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Two Indians at Ningxia Wine Challenge

Posted: Tuesday, 08 December 2015 15:13


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Two Indians at Ningxia Wine Challenge

Dec 08: An unprecedented viticultural and cultural experiment is underway in the Ningxia region of China where 48 winemakers from 18 nations including 2 from India-Parikshit Pramod Teldhune and Priyanka Kulkarni are practicing their craft as part of a 2-year contest of winemaking with over US $110,000 in cash prizes, writes Subhash Arora who wishes them luck and hopes more would participate and get selected next year

Click For Large ViewWith the internationalization of Indian wines it is not surprising that Indian winemakers have not been left behind and have started finding their place in the field outside India and eventually the talent will be hopefully available to the Indian wine industry.

Ningxia Winemakers Challenge is a two-year project organized by the wine federation of theregion with support from the grape industry development bureau. Each of the 48 winemakers, who finally joined the programme out of 60 selected, has been teamed with a local winery and assigned a three-hA plot of grapes to make wine. The winemakers from 18 countries included 2 from India- Parikshit Pramod Teldhune of Nashikand Priyanka Kulkarni of Mumbai.

On September 20 each winemaker was partnered with a winery by drawing lots. This was followed by a second draw to decide which plot each team would use from a collective vineyard, according to Jim Boyce on his website Grape Wall of China, who has been a consultant to the project since May and since it started in 2012.

Most winemakers stayed for about 20 days, with additional visits planned over the next two years before the wines are judged in the fall of 2017. At that time, wines scoring in the top10 percent will be awarded rmb100,000 ($15,800) each while the next 20 percent get rmb 20,000 ($3160 each). Winemakers are also entitled to carry home 2,000 bottles of their wine. (One wonders how they will bring them home to India without paying customs and excise duties; perhaps they should start seeking the waiver that they would richly deserve, in case they hopefully win the prize money).

Parikshit Pramod Teldhune

Click For Large ViewParikshit is a Christian who hails from a conservative family in Nashik. He was inspired by the expanding wine industry in the region to become a winemaker. ‘Family support was very helpful since wine is still conceived as a liquor business and the conservative parents still don’t want their children to get into it,’ he admits, adding ‘but with my training even my parents got to know wines & appreciate it now.’

Teldhune studied to be a wine technologist from Vasant Dada Sugar Institute, Pune. He also did his food technology. After working in Renaissance winery, Reveilo wines, & passing WSET Advance Certificate (Level 3) in wines & spirits from Hong Kong with Merit & Distinction he did 2 years harvest in Bali Indonesia with Cape Discovery Wines-an Australian venture which imports grapes from around the world & does the vinification & bottling in Bali. ‘I was selected as a Finalist for Ningxia Winemaker's Challenge earlier this year. NWC is being organized by the International Federation of Vine and Wine of Helan Mountain’s East Foothill, with support from the Ningxia Grape Industry Development Bureau. The winery I was partnered with, is Chateau Yuquan Xixia King- a government project’ he tells delWine.

‘Ningxia is actually a region close the Helan mountains which has good climate for grape growing, where the soil is sandy & has clay. The big producers like Pernod, Chandon, already have wineries here. The challenge was posted on Facebook by Jim Boyce and maybe helpful to the budding professionals for future. I applied & the panel of judges selected me out of over 150 applications. it was great feeling for me to be selected & finally my skills will be tested in winemaking with new region, new country,’ he says.

Priyanka Kulkarni

Click For Large ViewPriyanka Kulkarni joined the 3-year Bachelors Program in Wine Technology in Nashik after her schooling in Mumbai. Then she landed a job as an assistant Winemaker at York Winery where she also had an opportunity to work with Team Chandon. She was selected for the Masters Program called Vinifera Euromaster in Montpellier, France, out of a total of 33 applicants. The 2nd rank also helped her get a full scholarship from the European Union.

The 2-year programme was organized in different European Countries. Consequently, she spent great deal of time learning winemaking in France, Portugal and Spain. She was also involved in research activity and even published her research in a food science Journal about ‘Aging over Lees of Red Wines’.  After completing her Masters she set out on a journey to have harvest experience in different countries. She has worked 8 harvests in Portugal, New Zealand, USA, India and China. 

Currently working for a Winery called Williams Selyem in Healdsburg in Sonoma she will head towards New Zealand in March for her next harvest. 

Ningxia Wine Challenge

‘I came across the application procedure while I was on Facebook, and applied for it. To my delight I got selected in the list of 60 candidates out of about 140 applications from winemakers around the world. Only 48 actually turned up for the Challenge. Each Winemaker was paired with a host winery in China, by a draw of lots. I am supposed to make Cabernet Sauvignon wine from 15 tons of fruit. All the winemakers get the fruit from the same vineyard site and each wine maker has an allocated plot to pick fruit from.’

Click For Large View‘I spent 15 days in china to make my wine. It was very challenging as you have no control over the vineyard, and for me as winemaker that is the foremost important aspect in wine making. The Vineyards there are like wild bushes, which have not been pruned. A lot of vegetative growth makes it difficult for ripen the fruit. The weather this year was also not perfect for getting perfect maturity of Cabernet Sauvignon. But Overall it’s a great learning experience that teaches you to get out of your comfort zone and deal with what you have get on your plate and make the best out of it and helps you learn how to deal with patience,’ she says. 

Things are pretty new and people are still learning the whole thing about what suits best for wine making. Nevertheless, I tried some very good Chinese wine while I was there. I will be heading to China again in January or February to take care of my Wine.’ 

The world of wine has never seen a contest quite like this and it symbolizes the spirit of a region growing by leaps and bounds. Virtually unknown even five years ago, Ningxia has emerged as one of the planet’s most intriguing places, with some of its wines winning praise from critics like Jancis Robonson and recognition from contests like the Decanter World Wine Awards and Concours Mondial de Bruxelles.

It’s good to know that two Indians are a part of the Challenge and we hope they bring laurels for the country by winning the top 10% awards. DelWine wishes them good luck.

Cheers! Jai Ho!!

Subhash Arora

The List of NWC Participants

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