The Indian wine space became exciting not just with new wineries but also new products being introduced. One of these is the Reserve wines that Indian wineries have taken a fancy to; almost all Indian wineries have 1 or 2 wines which are Reserve wines.
What are Reserve Wines?
Reserve on a label signifies that the wine is of a better quality than the rest of the wines from a winery. This could be because of careful selection of the plots of the grapes, fermentation in oak barrels and ageing in oak barrels and bottles. However, apart from a few countries like Spain, Portugal and Italy, wines categorized as Reserve/Riserva/Reserva don’t necessarily mean that the wines have been barrel and/or bottle aged.
Common tendency is to mature and age wines in oak for a certain amount of time to add structure and character and therefore call them Reserve. This holds true for most of Indian reserve wines as well which age from anything from 10 months to 3 years. Sula’s Dindori Reserve Viognier is one of those few wines which isn’t barrel aged but is all about the parcel of lands and yield. Quality is the biggest differentiator where better quality grapes and efforts are put in during the vinification process. “These wines are crafted to its best potential output to showcase the winery of creating such style that defines luxury and style,” says Parag Kamat, Chief Operating Officer, Charosa Wineries.
Winemaking is now a serious affair and winemaker will take all possible measures to ensure that it defines the reserve category and has the potential to age and thereby improve in its complexity and style. “The growth in this reserve category is next big thing to happen for wine industry in India,” Kamat adds. Despite the fact that India does not have any regulations for viticultural and vinification practices and it will be quite some more time before they are looked into, these wines are being looked upon as the next wave for the industry especially as quite a few of them are getting recognized on global platforms.
An aspect which stands out is the price points for these wines. They range from anything from Rs 800 to Rs 1800; compared to non-reserve wines these prices are almost double. Time is one of the biggest factor – time spent on grape selection, blending, and then maturing – which impacts the prices. Sumedh Singh Mandla, CEO for Grover Zampa speaks about their brand Chene, their Grand Reserve wine, which costs Rs 1700 in Mumbai, “The wine has spent 30 months in oak which 2.5 times more than any other wine. The grape we are using, Tempranillo, is unique where yields are low with 3 tons per acre, to control the quality. It is a small batch wine with only 3000 bottles together with premium bottling and packaging; all these aspects have impact on the pricing.” Though the time the wine spends in the barrels may vary but the process by and large stays the same.
For the cost conscious Indian these wines still seem expensive despite the time and investments put into the wine. There are various views on this. The concept of value for money itself differs for different people – an Indian Reserve may be a cheaper substitute for its international counterpart at the same time a good quality Indian Reserve which is better than a sub-standard imported wine though at the same price can be defined as value-for-money. Even within the Indian wine fraternity there have been conversations looking at a more practical pricing structure which would not just improve per capita consumption of wines but also give the flurry of poor quality international wines imported into the country competition. “Wines being sold at prices of Rs 1200-1400 cannot be volume based, it is not practical. But it is only possible if producers are supported by the policy makers,” says Mandla as he goes onto explain that investment during vinification process isn’t the only thing. “In a market like Delhi which is one of the top 3 markets for wines minimum cost incurred on various registrations and logistics for 10 labels is between Rs 25-30 lakh, a similar structure is in a lot of other states as well and we are available in 20 states in the country. The cost escalates dramatically and the consumer unfortunately has to bear it.”
One of the biggest challenges for quality Indian wines is when they are pitched against imported wines. Irrespective of the fact that imported wines at similar price points can often be of dubious quality, they benefit from the ‘imported’ tag. To be able to defend Indian wines against that is an uphill task but most Indian wine companies are hopeful of the emerging segment of quality conscious wine lovers in the country. “The key here for Indian wineries is to keep up the quality of their wines and let the wine speak for itself,” as Abhishek Naik, Assistant Manager – Marketing of Fratelli Wines puts it.
A young nation who is still discovering viticultural roots, the evolution process will be a continuous one. In such a scenario Indian reserve category wines are definitely a step up from the everyday wines. However it is the everyday wines that fill the coffers for the wineries and quality there has to be the prime focus. “Producing good quality non-reserve wines is a given and should be given equal and may be even more importance than the Reserve wines since those are the wines whose demand is more and thereby give more sales to the winery,” says Naik. Thankfully, most winemakers understand the dilemma of making wines to please an average Indian consumer and balance it out with the passion to make complex and rich reserve wines.
Whatever said and done, challenges and taxes aside, we always wonder if we should be paying anything above Rs. 1200 for an Indian wine. Vallonné has excellent value for money barrel aged wines, and perhaps the most well known red wine from India, La Reserve is on the cheaper end of the reserve wines in the country. We do hope that some day most of these wines would be in the Rs. 700-900 range.
Reserve Wines from India
|Cabernet Sauvignon Classique||Vallonne Wines||775|
|Reserve Shiraz||York Winery||795|
|Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon||York Winery||795|
|Grover La Reserve||Grover Zampa||800|
|Barrique Reserve Shiraz||Four Seasons||800|
|Barrique Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon||Four Seasons||800|
|Four Wise Men||York Winery||950|
|Reveilo Reserve Syrah||Vintage Wines||1045|
|Reveilo Reserve Chardonnay||Vintage Wines||1145|
|Reveilo Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon||Vintage Wines||1345|
|Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon||Charosa Vineyards||1500|
|Reserve Tempranillo||Charosa Vineyards||1500|
|Zampa Chene||Grover Zampa||1700|