A Portuguese Passage to India and some Cricket
I was fortunate to be part of the group of 14 adventurous Portuguese winemakers who travelled to India in November, on our first forage into this promising new market. New Delhi, Goa and Mumbai were the venues of the biggest ever tastings of Portuguese wines ever to be shown in India.
“While presenting wines, Subhash Arora, President of the India Wine Academy, opened his talk at the home of the Portuguese Ambassador by asking his audience if they had heard of Mateus, Vinho Verde and Port. Of course the majority of the audience said yes. He then went on to ask who had heard of Dao, Bairrada, Douro? And grape varieties such as Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira and Alvarinho. Apart from the Portuguese guests there was a general shaking of heads at these names. This was the journey we had in front of us, an exploration into the many different wines of Portugal; displayed by 14 wine producers and exporters who were keen to share their products with us and improve our knowledge of the great wines Portugal had to offer.” – Liz McMaster.
We do think that Cortes de Cima’s style of intense, fruit driven wines, with soft supporting tannins match well with the strong flavours of Indian cuisine. We wholeheartedly agree with Harshal Shah, of Sommelier India – ‘It’s such a shame that these styles of wines are not imported into India as they would surely be a success with the domestic palate.’
But, Portuguese winemakers should not be caught napping, just because India has a large population (1.1 billion), doesn’t make it an easy market! At the same time as we were pouring our wines in New Delhi, the Indians clinched a 2-0 series win over Australia in the final Test in Nagpur. Cricket of course. But such a victory on the cricket pitch, could be mirrored in the wine industry.
India is quickly establishing itself as a wine producing country in it’s own right. At the tasting, I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Abhay Kewadkar, chief winemaker for the Four Season Vineyards, whose vineyards are in the lush rolling hills of the Western Ghats, and winery is located near Pune, Maharashtra. They produce some excellent wines from Sauvignon and Chenin Blanc, Cabernet, Shiraz and Zinfandel varietals. Yes, excellent Indian wines! Portuguese winemakers should not underestimate the local competition!
Grover Hills is another Indian brand to look out for. Nestled in the Nandi Hills of Bangalore, they claim to have a special microclimate, shielding their vines of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc grapes from the fury of the monsoon rains. They can also boast of no less than Michel Rolland as their consultant winemaker!
This trip to India was a personal odyssey for me, in that I finally had a chance to visit the country of birth of my stepfather, Frederick R. Vandyke III. Shortly before his death in 2007 he told me- “My Grandfather invented the “Vandyke Process” which is still in use today, and received a commendation from the King. He invented it in India where he worked for the Civil Service (RAJ) on the Survey of India. His son, my Father, also worked for the Civil Service in India, prior to Independence. I was born in Calcutta (where we lived). My Uncle was the last Finance Minister of the British Rule in India, and as such, knighted. Another Uncle ran a jute mill in what is now Bangladesh. My family were all British. I have been an American since Post World War II, and am now 85.”
I made a special pilgrimage to visit his last Indian residence in Mumbai (then Bombay), on the street where Mahatma Gandhi lived.