Indian wines have been in the spotlight for a while now; for reasons good or bad is another story in itself. The biggest trouble is as simple as the fact that people do not know what to buy. To top that, the nearby ‘wine shop’ in your locality will not be able to help you out either. The wines themselves majority of the time suffer from poor vinification hinting at classic case of profiteering. Yet, hope is not lost; time and again there have been passionate set of people who show the young wine drinking India that Indian wines can be great. My opportunity to visit Mercury Wineries in Nasik, reaffirmed this faith of mine.
Spearheaded by Veral Pancholia, Mercury Winery and their wine brand Aryaa is taking it slow and steady. The wines are available pan-India and wherever they are, the response has been fantastic, assures Pancholia. The wines are available in the states of J&K, Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Assam, Meghalaya, Goa as well as the cities of Hyderabad, Chennai and Kolkata. Interestingly, the winery has a very strong export market – Norway, Poland, Italy, Belgium, USA, China and Japan. Japan also happens to be their biggest market abroad. The wines are produced from fruits from Mercury’s own 50 acre vineyard. Pancholia also sources fruits from another 50 acre under contract farming.
The day I along with other wine aficionados drove the dusty road was an overcast one with the promise of rains. But lucky for us, the rain gods only made the weather just perfect for the wines.
First up was Chenin Blanc 2011 – With 13 per cent alcohol and distinct nose of grass and capsicum was a good start. The wine had a smooth and creamy midpalate.
We then had three versions of Sauvignon Blanc – two regular vintage (2011 and 2012) and a Fume (2011). The 2011 vintage had a golden hay colour with tartness in taste. The nose was of asparagus. The 2012 vintage was evidently young with lots of fruits – pears, apricots, bananas – on the nose.
The Rose 2010 was a blend of Zinfandel and Muscat with 60:40 ratio. This is xactly why the wine is extremely aromatic but not sweet as one would expect. This is a relief for people like me who have limited tolerance for sweetness.
The first Shiraz was a blend of 2007 and 2008 vintages. The ruby coloured light bodied wine had a hint of oak which comes from the 2007 vintage. The aromas were distinctly of dark fruits while the tannins were round and smooth. The second Shiraz was a blend of 2008 and 2009. Because this wine was younger compared to the previous one the difference was distinct. The nose was quite complex with hints of spices, coffee and dark chocolate. The wine had a great finish the acidity balancing the fruitiness very well. The third Shiraz was 2011 vintage. The yearning to create something different that both Pancholia and his winemaker Stephen Donelly have is very evident. The wine is quite subtle for a Shiraz with eucalyptus and mint like nose.
Next were the Cabernet Sauvignon vintages. The 2008 vintage had soft tannins with coffee, spice and mint on the nose. However, the finish is quite short. The 2010 vintage went through heavy toasted oak giving the nose coffee and cacao flavours. The acidity balance was impeccable. The 2012 vintage was evidently very young and had just undergone filtration. The purple colour, capsicum nose and the minerality in the further affirmed that the wine was still maturing.
The final wine was the Cabernet Shiraz Reserve. This was the star of the tasting and thoughtfully kept for the last. With a 40:60 ratio of Cabernet Sauvignon to Shiraz, the blend was aged in oak for one and a half years giving it a smoothness of taste and a very aesthetic nose.
My personal favourites were the Fume and the Cabernet Shiraz Reserve. Across all the wines one thing was sure; the tannins in the wines were very controlled. This was a deliberate effort on Donelly’s and Pancholia’s part to make the wines more food pairing friendly. Whatever, their reasons, it is perhaps one of the biggest reasons for me to look forward to Aryaa wines in my next visit to the local wine shop.
(To read more of my writing on Mercury Winery and Aryaa wines please check — The Aryan pride )