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Exploring one of the world’s most exciting emerging wine regions.
Organized by Wines in India, the U.K.’s first Indian specialist agency, and hosted by India’s first – and only – Master of Wine, Sonal Holland, this session of London Wine Fair explored India’s wine production, its unique terroirs, the country’s pioneering winemakers and an overview of the styles of wine.
India does not have the same growing and harvesting cycle as we have here in Europe. The months from June to September are characterized by frequent rainfall. Leaves and the fruit of grapes hardly ever ripen at this period. Summer is considered hot and wet while winter – cool and dry. According to the growing cycle, only the harvest that follows the dry cooler winter seasons is actually taken as the harvest for making wine.
This makes India unique. Although India is in the Northern hemisphere and north of the equator, it follows a Southern hemisphere harvesting season because the harvesting in India starts in the month of January onwards, post the winter season. Most of the harvesting starts in February and sometimes carries on till early April. India tends to follow a cycle of a Sothern hemisphere.
The winter season and the growing season for Indians is typically dry and cooler, that is less disease pressure. There can be a lot of disease pressure in India, not so much from phylloxera, but mostly from nematodes, mealybugs, and all kinds of insects. All of that get reduced to some extent because the growing season happens to be in the winter.
All the harvesting in India is take place through hand harvesting, hand picking of grapes and mostly done by women. Main reason cited for this is that women tend to be more efficient and gentler with the whole process of harvesting.
In terms of winemaking, India is in progress. We started about one-two decades ago with very little technological know-how but over the years India has made continual upgradations to its winery equipment. A lot of wineries, particularly the large-scale ones, have made significant investments in tanks, barrels, and bottling lines that would lead to better quality of wines. Today it is common to find Indian wineries having fully automated bottling line or an innovative filtration system that filter out wines up to 1.4 microns in order to ensure the highest level of hygiene and stability in wines.
Wineries are experimenting with various winemaking techniques like cold soak for red wines, skin contact for white wines, whole berry fermentation, gentler extraction methods for better tannin management, more elegant use of oak, and late harvest style.
India produces a diverse quality of wines in terms of styles. There are all kinds of white wines ranging from dry to sweet. “We have red wines which are both unoaked and oaked. We have a range of sparkling wines that try to emulate everything from a more prosecco style wine to slightly more complex and deeper, richer wines. We have rose of all levels of sweetness and colors”, notes Sonal Holland during her session.
Despite having a tropical climate, India does not actually have a problem with alcohol levels being outwork, and either very high or very low acid. India is home to a large variety of wines made from different grape varieties: Chenin Blanc, Syrah, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot (France), Nero d’Avola, Grillo (Sicily), and Tempranillo (Spain).