Unless you are in the company of fellow enthusiasts, wine talk can sound insufferably pretentious. You can blather on about the bouquet of a great Penfolds Grange or the fantastic 2009 vintage. For the average person you might as well be talking about Calculus or Moore’s Law. Terms like bouquet, finish, and terroir bring images to the minds of wine nerds but are meaningless to the general population.
In India, the problem is compounded by the high duties that we have to pay for imported wines, one that Australian Consul-general, Susan Grace, based in Chennai wants to change. She has been hosting a series of wine evenings in Indian cities, first Chennai and then Bangalore, with two goals: to introduce Indian wine lovers to Australian wines and to get them to lobby the government to remove or reduce import tariffs.
Grace said that Australian wines had more to offer than just world renowned Shiraz and Chardonnay. “Tonight’s selections include white varieties such as Pinot Gris and Riesling, where cool climate producers in regions like Tasmania and the Mornington Peninsula are waiting to be discovered by larger audiences.
Australian wine is an experience as well as a flavour, as these and more established regions such as South Australia, Hunter Valley and Margaret River have become tourist destinations offering high quality food and high end travel experiences alongside their delicious wine.”
We tasted eight wines that evening, beginning with whites and moving to red. The first was a sparkling Croser 2013 from Adelaide Hills, followed by a Jansz Premium Rose from Tasmania which was lovely and refreshing. The Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling 2018 from Clare Valley had aromas of chalk, mineral and citrus. This was followed by an aromatic and well-structured Nazaaray Pinot Gris 2016 made by an Indian couple from a vineyard, located in the Victoria-Mornington area.
There were two Cabernet Sauvignons from Margaret River and one beautiful Pinor Noir from Tasmania. I enjoyed the Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon with jammy notes of prunes, berries, oak, licorice and chocolate. I liked it better than the Devil's Lair Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 that followed, also from Margaret River. The Tamar Ridge Pinot Noir had savoury and spicy notes of cinnamon and a ruby-red colour. The Petaluma Reisling 2018 had the characteristic Riesling acidity and was tight, given that it is a young wine.
The event, held at the Taj West End’s Blue Bar was attended by about 50 wine lovers from The Wine Connoisseur group, the hotel industry and the beverage business. Wine importer, Vishal Kadakia spoke with knowledge about the wines and took us through the regions. Given that it was Thursday evening at the end of the work day, the guests enjoyed themselves, and wolfed down the appetizers that were being passed around.
All in all, it gave us a taste of Australia in the company of people who loved the land and country.
— Shoba Narayan is an author and journalist