Indian wine is breaking into the UK market, with Waitrose becoming the first UK supermarket to stock wines from the sub-continent.
Waitrose is featuring Ritu Viognier and Zampa Syrah as part of the Waitrose World of Wine Showcase.
Waitrose describes Ritu Viognier as a ‘crisp, aromatic white wine with floral and peach aromas.’ It is produced by United Breweries, the huge Indian brewer that also makes Kingfisher lager.
Both wines are produced in the dry, tropical climate of the Sahyadri Valley, in Maharashtra, south of Mumbai on the west coast of India.
Waitrose wine buyer Matt Smith told Decanter.com it was only over the last year that he had seen ‘a real jump in quality’.
‘Indian wine isn’t on everyone’s shopping list but this is a way to test the water and see what happens.
‘These wines show a varietal character with their own distinct styles. They are flexible and appeal to a broad spectrum of people who want to taste new regions.’
India has a long tradition of winemaking but it is only recently that its wines have been able to compete with more established winemaking regions. In a recent interview, Bordeaux consultant Michel Rolland, who has been consulting at Bangalore’s Grover Vineyards since 1995, said India could make ‘good but not great wine’.
India is also being recognised in international competitions: Sula Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2010, produced in Nashik, also in Maharashtra, was given a silver medal in the Decanter World Wine Awards 2011.
Awards’ chairman Steven Spurrier thinks that the initiative by Waitrose points to a wider trend for Indian wine.
‘Indian restaurants have always been a natural for stocking Indian wine. But Waitrose doesn’t supply restaurants so they must think that the public is a natural for Indian wine too. And I think they’re right.
‘Indian wineries have spent the last five years improving their cellars. It’s all very recent and a lot of money is being invested.’
With a burgeoning middle class increasingly interested in wine, and punitive taxes on imported wine of up to 300% in some states, India has a good reason to increase domestic production of wine, Spurrier added. ‘The wineries are very much being supported by the government.’
Smith said, ‘The increasing trend for sharing wine expertise across the globe has really benefited India. They now have the appetite to make commercial wine.’
Written by Madeleine Pitt