Dec 30: More and more fruit wines are entering the fray in India with Resvera Winery as the latest entrant with the wild forest Jamun fruit as the protagonist, making it the first winery in the world producing pure Jamun wines in 2 variants, writes Subhash Arora who is really impressed with the Tasting from the first season and is very optimistic about its excellent future
Keep a bottle of Jamun Wine in a cluster of any fine Indian (grape) wines and it is bound to outshine a vast majority in the appearance-the packaging is immaculate. When you taste the wine, a majority might not even realise it is not a grape wine but it will impress the Dickens out of you if you are a Jamun lover whether because of its anti-cancer and anti-diabetes properties or the exotic flavours.
The wine is the creation of Resvera Wines of which Nikhil Khode of the well-known Khode family of Nashik is the founder Director. He researched for about 5 years on the fruit before signing in the well-known Canadian fruit wine consultant Dominic Rivard who has been working with Fruzzante from the very beginning. Even for him, it has been a first time but after working together for 2 years, with his colleague Jay Hildybrant stationed at site for this duration, Resvera Winery (does it remind you of Resveratrol?) has introduced 2 variants- one is the Jamun red wine and the other is Jamun Light which is made in Rose style.
Made from Jamun brought in by about 1000 Adivasis from 5 places in Maharashtra- it is a reserve forest product which can be harvested only by Adivasis, according to Maharashtra laws. A lot of research is still going on but it has already proven to be a hit in the market. Dr. Neeraj Agarwal is the COO of Resvera and the former Head of Operations at Sula Vineyards where he started as a Viticulturist looking after the total viticulture and took VRS in 2017 after 18 years of employment. delWine had been in touch with him for over 3 months and he managed to finally send a couple of bottles for tasting.
What I saw and tasted was outstanding-almost incredible-thanks perhaps to his solid training at Sula. The packaging was superb-putting the wine in a premier class, with its wooden case packing for 2 bottles of Burgundy shape. The figure on the attractive label seems to be the outline of an Adivasi woman but Neeraj says it is taken from the Royal Touch of Rajasthan Palaces –interestingly, reversing the bottle makes it look like a wine glass!!
The wine has rich amber colour- almost like a fine Oloroso Sherry. On the nose it has warm spices and berry fruit that carries long into the flavour with fine notes of Jamun at the finishing end. Very clean wine with a medium long end and soft tannins and live acidity. I feel freshness is what will determine its ageing potential though the brilliant acidity will be a big help. Most fruit wines are to be consumed within a year but I believe it will be drinkable for at least 2-3 years.
Unlike the grape wine, it can be fermented at will. The fruit is available for a very short period of 20-30 days in the year just before the rainy season. But the time of maturity and harvest varies-starting from May in the Konkan region and extending to Jun/July in the Himalayan region. As soon as rains start, the fruit gets bruised and becomes unsuitable for wine. With different flavours from various areas-experiments are still underway to pick out the best fruits. It is therefore harvested and stored in cold storage within 15-20 kms from the site from where it is picked. Neeraj is very impressed with the cold chain created by Maharashtra for various fruits and vegetables. The fruit is de-stoned and pulp is stored in these cold storages where it can be stored for up to 2 years without any change in characteristics.
Fermentation is slow at low temperatures using yeasts suitable to fruit wines. The process takes about 3 months. It is fined and filtered and bottled immediately to keep the freshness. With the capacity of 100,000 liters (about 11000 cases), the next lot can be started-thus giving about 44,000 cases. The first year crush of about 550 tons is sufficient for about 40,000 cases- 4 fermentations would give this much quantity. As it is meant primarily for domestic market, Ajoy Shaw, former Chief Winemaker of Sula has been engaged as a Consultant to ensure that the flavour profile can mesmerize a maximum number of Indian palates.
But at Rs. 995 a bottle, it appears to be a bit expensive for a fruit wine. ‘This is because of the high cost of the fruit. ‘We buy it at Rs. 40-100 a kg. Retail price goes up to Rs. 300 a Kg depending on the season and demand which is fulfilled from all over India. Because of seeds, the yield is very low-from 30-60% instead of about 70% for grape wines. But we do have a cheaper version called Jamun Light which is a fresher, more aromatic and sweeter Rose Variant, available for Rs. 695.
The wine is already well distributed in Maharashtra. In Mumbai alone it is available at around 35 shops. Even in Gujarat it is available at 40 of the 59 shops authorised to sell liquor. Karnataka is next- to be followed by Chandigarh where the process of registration is simpler and cheaper. As expected, Delhi is at the bottom of the barrel with its retrograde policies.
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The Jamun wine has set a fine example in its maiden year and with improvements during the next few years, the Indian diaspora overseas can look forward to the healthier version of their favourite exotic fruit from India in its fermented version. Meanwhile, you can enjoy it with your favourite snacks and vegetarian foods as well as fish dishes. I had it last night with Thai steamed sole fish with lemon garlic cilantro sauce and it matched perfectly with it along with Bok Choy. Be experimental and try with a dish of your choice.
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