Goodbye 2020: Incredible wines to uncork on New Year's Eve

Master of Wine Sonal Holland picks 12 exceptional wines to mark the end of a year that turned the world upside down. And yes, they are available in India

Published: Dec 28, 2020 02:26:39 PM IST
Updated: Mar 17, 2021 04:50:37 PM IST

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For oenophiles, one of the biggest setbacks has been the restrictions on travel as most of them would buy exotic wines from abroad.

Sonal Holland, India’s first and only Master of Wine and the Founder Director of Vine2Wine Retail Pvt. Ltd says that India, a nascent yet dynamic wine market, has some credible wines including those from homegrown brands.

To celebrate a subdued, at-home New Year’s Eve, she lists 12 exceptional wines available in India. “These wines are classics that celebrate passionate producers, iconic wineries, famous wine regions and sought-after labels, hand-picked personally by me from across the world,” says Holland.

1. Dom Perignon Brut Champagne 2008, France

Arguably the world’s most famous prestige cuvee and the king among vintage champagnes is Dom Pérignon from the renowned champagne house Moët & Chandon. The king of champagnes, this luxury brand is eponymously named after a humble Benedictine monk who famously declared that he was tasting stars when he tasted the first sparkling champagne.

The wine undergoes nearly eight years of ageing on lees during which it acquires a rich complex bouquet of brioche, honey, citrus and smoke and a characteristic decadence. It offers a creamy mousse, richness of fruit and a perfumed finish on the palate.

Price: Rs 24,553

2. Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Chardonnay 2017, California, USA

Every wine producing country in the world has its own version of one of the world’s most popular white wine grape, the Chardonnay. But the expression from Robert Mondavi’s eponymous winery in sunny California is an exceptional pour. It’s produced in vineyards that enjoy a dry Mediterranean climate, volcanic soils and diverse topography, making it perfectly suited to the growing of fine wine grapes. Warm summers and mild winters create a favourable microclimate, resulting in juicy clusters of flavoursome grapes that ripen slowly on the vines. The result is a textural wine with a velvety mouthfeel and bracing, fresh acidity. The palate reverberates with layers of stone and tropical fruit, including juicy peaches and roasted pineapples, along with shavings of citrus and knobs of hazelnut. The palate is impeccably balanced, fruit-forward with beautifully knit oak and toast flavours that lead into a zesty long finish. It’s a harmonious testament to what fine winemaking can do to a versatile grape.

Price: Rs 10,500

3. Chateau D’Esclans Whispering Angels 2018, Provence, France

Welcome to the world’s most popular rosé sold in more than 100 countries and arguably the benchmark for Provencal rosé. Affordable, delectable and millennial approved, Whispering Angels by Chateau d’Esclans heralded the pink revolution in America, deeply embedding the blush pink wine in the country’s wine psyche. It was created by Sacha Lichine, who acquired the chateau in 2006 and dreamt of creating a ‘Rosé Renaissance’, washing the world in pink. Whispering Angels today represents a glamorous, lifestyle wine; much more than simply a rosé made from a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Rolle grapes. A palate-grabbing drink, it has a sensual pale coral hue and a nose bursting with red berries, melon and even a whiff of lemongrass. This extraordinary rosé has a lush mouthfeel, a creamy finish and a bright, sparkling acidity. Perfect at noon or midnight, pair this vivacious pink with virtually any food and it won’t disappoint, but sushi, stir-fry veggies, lentils and salads are what further enhance the taste of this pretty drink.

Price: Rs 4,950

4. Tignanello 2016, Marchesi Antinori, Tuscany, Italy

One of the first families of winemaking in Italy, now in its 26th generation, the Antinori family has been coaxing exceptional wines from their estates in Tuscany, Umbria and other regions for the past six centuries. Their ancient roots combined with modern-day innovations have created stellar wines such as Tignanello, among several other benchmarks. This wine has a litany of firsts. The wine was the first Sangiovese to be aged in barriques. It is also the first contemporary red wine that was a blend of traditional and untraditional grapes--a luscious mix of Sangiovese with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, considered a rebellious act during the 1970s. And, it was one of the pioneering wines of the Tuscan region made without the addition of any white grapes, as was the norm back then. As a result, Tignanello was among the first Super-Tuscan revolutionaries that defied the laws prevalent in Italy to make wines that created new benchmarks for the famous wines of Tuscany. The 2016 vintage of Tignanello is quite remarkable and counted among the finer vintages of Tuscany. It’s a wine that you could even keep for the next decade, allowing it to mellow into an elegant complex version of itself. It has a deep ruby colour and aromas of juicy black fruit, red cherries, fresh herbs, wet earth and autumn spices and a long, layered finish.

Price: Rs 19,500

5. Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva 2003, Italy

The Amarone style of wines from the Valpolicella region of north-east Italy barely needs an introduction. The Amarone style is characterised by its deep, concentrated, sweet-edged rich flavours and warm finishes. Consistent demand for these wines has ensured that there are a lot of Amarone Riserva wines out there with big price tags but in the context of real enjoyment, it is a marvel to find one that is well balanced, elegant and not too spirity on the finish. The Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva from Zenato, among Italy’s top 100 producers, is one such wine. It is a deep garnet with dark berry and chocolate mocha notes mingling with fresh earth and the scent of a vanilla pod. The acidity is just right to uplift the wine. The texture of the wine is graceful and sophisticated despite the high alcohol levels of above 15% abv. Made from a careful selection of Corvina, Rondinella and other indigenous grapes, this wine is aged for three years in large Slavonian barrels, imparting it an elegant structure and a velvety mouthfeel. It’s a wine that will improve with long-term ageing.

Price: Rs 10,900

6. Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Australia

Cabernet Sauvignon is a grape you can fall deeply in love with and it is the cornerstone of some of the finest red wines produced globally. From Penfolds, one of Australia’s most illustrious wine producers, is Bin 407 made with 100 percent ripe Cabernet Sauvignon fruit sourced from vineyards across the southern parts of the country. Since its launch in 1993 with the 1990 vintage, the wine has offered textbook varietal definition and classic Cabernet Sauvignon flavours to wine lovers across the world. The wine is brilliantly crimson in colour, has a rich fruity core redolent of plums, red and black cherries and cedar oak. The palate is medium-bodied and has generous flavours of blackcurrants, mocha, chocolate and walnuts on the mid-palate. The tannins are polished and rounded, making this wine seem approachable and confident at the same time. This very quality of accessibility makes it an attractive proposition to drink at any time as opposed to the muscular versions of Penfolds 707 Cabernet or the iconic and rare Grange. It is a wine that you can enjoy today or cellar over the next decade and watch it become more layered and intriguing.

Price: Rs 13,000

7. De Bortoli Noble One 2013, Australia

Created by Darren De Bortoli, Noble One is the gold standard of Australian ‘Botrytis’ dessert winemaking. Since its launch in 1982, the wine, inspired by the French Sauternes, has garnered a staggering number of accolades--at least over a hundred trophies and nearly 500 gold medals. It’s been nearly four decades since this Australian Botrytis Semillon has been the choice of wine to follow a scrumptious meal. The shrivelled grapes following the intended noble fungus infection are sourced from De Bortoli’s own vineyard and the result is a rich golden wine with a deeply intense nose of spices and stone fruits, with a touch of nougat, marmalade and tarred sugar syrup. The lusciously sweet palate is kept in check by the crisp acidity, leaving a clean and satisfying finish. Serve it with fruit or cream-based desserts or with equally contrasting flavours of salty or blue cheese. It’s a harmonious decadent wine with an impressive ageing potential of nearly two decades.

Price Rs 5,950 (For a 375 ml half bottle)

8. Joseph Drouhin Gevrey Chambertin 2014, Burgundy, France

This is a wine for oenophiles who have a passion for Pinot Noir, particularly those from the revered regions of Cote de Nuits in Burgundy. Gevrey Chambertin is an important village in the Cote de Nuits region, more so because of the famous Grand Cru vineyards that it houses. And although this is a village level wine and does not enjoy a Grand or even a Premier Cru status, the fact that it is made by a legendary wine producer like Joseph Drouhin who makes wines across 90 appellations in Burgundy, gives it instant pedigree and grandiosity. Don’t be fazed by its mellow garnet red hue because what it lacks in colour, as do most Pinot Noir wines, it makes up in perfume, elegance and class on the palate. The nose invites you with the aromas of crushed rose petals, red cherries and nutmeg. It has an elegant minerality tempered with refreshing acidity that lifts its fruity core out of the glass. The vintage has aged gracefully and can be uncorked immediately. Or you can cellar it for another six years, encouraging it to reveal its complex umami flavours.

Price: Rs 13,500

9. Guidalberto 2015, Tenuta San Guido, Tuscany, Italy

Guidalberto’s best introduction is that it is the second label of the super icon wine Sassicaia, the Bordeaux-style blend that led the Super-Tuscan revolution in Italy during the 1970s. The latter currently sells for $250 a bottle in the overseas market and demands patience in cellaring for a few years before it can be enjoyed to its fullest expression. However, for a second flute to an icon, the Guidalberto performs brilliantly well and for far less money. Grown on the most prized soils of Tenuta San Guido in Italy, the Guidalberto can be enjoyed immediately upon bottling and in three to five years, offers a captivating palate. Dark crimson in colour, with ripe dark fruit, cherries, berries and plums on the nose, the wine’s tannic structure is approachable and offers complex notes of cedar, lavender and sweet spice on the palate. The wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that has been aged in French and American oak barrels resulting in a voluptuous wine with a smooth structure with an intense aromatic. It is even more perfect when you enjoy it with a mushroom risotto or morels biryani.

Price: Rs 6,325

10. JCB 47, Fratelli and Boisset CollectionAkluj, India

A limited-edition sparkling wine, JCB 47 is a celebratory collaboration between one of India’s most prolific wine producers Fratelli Vineyards and the flamboyant French vintner, Jean-Claude Boisset, whose Boisset Collection wine empire extends across California, France and Canada. They came together to produce an Indian wine that was potentially the best expression of the Indian terroir and could be a world showcase of what India is capable of producing. JCB 47 is a tribute to the year India got her independence, symbolic of a new India. It is a single-vineyard sparkling wine with Chardonnay fruit grown in the granular soils of Motewadi in Akluj near Solapur and produced using the traditional method, similar to the way champagne is made. Once uncorked, the wave of bubbles brings up aromas of green apple, tropical fruits and warm toasted bread. JCB 47 has a rich, textural mouthfeel and is a zesty wine that pairs well with Indian cuisine.

Price: Rs 3,500

11. Grover Zampa Chêne 2017, Nashik, India

The oak tree is the inspiration behind this premium, robust wine from Grover Zampa, that’s symbolic of strength and happiness, and the emotions that this red wine conjures. It is a carefully created signature blend of Tempranillo and Shiraz grapes and has lashings of French oak barrels in which this wine ages for 15 months as it acquires richness and a plush, vanilla-scented perfume. On the palate, expect an exquisite medley of blackberry, ripe plums, sweet spice, chocolate and coffee flavours. The tannins are fine-grained but distinctive in its youth but upon mindful cellaring for five years or so, you will be rewarded by an elegant, savoury mouthfeel with melted tannins, refreshing acidity and a memorable finish which lingers well after the wine is over.

Price: Rs 2,100

12. Krsma Estates Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Hampi Hills, India

From the hills of Hampi is Krsma Estates, a boutique winery, which in nearly a decade since its inception, has already founds its way to the World’s 50 Best Vineyards 2020 list. The most vibrant expression from the estate is their classic Cabernet Sauvignon that is complex, polished and seductive at the same time. A hearty wine, the 2017 with smoother edges than earlier vintages, is fruity and juicy, with vivid notes of pomegranates, red cherries and blackberries. Refined and accessible, it is luscious on the palate, with silken tannins, a hint of savouriness and noteworthy varietal definition. This Cabernet Sauvignon will add heft to your wine collection, but unfortunately it has limited availability in the domestic market. Pick up a bottle the next time you check in in Goa or Karnataka.

Price: Rs 2,450 (Karnataka)

All prices mentioned are at Maximum Retail Price (MRP) in Maharashtra, except Krsma Estates which is in Karnataka.

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