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Charosa has ‘Bharosa’ to make Best Indian Wines

Posted: Wednesday, 01 October 2014 18:25

Charosa has ‘Bharosa’ to make Best Indian Wines

Oct 01: Charosa wineries in the Dindori Taluka of Nashik, a subsidiary of the Hindustan Construction Company Ltd promoted by the well-heeled industrialist Ajit Gulabchand, is the latest addition to the Indian wine necklace with nuggets of quality wines that have surprised the wine connoisseurs, by bringing out a Tempranillo Reserve that stands tall in the Indian wine quality chain in its maiden offering, writes Subhash Arora who visited the Dindori based winery near Nashik last week

Click For Large ViewIt had been a pleasant surprise when I had accepted an invitation to taste the unreleased Charosa wines at Pali Village Café in Bandra in October last year. Tempranillo Reserve 2008 was especially very impressive. Elegant, well balanced and complex wine had the making of a very fine wine. For the first vintage being tasted, all the wines were very clean and expressive. Therefore, I decided to take some time out and visit the winery and the vineyards last week .

‘Why is the company named Charosa? Is it a take-off on Barossa?’ This is a question asked often by curious visitors, says Parag Kamat, COO of Charosa Vineyards and Charosa Wineries, who accompanied me for a day visit to the winery situated about 55 kms from Nashik-240 kms and about 5 hours drive from Mumbai.

As the seemingly never- ending stretch of 55 kms ends at the winery and vineyards, one can get a sense of why the quality from the very first vintage turned out so well. The foundation stones have been very well-laid with Australian influence, rather than the usual French, quite apparent. The winery was built in 2011 with the winemaking protocols wet by Ian McKenzie, an Australian winemakers who is Chairman of the tasting panel of Wine Society of Australia, besides being the Director of the Wine Society.

The winery engineer who was responsible for the design and engineering of the equipment, Tom Hester is a leading Australian winery engineer with more than 25 years experience. He was actively involved in the winery process design and engineering and also equipment selection for Charosa. The Viticulture Consultants are also from Australia. So were the rootstocks some of which were also imported from France.

Click For Large ViewCharosa has used many a technical innovation claiming some of them to be the first-in any case they are helpful tools to monitor the quality of the vineyards and eventually the fruit. It has a computerized weather station that collects data and transmits it online over web and also gives the weather forecast. The drip irrigation system imported from Israel is fully automatic and computerized and helps deliver the right amount of water to the plants. A water body created by laying a 10km-long pipeline from the nearby dam and now reinforced by water from the rainfall is sufficient for the total water needs.

It is commendable that the company was able to buy the complete patch of 230 acres of land when it started buying land in 2008 even though there are a few acres that the farmers refused to sell in the hope of getting higher price later. 81 acres have been planted out of this land.

The tanks and most of the other equipment used is high-class Italian, using the gravitational flow with minimal handling of the fruit by hand. Interestingly, the winery boasts of contemporary vernacular architecture (domestic and functional rather than monumental buildings) but ‘with Tuscan look’ that is hard to comprehend. Although it is a fully functional winery but the finishing work remains to be completed at a future date. It would be stretching it a bit too much to see the Tuscan look just because it has a few undulating spots. If you have been to any Tuscan vineyards, and expect to find something similar, you might be disappointed though once inside the winery, you do feel you are inside one of the most modern wineries- overseas or in India.

Interestingly, from the human resource point there is a distinct imprint of Chateau Indage. Pralhad Parvatikar, Head Winery- Operations, is a mechanical engineer who has been the President of Indage and also L & T, bringing a lot of valuable direct experience with him; he has been with Charosa, since the day of the inception. Kamat is also a former Vice President –Sales, of Indage Vintners, who has a complete understanding of the Indian wine market. He is assisted by Clive Castelino who was an educator with Indage for several years and is helping in the marketing too. Ashok Patil, the winemaker has had a stint in New Zealand and is a good asset to the winery because of his dynamism.

Click For Large ViewThe good quality of wines may be attributed to the vision of Mr. Ajit Gulabchand who is a wine connoisseur with access to premium fine wines from overseas. Unlike many new entrants who claim to  make world’s best wines in India- a seemingly impossible task, his mission statement is simple and yet pragmatic, “Knowing Indian weather & soil conditions we cannot make World’s Best Wines but we can make Best Indian Wines which can compete with World’s Wines”. In fact, as Kamat says, the very concept of making wine came to his mind because he wanted to drink Indian wines but found none to his satisfaction.

The winery has a capacity of a million liters but is currently geared up to produce 500,000 liters (55,000 cases). The current years crush has been 175 tons whereas 250 tons is expected next year.

Charosa may not be the best producer of wines yet-the vines are still young though after dropping the fruit for 2-3 years, but the wines have generally come out exceptionally well. Undoubtedly some of the best wines will come out of this winery in future as was quite apparent from the tasting of the complete range and many from the tank samples. Tempranillo Reserve continues to be its best wine and rates among the Top Five wines. Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (both selling for Rs. 1500-1550) may look slightly overpriced but technically a very well made wine too. But the green capsicum notes in the aromas are slightly over-powering. My perception is that this is due to the young age of the vine and will develop better and more rounded bouquet in a couple of years; decanting before service would also help.

Sauvignon Blanc is very clean and expresses the vegetal, green grassy and herbaceous character of Nashik valley wines. A pleasant surprise was the Viognier Charosa Selections (Price Rs. 750-800). The 2-month ageing in new oak barrels has given it a complex character and yet it could do with some more oak aging (a rare occurrence in the wineries). Hopefully, Patil,  the winemaker can take the aging to a couple of notches higher, especially since next year the barrels would be a year old. With an optimum balance, this will become one of the great white wine options for the connoisseurs as it goes very well with various foods, especially the vegetarian fare including biryanis.

Click For Large ViewAnother feel-good factor came from another varietal Malbec resting in the tanks; the management is exploring various possibilities to use it. It would make a great varietal in the Pleasure Series which at Rs. 500-550 is more affordable yet the wine is very clean and palatable (details were in the previous article). This would be a perfect, affordable wine with Indian fare.

Company has ambitious plans to develop wine tourism. There are lots of possibilities but unless the roads from Nashik city to this location get better, it will be a limiting factor-unless there is a helicopter service at reasonable price. The helipad constructed at the winery site has never been used and is crying for the Chairman Gulabchand to pay a visit on a helicopter when he finds time. Nevertheless, because of the modern winery and the quality vision, there will be enough connoisseurs who would love to visit the winery which in times to come is shaping up to be the winery to visit and watch.

For the earlier related articles, visit:

Charosa ready to churn out Wines from Charosa
Launch: Charosa enters to create ripples in the Indian Wine Market
David of Charosa challenges Goliath of Dindori

Subhash Arora

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