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India's Wine Region
Chris and Viv Thomson enjoyed an eye-opening trip to India’s wine region last year. Here, Viv recounts the discoveries they made.
On a trip to India last November, we had the opportunity to visit Nashik Valley Wine Region, which is situated about three hours north of Mumbai depending on the traffic. When you consider Mumbai has a population of about 20 million people and the relatively small town of Nashik has a population of two million, it’s not surprising the road conditions are a little congested.
Nashik runs on a similar latitude to Townsville, at an altitude of about 700m. The winters can be quite cool and pleasant, while the summers are very hot with the monsoons occurring in June and July. The problem for wine grape growing in the tropical climate is that if left alone, the vines will produce fruit all year round. It’s suggested the life span of vines under these circumstances may only be 50 years, unlike Australia, where most varieties continue to grow at 50 years plus, and can still be productive at 150 years, as in the case of Best’s Thomson Family Shiraz vines.
The problem is not so much the task of achieving dormancy naturally, it’s more about achieving a starting point from when the vine can start its growth to arrive at a suitable harvest. Because of the climate, the harvest date can almost be predicted from the date the vines are pruned.
Climactically, India is the reverse to Australia, however India’s growing period coincides almost exactly with the growing dates in Australia. Harvest (vintage) takes place in early spring (February/March), before the onset of hot weather in April/May. First pruning takes place after harvest and before the monsoon in June/July. During the monsoon period, the vines enjoy a period of rapid growth. After the monsoon during the months of August/September, the vines are pruned a second time. This sets the vines up for harvest in February/March.
Charosa Vineyard. Note the extra crops planted at the base of the vines. All land is optimised for production
There are now 29 wineries in the Nashik Valley Wine Region and although grapes have been grown in the area since the 1950s, the first renaissance was not until the late 1980s, with the production of sparkling wines. Then another flourish of growth and production occurred in the late 1990s and early 2000s, which is referred to as the start of the modern wine production era.
York Winery and Vineyard
Grape varieties grown were not dissimilar to those in Australia, with Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay and a very respectable Viognier. Cabernet and Shiraz dominated the reds with Tempranillo and Zinfandel looking promising, probably due to their high natural acidity.
When you consider the growing conditions in the vineyards and the logistics of transporting the grapes to the wineries, I was amazed at the quality of the wines. The sparkling wines produced at Moët Hennessey were a revelation and certainly enhanced my opinion of the wines of India.
Grape varieties were not dissimilar to Australia, with Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, and a very respectable Viognier. Cabernet and Shiraz dominated the red with Tempranillo and Zinfandel looking promising, probably due to their high natural acidity.
When you consider the growing conditions in the vineyards, the transport logistics of the grapes to the wineries, I was amazed at the quality of the wines produced. The sparkling wines produces at Moet Hennessey were a revelation and certainly enhanced my opinion of the wines of India.
For those of you visiting India, and particularly Mumbai, a visit to the Nashik Valley Wine Region is well worth the trip. Most wineries welcome tourists and have excellent modern tasting facilities and in some case, restaurants.
In most restaurants, Indian wines are available at reasonable prices.
Of the wineries we visited, I cannot speak highly enough of the people, their hospitality, their enthusiasm and their ability to work together as a group.