There are just under 100 wineries in the area, all of which have vast plantings that include French, Italian, and Spanish varieties.
India has not produced much wine due to a variety of reasons, including the prohibition in dry states like Gujarat, Kerala, and Bihar (as well as Nagaland, Manipur, Nagaland, and Lakshadweep), the climate, phylloxera, and even its taste for hard liquor. Many classically trained winemakers and veterans of the industry still see India’s Mediterranean soil and climate as a haven for quality vine cultivation.
India has just under 100 wineries, with vast plantings in French, Italian, and Spanish varietals. Nashik Valley, India’s answer to Napa Valley and Bordeaux produces 80% of India’s wines. The climate of the coastal state of Maharashtra, in Western India, is influenced by the Arabian Sea and is 170 km from Mumbai.
The monsoon seasons and the warm climate present some challenges for winemaking. Spraying and pruning the vine canopy (twice a season) are important in reducing the risk of mildew. In the east, the high humidity and heat limit all viticultural activities.
Rajeev Samant, an Indian who studied winemaking in California (Stanford), is a good example. He returned to India after learning the art of winemaking. Sula Vineyards is located in Nashik, on the banks of the Godavari River. Sula is celebrating the 20th Anniversary of its Methode Traditionelle sparkling wine, “Sula Brut.” This proves that the temperate and dry conditions of India do not prevent the production of outstanding Indian wines. Sula’s Blanc de Noirs (USD 7.80), a blend of 70% Pinot Noir and small parcels of Syrah and Chenin Blanc, is a combination of Syrah and Chenin Blanc. It also contains Chardonnay. The result is a wine with layers of passion fruit, pear, and lemon sherbet. Samant says that the wine will add freshness to Indian food’s complex and deep flavors.
After the turn of the century, other wineries, such as Charosa Vineyards and Fratelli Vineyards, to name a few, followed Sula’s lead and established vineyards and facilities at Nashik in Maharashtra, with Western-style artistry at the helm.
Charosa has a small portfolio that includes its mineral-rich Sauvignon Blanc, which is known for its tropical fruitiness. They also produce Tempranillo, a wine that should make Rioja shake in their boots. Serious sophistication.
Fratelli Vineyards, an Italian-inspired operation, is overseen by the renowned Tuscan winemaker Piero Masi and his team. Masi’s team produces “Sette,” arguably the best red wine in the country. Steven Spurrier, an experienced wine expert, was eager to collaborate with this Sangiovese-Cabernet Sauvignon blend, which came from Akluj in Solapur. The two created the M/S wines, a small batch of very affordable wines.
By 2013, Moet Hennessey caught the wind. Dr Tony Jordan, LVMH’s consultant winemaker, and his team from around the world collaborated with LVMH to create their sixth daughter, Maison, for parent Champagne company Moet & Chandon. Jordan says that the fertile soil and crisp air of Nashik make it an ideal terroir for producing exceptional sparkling wines. The team has a Chenin dominant Chandon Brut as well as a Shiraz / Syrah Brut rose. (RRP: $19.00)
In the south, in the state of Karnataka (40 km north of Bangalore), the landscape is dotted with green hillsides that are atop a rich soil of limestone. The Nandi Hills produce significantly less than Nashik. Nandi Hills wines are distinctive, with greater acidity, earthiness, and aromatic appeal. Nandi is a cooler region that allows for a long and slow ripening.
The butter chicken (or Murgh Mahhani) recipe is rich and delicious. It’s a dish that you should share. As the colder months of California approach, I find myself looking for winter-warming recipes. This isn’t slow-cooked, so it can be made in less than 45 minutes. This recipe combines sweet, tangy, and hot aromatics with vibrant colors that will rock your world. The chicken thighs will be skewered and broiled for 25 minutes to give them a gnarly char, which adds serious depth and attitude. They’ll also remain tender and juicy! This is a real treat.
Cooking time: 25 minutes
– 1 lb of boneless chicken thighs cut into 2″ x 2-inch dice
Marinade for the thighs
– 4 cloves of garlic
– 1-inch ginger, peeled
– 1/2 green chili, remaining seeds (to your liking)
– 1/2 cup Greek low-fat yogurt
– 2 tablespoons chickpea meal
– 2 Tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
– 2 tsp cumin seeds
– 1 teaspoon whole coriander or cilantro seeds
– 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 1 lime juice and zest
1. Pulverize the garlic, green chili, and ginger in an electric coffee mill (or with a mortar and pestle). Mix with Greek yogurt, chickpea flour, lime, and all spices. Mix well. Cover diced chicken thighs with the marinade and massage in to tenderize. Place 4-5 pieces of thigh on each skewer. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate overnight. Primo!
2. Remove the thighs from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving. Bring to room temperature. Start the broiler, preheat it to 390o, and then grill the skewers until they reach 165o or 75oC.
For the gravy
– 2 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
Ginger, 1/2 inch peeled, finely grated
– 1 green chili, sliced lengthways and seeded
– 1/2 cassia bark quill
– 4-5 whole cloves
– 6-8 Cardamom pods whole, crushed with seeds remaining
– 1/2 finely diced white onion
– 1 small 90g/ 3oz tin of tomato paste
– 1 tablespoon of Kashmiri Power, piled high
– 1 tablespoon cilantro powder
– 2 cups double cream (or full-fat coconut milk)
Honey – 1 tbsp
Fresh cilantro – 1 sprig
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
Half a lemon
1. Melt butter in a large pan. Add ginger and chili. Add cloves, cardamom, cassia and cinnamon. Sauté on medium heat until fragrant.
2. Slowly “sweat” the chopped onion until it becomes translucent. Stir in tomato paste, all spices, and the cream. Reduce heat to simmer and add cream. Finish butter gravy by adding honey, fresh cilantro, and salt to give it a lively flavor.
Make this gravy, and store it in an airtight container inside the refrigerator. It will only intensify its flavor. Bring sauce to a boil, and then add the char-broiled curry chicken thighs.
Enjoy this comforting dish from another planet with your best friends. If Indian Nashik or Chenin Blanc is out of your reach, try something with a fruity character, a hint of off-dry, or extra dosage. This will help to cool down the mildly spiced curry. Rajat Parr, an Indian wine expert, believes that wines that would normally pair well with Indian flavors, such as Champagne and Pinot Noir, can be easily lost. He suggests alternatives such as demi sec sparkling or petillant naturels. Off-dry South African Chenin blanc, German Spatlese Riesling, such as the ’99 Dr. Wagner – Somm Selection, or Paso Robles Mourvedre (Tablas Creek Vineyard is yum!) All of these wines would make for a very pleasant drink.