We launched AWPA in 2014 and we are progressively adding new members, expanding the country coverage and increasing the number of events aimed at expanding the dialogue between member wineries and building international recognition and respect for the achievements of the wine industry in Asia. After several years working with some respected leaders in the industry in Asia to establish the Association, my ongoing role is as a Member of the Executive Committee and as its (honorary) Manager, responsible for day to day activities.
The objective of the tour was to provide an opportunity for members to spend some time together and to inspect first-hand the vineyards and wineries of the AWPA’s three Indian members – Grover/Zampa Vineyards, Sula Wines and York Winery. For this purpose we were also joined by the founder of the Wine Explorers concept (www.wine.explorers.net), Jean-Baptiste Ancelot, so that he could see first-hand some of the exciting developments in India, before progressing on to Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam (for his reports, see: https://www.facebook.com/WineExplorers/)
The tour started in Nashik, about a four hour drive (if you are lucky) from Mumbai (Maharashtra State) and the home to by far the largest part of the Indian wine industry. It was the sixth visit for me, over a period of 20 years. And it is amazing to see both the huge growth in scale of the vineyards and wineries and the massive advances in wine quality over this period – as well as the impressive sophistication in the cellar door experience that is now being offered to visitors. This is certainly the case with the three member wineries and we were able to see and test this fist hand on the tour. There are over 70 wineries in Maharashtra State now – mostly around Nashik, but also around Pune.
The second stage of the tour was in and around the vineyards and wineries of Grover/Zampa, about two hours from Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka State. Grover was one of the pioneer Indian wineries and the very first in Karnataka State, established in the late 1980s. There are now 17 winemaking operations, but Grover is by far the largest in the State, and the second largest in India overall.
We tasted over 100 wines – right across the spectrum of varieties, style and price points. The major varieties are still Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc, for the whites, and Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon for the reds. But there is a great deal of experimentation. Chardonnay and Malbec have been tried extensively, but haven’t impressed. However, Tempranillo and Viognier, for example, have been doing particularly well and are becoming major varieties in both regions. Grover is now planting Gamay and Muscat à Petits Grains, confident of them performing well in the Bangalore region. Sula has had Zinfandel since the outset and, more recently, has experimented with Riesling and Pinot Noir in higher altitude locations, with good results. They now have 18 varieties planted.