Barry Dass has been importing Anokhee wines, from Vallonne Vineyards in India, over the last year. Here he lets us in on the struggles facing the Indian wine industry, why the Nashik region is well suited to the vine and his favourite Indian wine and food match.
Barry, how did you become involved in Indian wine?
Having been in the fashion business for over 35 years, I spent a lot of time dining with buyers and suppliers which helped develop my love for fine wines. India also became our main country of supply, with most of our factories based in Delhi and Mumbai. I regularly travelled to India and it was on one of these trips, a few years ago, that I was introduced to Indian wines and managed to visit some wineries.
I realised then that the wine industry in India was rapidly changing and that Indian wines should reach beyond its own borders. Where better than the UK to share Indian wines, as the UK has such a long history and love affair with India.
Anokhee wines are from the Nashik District, within the region of Maharashtra. What makes Nashik successful for wine production?
Nashik is the broader term given to the region. In fact, Nashik is a combination of many smaller areas with different soil types and varied landscapes. Although Nashik has been producing table grapes for a long time, it is only in the and past ten years or so, that wines have been produced within the region on a major scale.
Nashik is around 150km from the Mumbai coastline and approximately 500m above sea level. The altitude brings a cooling influence to the area. It has consistent tropical temperatures throughout the year. During the ripening season, daytime temperatures reach 20-25 degrees C and in the night-time around 6 – 10 degrees C. The grapes mature from December to February, when they are then hand harvested in the early hours of the morning to retain their fresh fruit flavours. I believe these are the factors that make Nashik a successful wine-producing region.
Our wines are from the Igatpuri region of Nashik. The vineyards are on south facing slopes with gravelly soils. They are drip irrigated with water from the Mukhne damn, which sits at the foot of the slopes. It is understood that the Chenin Blanc grape variety does exceptionally well within the region.
Wine consumption in India has increased a lot over the last 10 to 12 years. Are your wines well received by the domestic market as well as here in the UK?
Vallonne Vineyards, which produces Anokhee wines, is well represented in India and listed in some of the most prestigious and trendy restaurants and bars in Mumbai, Pune, Goa and Bangalore. The Anokhee brand was created exclusively for the UK market and the wines are not sold in India under the Anokhee label.
Your wines have been listed by some of London’s top restaurants, including The Cinnamon Club. Are you finding a market for Anokhee wines outside of Indian food establishments?
We need to raise more awareness in the UK, of the quality and variety of Indian wines that are available. Once more wine lovers are educated on these aspects, this will create demand for our wines outside of Indian food establishments and we will see more Indian wines listed in a wider range of restaurants.
It is a commonly held view that beer is the best accompaniment for Indian food. What do you think it is about your wines that makes them a good match for Indian cuisine?
Indian cuisine has evolved over the years in the UK and Indian restaurants are becoming more familiar with wines. The Indian wine industry has matured so it is no longer just beer that will successfully match your curry. The unique, spicy palate of our Indian wines works well with the spiciness of the curries. The flavours echo each other. This is something European wines just cannot match.
What do you think the main challenges are for the Indian wine industry?
Many! First of all the Indian Government does nothing to promote or raise awareness of Indian wines on the domestic and international stage. They have to support the industry. More education and resources are required to encourage people to drink Indian wine, rather than just beer and whiskey. Duty and excise from state to state is also another problem making wines too expensive for the average Indian.
The Anokhee wine range includes Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Which wine had been the most popular here in the UK?
The Vallonne Vineyards Anokhee Merlot is our most popular.
And which is your favourite?
I think they’re all great wines! But if I have too choose one I would go for the 2009 Vallonne Vineyards Anokhee Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
What is your favourite Indian food and wine combination?
The 2011 Reserve Merlot and my home-made Achari lamb, you have to try it!
Where can we buy Namaste wines?
At the moment they are on the wine lists of the Cinnamon Club, Tamarind, Zaika London or on-line at www.namastewines.com
Barry I would love to try your Achari lamb! Thank you so much for your time and your insight into the Indian wine industry. We wish you all the best with Namaste Wines and hope that more wine lovers get out there and choose an Indian wine to go with their next curry.