I imagine we’ll be seeing a lot more Indian wine in the UK in coming years.
It’s a big country with a big (and, last time I looked, growing) economy, and it has a relatively new-found taste for wine, which – based on the couple of bottles I’ve tried from winemakers – is translating itself into a very capable vintner’s hand.
This particular producer deals at least partly in known quantities. I’m not sure if India has native grape varieties or any history of making anything like modern wine, but the bottles I’ve seen for sale with Sula’s immediately identifiable personified (and moustachioed) sun on the label have been world-famous varietals. The last I bought and enjoyed was a Shiraz; this time I went for a grape I haven’t always got on with: Sauvignon Blanc.
Now, I know by now that good wine can come from the grape, and I have a fair idea of what food to enjoy it with. So it was perhaps a bit silly to have a large glass of it with a strong Thai-inspired soup dish of my own imagining. Nevertheless, while the strong chili and ginger in the soup somewhat overpowered the subtleties of this dry white, I had enough of it foodless to get a good idea of its character, and I was just as impressed as I was last time I drank Indian.
The wine had a characteristically pale, pale, pale, pale hue, suggestive of resin or lightly tinted green glass jewellery. There’s not a lot of room for manoeuvre in the Sauvignon Blanc palette, and this fell somewhere in the middle.
Its aroma was lemony and green, with a hint of lime leaves and something sweet: sorbet, perhaps. The taste was satisfyingly sharp and refreshing: packed with white fruit (apple, mainly) with touches of yellow bell-pepper sweetness and bitterness, and a trace of cardamom.
Yes, cardamom. Now, I ask myself; would I have thought I tasted cardamom if I’d been told the wine was English? I really couldn’t say. It seems unlikely, and yet I tasted it, damn you; I’m sure of it. Perhaps the associations being close to the mind suggest themselves; perhaps they’re just within easier reach when you’re grasping for them. Ask your psychiatrist.
Wine this good for under a tenner? I feel like I’m robbing someone.
Actually, how fair is the grape trade in India? Not sure, but Sula certainly looks like a legitemate operation (it would have to be to produce enough great wine to export at this price), and this bottle – I have discovered, by reading the label – claims to be India’s first Sauvignon Blanc!
Well, I can see a glittering future for the producers, the grape, and the grape-growing nation. Although I probably won’t win any prizes for foresight, as all of the above is pretty much upon us.
You can buy this Nashik-region Sauvignon Blanc from Waitrose for £8.54. I wouldn’t have it with anything too spicy, but maybe a subtle fish curry or a fish finger sandwich if you go easy on the ketchup.