The Paradox of Wine in India

by Sharell शारेल on June 2, 2011

in Daily Life in India, Eating & Drinking

Post image for The Paradox of Wine in India

I like to drink wine. It’s been my preferred drink since my university days. Back then, I used to drink cheap wine that comes in casks of one to four litres. I didn’t really care what variety it was. Over the years, my taste became more discerning. My favourite type of wine is now an oakey, buttery, chardonnay. Wineries in the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula regions of Victoria produce some delightful ones, as do wineries in the Margaret River region of Western Australia.

When I came to India over five years ago I got an unpleasant shock. Wine was overpriced and underappreciated. In conversation, a young business school student from a very good family told me about the imported vodka and whiskey he was fortunate enough drink. I was unimpressed. “Well, what do you think I should be drinking to make a good impression on people?” he asked me. “A fine wine of course,” I told him. He took my advice and actually thanked me later.

Many people are surprised to find out that India has its own vineyards and a rapidly growing wine industry. However, wine still remains a drink for the elite. In fact, it’s hardly even recognised as alcohol here.

Today, there’s quite an uproar in the state of Maharastra. The government has increased the legal drinking age to 25 for hard liquor (spirits). The legal drinking age for beer remains at 21. And, according to this news report, there is no mention of an age restriction for drinking wine!

Recently, the Maharastran government also increased taxes on the sale of alcohol in the state. But again, the tax increase didn’t apply to wine. Is it because the government has an interest in the wine industry? It has been heavily promoting it of late. Or is it because wine doesn’t really count as alcohol? (It definitely is though, because a glass of wine will get you more nasha than a couple of pegs of whiskey and coke).

The whole matter is quite perplexing. If wine is so overlooked as an alcoholic drink, why does the term appear in the name of most outlets selling alcohol? This is particularly the case in Himachal Pradesh. English wine shops abound. Naively, I couldn’t believe my luck when I went there years ago! All those shops completely devoted to wine, I thought. Of course, I soon discovered that very few of them actually stocked wine. No wine at all! Instead they were full of numerous varieties of whiskey, sought after by the Indian male. (And just to add to the confusion, the Hindi on the English wine shop in the above photo actually says that it’s an Indian alcohol bar. Quite a contrast to the proclaimed “English wine shop”).

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to drink the cheapest 300 rupee bottles of Indian wine, knowing I could get a much better product for a fraction of the price back home. At least, I’m supporting the Indian wine industry though, most of which is based in Maharastra (if you want to visit some Indian wineries, these vineyards in Nashik all have tasting rooms).

Cheers!

Us at a winery at the Mornington Penninsula, Australia. Jan 2011.

Top Photo: English wine shop at Rhotang Pass, Himachal Pradesh. Source: Wikimedia.

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© Copyright 2011 Sharell शारेल, Diary of a White Indian Housewife 2008-2014. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy and reproduce text or images without permission.

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{ 85 comments… read them below or add one }

hardika June 2, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Hey Sharell,

Though I’ve been subscribing to your blog for some time now, this is my 1st comment on your blog. I love the way you have all these questions about things around you and then you try to answer them.

About the wine-drinking in India, I’ve had some mixed experiences myself. One time we went to this restaurant and had that tasted like vinegar. This one time, feeling adventurous, we bought this wine bottle based on some magazine recommendation and that was like the worst thing I had ever tasted. But once in a while we do have good things coming our way. Like I absolutely love the Nasik Port. You should definitely try it. You can buy it for Rs 145 and offers best value for money.
Hope you like my recommendation. :)

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Sharell June 2, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Hi Hardika, great to hear you’ve been trying wine. The cheap wine served by restaurants really is revolting at times, so I don’t blame you for not liking it. ;-) Not sure about the recommended one. Wine definitely is an acquired taste. I used to dislike red wine but everyone told me, when you turn 30, you’ll start liking it. Sure enough, I did. I’ll try the port. Port is usually had as an after dinner drink. :-) I like it, but don’t have much. It’s really strong and often gives me a headache!

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delhi_girl June 2, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Oh, in India “wine shop” is a moniker for any random, small scale booze shop :)

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Sharell June 2, 2011 at 9:44 pm

Very deceptive indeed for hapless foreigners. ;-)

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kay June 2, 2011 at 7:24 pm

I hear you. Even a bottle of californian wine that would be 20 bucks max back home costs anywhere from 40 to 60 bucks here. What’s worse is, I don’t think a lot of places store wine properly so the wine gets ruined in the heat.

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Manny June 2, 2011 at 7:40 pm

It’s to do with economics. Supply and Demand. India is simply not a wine consuming country. Hence its either a rarity or overly priced.

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Sharell June 2, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Oooh, I like Californian chardonnay too. It’s like the chardonnay back home. :-)

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Anju June 2, 2011 at 8:00 pm

I never really thought about wine in India. I can see how spoilage from the heat would be a major problem though. Isn’t that why IPAs (beer) were invented?

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Elizabeth June 2, 2011 at 8:16 pm

I read an article a while back (in the New York Times, I think, or perhaps on Globalpost) about wine bars in India becoming more popular–at least in Mumbai–as safe/more acceptable places where women could tipple. Wine not being considered a hard liquor, of course, more civilized, genteel, what have you. I live in Italy, and it would be difficult to forgo the grape! For one thing, wine is something that just pairs so lovely with food–in fact, wine is actually considered a “food” here (could that be the reason why India isn’t taxing it?????).

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Sharell June 2, 2011 at 9:23 pm

Hi Elizabeth, it’s another reason why I’m thankful I live in Mumbai! There are a few good wine bars here where the wine isn’t exorbitantly priced. :-) Most Indians are clueless about pairing it with food but they are learning, at least in Mumbai wine appreciation course are being offered at some bars/restaurants. The problem is that many people don’t like to drink while eating — they do it before or after. The way India is progressing, it’s only a matter of time before wine catches on though. I’ve been to Italy and I love how it’s readily available by the carafe with food. 8)

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Manny June 2, 2011 at 9:32 pm

I buy and keep good wine in my house for friends who come over. I buy tons of Australian wine. Almost every one likes Oz wine for some reason.

But I do not drink wine. It gives me a headache. Almost migration like.

So I stick to my bourbon on the rocks! :)

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Manny June 2, 2011 at 9:33 pm

I meant, Migraine.

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Sharell June 2, 2011 at 9:35 pm

Bourbon… yuck. Brown spirits make me vomit. :-( Heading your way sounds more appealing by the minute. Can you please serve me a medium well done steak with an Australian red!

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Manny June 3, 2011 at 1:17 am

If you guys seriously come this side, you should visit Dallas and stay here with me, Y’all are most welcome. Although I can Bar-b-Que a good steak, I have a buddy who can make some really amazing steaks. He is a good ole southern boy from Mississippi.

Being a desi an all, scotch used to be my drink of choice, until I had bourbon with my first Prime Rib (rare) ever. Oh Lord, that was the day, I gave up on scotch and switched to Bourbon. I’ll take a cheap Bourbon over the finest scotch. Call me a Hill Billy if you like!

As far as buying good wine, I have no clue and can’t tell fine wine from trashy wine. But I have figured out a safe way to buy reasonable wine. Avoid those huge 5 gallon table wines and the cheapest normal size bottle ones ($5-$6) range. and look at the second tier of wine in the $8-$25. Then look for a label called “Penfolds”. You can google for it. They have wine from all over the world under their Penfolds label. Then within Penfolds, look for Australian wines. That is a safe bet to get decent wine here in Dallas. Occasionally I have gone away from that pattern and it has been a hit or a miss with friends.

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Anuj June 2, 2011 at 9:20 pm

Local made grape wine costs 70-80 rupees in worli area. It doesn’t taste like the premium stuff but it does taste like wine.

Im not sure about the alcohol content of wine and whiskey. Maybe australian wines have more alchohol content but the indian wines i’ve tasted never gave me any “nasha”. Plus grape wines tastes like juice to me. That’s probably why wine is ignored in india.

Desi daru is still the strongest drink. Recently they have started selling local made whiskey(“blue label” look alike) for 15-20/ltr in rural villages and it might be the cheapest whiskey ever. But nothing gives more “nasha” for the buck than “Bhole nath ki bootie” which still remains the affordable alcohol of the poor in india; 20 rupees bidi.

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Sharell June 2, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Wine usually has 12-13% alcohol. Whiskey is around 40% I think, but it dilutes when you add a mixer of course. The commercial Indian wines have the standard amount of alcohol, but I’ve never tried local grape wine. I had fruit wine in Himachal Pradesh, and it was alcoholic but not as potent as normal wine. Maybe this local grape stuff is like that. Country liquor scares me! :-o

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Vivek June 2, 2011 at 10:22 pm

It rained for 1st time today. Expecting your post on your experience of first rain..(only if you appreciate love for rain for Indians)

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Sharell June 2, 2011 at 11:04 pm

Yeah, I got drenched while unblocking the drain on the terrace. ;-) Have also identified one leak in the roof! But it’s very refreshing. At last I’m sitting with the windows open and AC off.

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Sharell June 2, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Oh by the way, I think I wrote about the first rain last year, so might not do it again this year. Let’s see.

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sanno umreth June 2, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Given spiciness of Indian food I would recommend either a Riesling or Champagne as a match.

Alcohol content of 12-13% was common a few years ago. Now, bowing (sadly!) to (American) critics tastes they are closer to 14-15% (Bordeaux 2010 vintage will be close to 15% in most domaines)

Australian GSMs tend to be “over the top” compared to French ones (The venerable Penfolds Grange excepted)

Comments apply only to red wines as I rarely drink whites

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Sharell June 2, 2011 at 11:10 pm

I’m more of a white drinker. ;-) I have had Grange though but I can’t remember what year it was. It was one of the cheaper ones… it cost around $300-400 for the bottle I think from memory. Still, looking back now I can’t believe I was so indulgent to spend that much on a bottle of wine! Anyway, your wine knowledge is very impressive.

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naomi June 2, 2011 at 11:23 pm

loved this post :) have tried Sula, Grover, etc. … and have decided that the white is ok …and only when VERY chilled …

I find it interesting the prices that are charged for various imported wines though …. (can’t do whiskey … indian whiskey or otherwise!!)

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Sharell June 2, 2011 at 11:40 pm

Oh, speaking of chilled, I was shocked to find that they serve red wine such as shiraz chilled here! But I’ve even grown used to that. Sula isn’t bad but they don’t make chardonnay. :-( I’ve started drinking their chenin blanc instead.

Yeah, the import duty is ridiculous. A cheap bottle of Australian wine is so expensive here. I refuse to buy it.

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Ameenatutu June 2, 2011 at 11:30 pm

What was your experience buying from these wine shops? As you stated, the inventory is geared toward the Indian male. How were you treated/looked upon, when buying from them on your own?

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Sharell June 2, 2011 at 11:46 pm

Oh, I’ve rarely ventured in. My husband usually makes the purchase! They’re not a nice place to be…. packed full of ogling men. I can’t help feeling like a loose white woman if I’m even in the vicinity of one! Once in Calcutta, I was standing on the street outside a short distance away, and a passerby (man) told me I shouldn’t even be there because it wasn’t a good place for a woman.

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Mohit Gupta June 3, 2011 at 1:35 am

Sharell ,

In India “WINE”=”SHARAB” , “MADIRA” , “WHISKY” , “BEER” ,”VODKA” but surprisingly NO “WINE” at “WINE SHOP”.

Mind it ! ;)

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Sharell June 3, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Everything’s possible but not always available in India! :-)

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Arti June 3, 2011 at 7:01 am

Interesting post… I thought you get everything in Mumbai!!!
My Yatra Diary…

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marina marangos June 3, 2011 at 9:33 am

Even making “champagne” these days. Indian wine going forward in leaps and bounds. M

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Abhishek June 3, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Hurray , pre monsoon showers in Mumbai.Too bad i cant enjoy it with a peg of whisky.I’m 24 only.

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Sharell June 3, 2011 at 12:51 pm

It must be irritating for people who were previously over 21 and could legally drink to all of a sudden have that right taken away! :-(

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TAMASHA! June 3, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Interesting post, I just got back from visiting friends in Bangalore & Grover Vineyards, I think Grover’s Nandi Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2009 is the best wine I’ve tasted from India so far.
Indian wines tend to be very acidic, lacking balance with the sugars, giving the wine a vinegary ‘off’ taste. Like Sharell, I miss the complex ‘oak’ flavors that barrel aged wine has. Some of the oak flavors could be obtained in the wine with ‘oak chips’ in the carboys.
I still own 40 acres of Chardonnay grapes in my home town of Sonoma, CA (Yes, I have my wine stash imported here to Nepal annually.)
I’d agree with the above post that Riesling goes well with spicy Indian food, Rioja (if you prefer red) might be a good selection also.
Of course, Champagne goes with everything! ;)

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Sharell June 3, 2011 at 2:19 pm

I’m not good with anything too acidic, it upsets my body. I usually avoid sauvignon blanc as a result. :-( Lucky you having you own chardonnay grapes!

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TAMASHA! June 3, 2011 at 5:49 pm

Well, when you get a wine that’s barely drinkable make SANGRIA!
White Sangria-
1 (750 ml) bottle white wine (chilled)
1 can of ginger ale (chilled)
1 TBS cognac
1 TBS peach schnapps or peach brandy
2 TBS sugar
1 mango (peeled & sliced)
1 lime (thinly sliced)
1 orange (thinly sliced)
Combine mango, sugar, schnapps (or brandy), & cognac in pitcher for at least 1 hour (but no more than 8hrs), refrigerate. When ready to serve stir wine & ginger ale into mango mixture & add lemon & orange slices over ice cubes.

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Abhishek June 3, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Hey why is your blog down most of the time?

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Bejuwala June 3, 2011 at 11:07 pm

How difficult is it to import from Australia? I would like to think it wouldn’t be too troublesome if the gov’t doesn’t even recognize it as alcohol officially. Shipping costs are probably the biggest issue. Worth a try, especially if you can get a case on discount.

Tokajis and Eisweins are AMAZING with good biryani, I can verify. But they’re expensive even in the US, so that’s definitely for special-special occasions.

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Sharell June 4, 2011 at 9:32 am

Wine is definitely recognised as alcohol when it comes to import taxes. That’s why imported wine is so expensive here. Plus, the Mumbai customs department make importing anything difficult from anywhere. I imported some clothes from Nepal once and it was a nightmare…. the amount of duty they tried to charge and the corruption. :-(

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TAMASHA! June 5, 2011 at 2:30 pm

I’ve imported wine from California & Australia into India & Nepal for the last 7 years as ‘gifts’ for clients of my art gallery. Yes, the taxes are exorbitant & customs takes 3 days in Nepal or 5-7 days through Delhi. Keeping the wine at a controlled temperature is also difficult. I have the wine air freighted (to minimize shipping time), packed in styrofoam insulated containers, & only ship in January (to make sure the wine doesn’t get overheated in transit nor while sitting in customs). It usually ends up costing me four times the original price of the wine to import it. Champagne is actually tax & duty free in Nepal so I buy about 12 cases yearly! ;)

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Sharell June 5, 2011 at 2:58 pm

What a bonus!! Champagne is tax and duty free?!!! :-o How come?

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TAMASHA! June 6, 2011 at 6:08 pm

As with many things in Nepal I don’t know why Champagne isn’t so heavily taxed, but I’m not complaining;)

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LeeAnn June 4, 2011 at 6:07 am

I’m not as enamored of wine, but prefer a cabernet, especially with dark chocolate. My drink of choice is beer and I recently had the chance to taste an India hops. It was delicious!

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Sharell June 4, 2011 at 10:08 am

Mmmmm, delicious…. red wine and dark chocolate. 8)

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Chris June 4, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Kingfisher Lite, now that’s the ONLY way to go !

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Sharell June 4, 2011 at 10:31 pm

Beer with no buzz! :-P

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Lucienne June 4, 2011 at 10:54 pm

Hi Sharell The wine industry and wine appreciation in India is just fledgling but I am sure in the not so distant future more wine will be on the menu.More and more NRI’s are coming back to India bringing back their overseas wine tastes.A more sophisticated wine shop would be a good business op for someone on the big metro areas like Delhi or Mumbai. FYI Australia is synonymous with wine nowadays but it might be hard for people to imagine that just 50 years ago that Aussies were clueless about wine!!!

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Sharell June 4, 2011 at 11:17 pm

it might be hard for people to imagine that just 50 years ago that Aussies were clueless about wine!!!

Actually, I think a lot of them still are clueless. ;-) :-P But let’s hope India catches up fast. There’s a lot of potential. I know in Mumbai wine is making its mark…

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Jenn June 5, 2011 at 5:31 am

Is it possible to make a bottle of your own wine or would that be illegal in India? I had friends here (America) that made their own mead in various flavors. It was the best drink I had ever had. Makes me want to try it on my own sometime.

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Amit Desai June 5, 2011 at 8:08 am

It’s legal to make your own wine in India, but it’s illegal to sell it without getting a license. Though, don’t make it too obvious to other people that you make wine on regular basis as it may invite nosy cops if someone complains.

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prashanth June 7, 2011 at 2:17 am

@Jenn

Last year, one of my colleagues brought a home-made Champagne to work, to celebrate his birthday…A couple of us had that and slept for the rest of the day…Thanks to him! :P

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Jenn June 8, 2011 at 8:11 am

prashanth

Did the champagne turn out ok? That sounds like another good one to try.

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prashanth June 8, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Jenn,

The Champagne was good, like any other Champagne you get from the store…but somehow it made me us sleepy, after drinking that. That’s the only difference, I found.

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Manali June 5, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Hi Sharell, the new drinking limit for wine (or the absence of it) left me confused too! Nice post :)

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Abdullah K. June 5, 2011 at 9:45 pm

Drinking wine instead of whiskey or vodka to “make an impression on people” seems rather pretentious to me. Do people actually *like* wine or is it like the story where the emperor has no clothes but everyone pretends he does (so as to not appear uncultured)?

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Sharell June 6, 2011 at 9:26 am

When you move in those kind of circles in India, a touch of pretension is often present. ;-) But I think most people who drink wine like it. Back home, it’s not so pretentious. It’s just that wine is an involved drink… it requires a bit of knowledge to appreciate a good wine.

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Abdullah K. June 7, 2011 at 2:36 am

Indeed, there seems to be an obsession among middle and upper class Indians to try to ‘appear’ western at social dos. However, thats not what I meant when I talked about the pretention of wine drinkers. I find that a lot of people who drink wine do so to make a social impression, even if they don’t like it.
 
As for romantic dates, if a woman judges me for my taste in wine, that would be the last date.

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Mohit Gupta June 8, 2011 at 12:12 am

Sharell ,

“Knowledge to appreciate good wine”

Isn’t this sentence itself is pretentious and defensive in the favor of wine and wine drinker ?Isn’t liking or disliking anything is a matter of personal choice , not the matter of knowledge.? I may have all the knowledge about wines that how they are made , where they are made , from what they are made and even I have tasted them all.Can you be sure if I liked any one of them ?

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Sharell June 8, 2011 at 1:12 am

Huh? The knowledge that I refer to is knowledge about whether the wine is good… it’s not related to whether you like the wine or not. For example, I’m not a fan of sauvignon blanc wine but I can still appreciate/identify a good one from a bad one.

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Sharell June 6, 2011 at 9:54 am

Oh, and if you want to take a woman on a romantic date…. there has to be wine! :-)

http://www.timeslive.co.za/lifestyle/article1098889.ece/Women-say-wine-is-an-important-part-of-a-romantic-date

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prashanth June 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Yeah, what’s with women and wine? …I don’t understand that, as wine makes me feel sleepy/dizzy and my tongue dry (although I like a few sweet ones)…Recently I drove through Champagne in France and I felt dizzy driving through it..LOL :P

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Amit Desai June 7, 2011 at 1:41 am

What’s with women and wine?
As the old English saying goes, “women, wine (and weather) are always unpredictable”. And so many women don’t like wine, though, many of them still may go with the flow – for the same reason – to be seen as cool or classy.

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Manny June 6, 2011 at 9:20 pm

There was an interesting article on Huffington Post recently about how most people cannot differentiate between “good” (Expensive wines) and cheap wines. Almost 80% of the self identified wine connoisseur failed the test. I am sure most of the desi wine drinkers would fall in that category. :)

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Manny June 6, 2011 at 9:29 pm

An expensive wine may well have a full body, a delicate nose and good legs, but the odds are your brain will never know.

A survey of hundreds of drinkers found that on average people could tell good wine from plonk no more often than if they had simply guessed.

In the blind taste test, 578 people commented on a variety of red and white wines ranging from a £3.49 bottle of Claret to a £29.99 bottle of champagne. The researchers categorised inexpensive wines as costing £5 and less, while expensive bottles were £10 and more.

The study found that people correctly distinguished between cheap and expensive white wines only 53% of the time, and only 47% of the time for red wines. The overall result suggests a 50:50 chance of identifying a wine as expensive or cheap based on taste alone – the same odds as flipping a coin.

Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at Hertfordshire University, conducted the survey at the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

“People just could not tell the difference between cheap and expensive wine,” he said. “When you know the answer, you fool yourself into thinking you would be able to tell the difference, but most people simply can’t.”

All of the drinkers who took part in the survey were attending the science festival, but Wiseman claims the group was unlikely to be any worse at wine tasting than a cross-section of the general public.

“The real surprise is that the more expensive wines were double or three times the price of the cheaper ones. Normally when a product is that much more expensive, you would expect to be able to tell the difference,” Wiseman said.

People scored best when deciding between two bottles of Pinot Grigio, with 59% correctly deciding which was which. The Claret, which cost either £3.49 or £15.99, fooled most people with only 39% correctly identifying which they had tasted.

In 2008, a study led by Adrian North, a psychologist at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, claimed that music helped boost the flavour of certain wines. North, who was commissioned by a Chilean winemaker, reported that Cabernet Sauvignon was most affected by “powerful and heavy” music, while Chardonnay benefited from “zingy and refreshing” sounds.

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Manny June 6, 2011 at 9:30 pm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/apr/14/expensive-wine-cheap-plonk-taste

Sorry for posting that entire article earlier instead of providing this link

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Jenn June 8, 2011 at 8:16 am

It’s true that you can get a good wine that is cheap. I never bother getting anything expensive. I think the cheap stuff can be from people new to the business, not just cheaply made.

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Sonali June 6, 2011 at 2:29 am

I have to tell you being an Indian who is about to move to London after getting married to live with my boyfriend-turned-husband and his family scares the hell out of me. But I read your blog and I see how you do so much and I feel so much better and this sense of ease that I can do it and that everything will be fine. I LOVE your blog. You’re beloved in Michigan!

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Sharell June 6, 2011 at 9:24 am

Hi Sonali, change is scary, especially living with new people. But I’m sure they’ll be excited to have you there. You’ll be fine. Of course, it takes time to settle in, but it will turn out okay in the end. Wishing you all the best for the journey. Let us know what happens. :-) Oh, and I’m so happy that my blog has provided you with some reassurance.

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s June 7, 2011 at 3:16 am
Silvara June 8, 2011 at 10:36 am

Um lol…not sure how a link to my blog got there but all I was doing was appreciating a good wine with some chocolate.

I don’t think wine has to be expensive to taste good too :P

Totally understand – I live quite close to the Yarra Valley in Melbourne and it’s one of my fave things to do as I have gotten older and appreciate it a lot more. India will catch up one day! And I think it’s great you’re supporting the local industry as well…

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Sharell June 8, 2011 at 10:49 am

I used to love going to all the “clean skin” shops, where you get excess stock from the wineries but without the labels. Dan Murphy’s always had good deals too. Debortoli Windy Peak Chardonnay for around $10…. can’t get much better than that for the price. 8)

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Kailash Gurnani June 9, 2011 at 9:03 am

Hi Sharell,

I came across your blog today for the first time. It was a coincidence as I just set up a google alert for Indian wine and your blog was one of the first links that i received from google.

Your blog is interesting as its good to see India through the eyes of a foreigner. I have lived in Australia for 5 years now and will be heading back to India soon. Point being, having lived here for a while and travelled across the world, some of the things that are culturally acceptable in India are just as startling to me (or any Indian who has the exposure and travelled overseas) as it is to you (or any other westerner).

Anyways, wine in India is definitely a new thing and the culture is totally different to Australia or any other traditional wine drinking country. Its funny that for some reason wine is considered more classy and sophisticated than beer and whiskey. Of the many possible reasons, one reason is historical image of alcohol in India. The image of whiskey in India among the masses is not that of expensive single malts like Glenfiddich but of those cheap 200ml ‘desi daru’ bottles or an average McDowells you get at every corner bottle shop in India. It is not associated with enjoying its flavour neat with probably some cigars. As with beer, I doubt most people in India even know about the basic styles of beer like Lagers, ales and pilsners. Historically, its just been the fizzy, golden coloured, not so alcoholic drink made out of barley consumed by males.

In India, wine is perceived as an upmarket beverage. It is associated with all the romance of France and Italy, etc.. Its just the way it is marketed. It is also more acceptable for a woman to drink wine in India because of the image it carries.

Most liquor stores in India are called wine shops even though they dont sell wine. The masses just dont know the difference. Its a bit like calling a restaurant ‘Hotel XYZ’ even though it does not have rooms to stay in. You must have seen that in India. The wine industry has big potential in Maharashtra. So that, coupled with its image, is no secret why the government is trying to safeguard wine and putting measures in place to protect it. However, they must get around trying to convert all the ‘wine shops’ into ‘liquor shops’ so that people get to know the difference.

As for wine, we have a long way to go. For starters most people making wine in India are from a table grapegrowing backgrounds. Many of them dont realize that the philosophy of growing wine grapes is different to table grapes. Hence, the wine grapes we produce are not as good as they can be given the climate and soil that we have. Secondly, its an industry where you have to invest a lot of resources in the short term. With good marketing and good quality wine, let alone profits, you break even only 5-6 years down the line. Producers dont realise that. They are short sighted and try to capitalize on the market by flooding it with inferior quality wines to make short term profits.

We have had organic practices in agriculture for decades. We just need to invest in the right viticultural and winemaking expertise and be patient. The future of wine is promising provided the right steps are taken.

Just a bit about me. I completed my Bachelors in Oenology at Uni Adelaide last year and have completed two vintages in the Yarra Valley and Mclaren Vale. M heading back to India to work at my family winery in Nashik (York Winery) and will keep travelling overseas every year to learn as much about wine as possible and bring it back to India. Thats my bit for the wine industry in India :)

- Kailash

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Sharell June 9, 2011 at 9:13 am

Hi Kailash, a big welcome to the blog! Your observations are very interesting, thanks for sharing. AND, I think I met your brother at the York stand at the Bandra Wine Tasting Festival last year in Mumbai. He was chatting to me about a brother who had studied wine making at Adelaide. :-) Not that I’m biased or anything, but the York wines were impressive. From memory, I think there was a reserve cabernet that was a particular stand out. York winery has an exciting future ahead of it for sure!

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Kailash June 9, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Wow, its a small world isnt it!! We might just meet one day at another wine tasting fest in India. I had been to one in Pune and it was great. Im really keen to get to mumbai and get to know more about the consumers there.

Glad you liked our wines. The Cabernet from our first (2008) vintage has done well. Both the Shiraz and Cabernet of the following year look promising. It definitely is exciting times for us, but the Indian market is pretty tough to penetrate into..

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Backwhereitallstarted June 13, 2011 at 6:03 pm

I love love love wine!! I’m not much into hard liquor or cocktails. But it’s usually a nice glass of red (to whoever recommended Rioja with Indian food – we see eye to eye) at home to go with whatever I feel like cooking. Sharell, thanks for this post. I’m apalled at the exhorbitant cost of wine in India. So can you please tell me which is that Rs. 300 bottle of wine? All I get in the stores is Rs. 600 – and I just can’t bring myself to spend so much!

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Sharell June 13, 2011 at 6:11 pm

In that price range, it’s usually Madera (234 rupees in Mumbai but it’s nothing to write home about, barely drinkable) or Mosaic (which is made by Sula and is a little better, at around 350 rupees). Glad to hear you’re a wine fan! 8)

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Siddhartha Kumar June 14, 2011 at 3:28 am

Did you ever try “fenni”, cashew nut liqueur in Goa? Its got a punch to it.

In california, where I live we have great wines, Burgundy, cabernet, Beaujolais, Rieslings, etc . We can even buy Australian and south African wines

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Manny June 14, 2011 at 3:36 am

Oh Lord “Fenni”. That’s the worst liqueur I have ever had. It stinks!

LOL :)

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Amit Desai June 14, 2011 at 4:30 am

Of course it would stink. It’s a bloody country liquor. It can screw you up though and that’s what matters.

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Sharell June 14, 2011 at 10:26 am

Yeah, I’m with Manny on that. I struggled to get past the smell. :-(

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siddhartha Kumar June 14, 2011 at 3:50 am

You can try country hooch and if you can handle messing up a few of your organs. haha!

I think there is great potential for the Indian wine industry. London times had a travel highlight on the wine industry in India.

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Sharell June 28, 2011 at 12:12 pm

The lowdown on import duty and other vexatious wine issues in India.

http://www.sommelierindia.com/blog/2011/06/high_taxes_import_duties_and_o.html

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hi July 23, 2011 at 4:33 pm

you like your steak MW ?

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Sharell July 23, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Must be well done with no sign of redness!

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Adtnu Tiwari December 7, 2011 at 10:07 am

Dear Friends,

Wines are usually expensive because of Government Tax policies. There are some really good Indian Reds. Four seasons Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz are quite good…A little bit priced because of taxes but still best value for money….goes very well with Indian Food……and the winery is from Baramati….they will start their wine tourism in couple of months..last time I checked, they have the best technological support in India …

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Madhu January 20, 2012 at 7:25 am

South African wines are under appreciated. Try pinotage. I am no expert but this is very unique. I like red and hard/medium.

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akash June 17, 2012 at 3:51 am

Fruit wines from Himachal are very good. I have tried cherry and rhododendron.

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