It doesn't matter how many books you have read, films you have watched, accounts you have listened to, a visit to India is one of the most personal experiences that a person can have. An assault on every sense, India's reputation for colour is found far deeper than in just the visual. As somewhat of an experience obsessive, it comes as no surprise to me that India has drawn me back, time and time again.
From a wine perspective India is fascinating. With a population curve unmatched, a rapidly growing middle class and a younger generation moving away from the dark spirits that their parents before them enjoyed, it is a market the world is watching. Taxation, supported by a conservative government and a statute of laws built around prohibition, means that imports are curtailed, but only in the short term; this is a market with a fascinating future that every producing county, working within a shrinking global market, should be paying close attention to.
Encouraged perhaps by the window of opportunity that an enforced limit of imported goods creates; India is producing, and producing well. I have spent the last two years exploring...
The vineyards of India are centred around the town of Nashik, close to Mumbai. There are producers elsewhere but this is is where the volume is, and arguably the quality. Climatically it is tricky. The region is by definition too hot, humid and most importantly non seasonal. This semi-tropical condition allows no winter, no dormancy in the vine and harvest happens twice a year, albeit the summer one (swamped by the monsoon) yields no wine.
Financially well resourced, the cellars are impressive. Modern equipment fills the best wineries, every technical advancement employed to temper the grapes that come from the vineyards wild and warm. The vineyard is undoubtably where the difficulties lie; virus issues and a hot sun that ripens grape sugars faster than it can phenolics are the key areas that need addressing; but the end result is good. In some cases really good.
I consult on a wine project with York Winery and produce a top end Syrah, aged in French Oak barrels. We call it YAATRA as it represents our 'journey' and the reviews internationally have been incredibly flattering. India is a Journey for all that visit, and for the wine industry itself, and the world is starting to notice.