variables that govern a wine s popularity and, consequently, demand, of utmost importance should remain the wine s value-for-money proposition.
So one only hopes that the new budget fixes something in the system, which makes for a smoother area of operations for wine companies, producers and importers alike.
(The writer is a sommelier)