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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Monday, December 08 2008. 12:52

Paul Bailey: Man from La Zampa

In a short span of a few months Zampa waves have hit Mumbai, Pune, Haryana  and now Delhi  with Rajasthan wine market soon to be invaded  with its three premium labels, informed Paul Bailey, the Australian winemaker at the Delhi Golf Club tasting last week where Subhash Arora was present and chatted with him.

When I met Deepak Roy, the co-promoter of Vallée de Vin with his partner Neeraj Deorah at the IndSpirit 2008 in Mumbai last month, my first question was, 'Why a name like Vallée de Vin?' It sounded too pseudo, too French. He simply pointed out to the signage on the stand which, displaying Zampa Wines was a hint that a suitable name change may be in the barrel.

And what about the label Zampa? Was it the Ying and Yang of wines with his former UB boss, Vijay Mallya already bringing out Zinzi making it the Zinzi and Zampa of wines? Perhaps some brand agency in Bangalore had recommended both the labels? Again no answer that I remember.

One thing that the company seems to have done right, after buying 17 acres of land in Sanjegaon, near Iggatpuri, Nashik is to have enrolled the services of an Australian winemaker and a viticulturist when things were at the ground level. This appears to be a contrarian decision; most producers look to the West for such expertise- France being the Most Favoured Nation.

'The brief to me and Simon Robertson was that we must have a premium wine which should compete against the best in India,' says Paul who is very optimistic about the Indian wine industry future, 'or else why would I choose to be here almost full time?'

Bailey's Background

Paul's been into wine since the age of 14 when he did a school project on wines. He studied Oenology at Roseworthy College in South Australia-now a part of the world famous Adelaide University, says Paul. Since his degree (3-year course then-now 4 years) in 1992 he worked for 10 years in the famous Barossa Valley, Mildura and Sydney before moving to Orlando Winery which makes the ubiquitous Jacobs Creek (which according to him produces some very good price/quality Reserve wines-and we agree!). He started consulting with VDV in August 2006 and last year was enticed to join them as Senior Wine maker.

He spends 7 months a year driving through the dusty roads of Nashik in his Indica car, meeting the locals, imparting his wine knowledge and trying to make sure the quality of fruit is as good as it gets. 'We have contracted with farmers to give us fruit by the acre and not by kilo-the usual practice. This way he knows that if the yield is lowered, he will not lose revenues and also he has no incentive to hoodwink us and produce more fruit than what we want on per acre basis,' he says.  

Latest Techniques and Technology

Paul brings the latest international practices and techniques in winemaking to India. For instance he has installed a Cool Room at Vallée de Vin. This ensures that the grapes are cooled to a temperature ideal for creating more aromatic and flavourful wines.

He has employed whole bunch pressing to preserve the freshness of the fruit and maintain the softness of wine. 'The wine should become an expression of the vineyard and its origins. We must get the viticulture right. Our Chenin, for instance is soft, clean and fresh. It would be unfair to compare it with Loire Valley or South Africa. It is typical of Nashik,' he says.

With 15 years of winemaking experience under his belt, Paul has a long list of achievements, including the 2004 Great Australian Shiraz Challenge Trophy and the London International Wine & Spirit Show Trophy for best vintage red wine.

Guided Wine Tasting

Paul took the members of the Delhi Golf club through a quick journey of the three labels including the just soft-launched Syrah Rose 2008. The Chenin Blanc 2008 and Syrah 20007, slightly oaked through oak staves were the other staple pair of Nashik varietals.

The most noteworthy feature of all 3 wines was that they were clean (in layman's language, there were no off-putting smells that many of the Nashik produced wines are now infamous for). The sugar level in both the Rose and white were low; less than 5 gms/liter, which has again been a rarity in Nashik's off-dry, slightly sweet white wines till recently.

Rosé would be a good wine with Indian food, with only a touch of tannins in the foreground and a little extra acidity providing the backbone as well as making it possible to handle the fatty foods and snacks. The tropical fruit flavoured white wine can last a couple of years longer in the bottle due to acidity. Also, the usual bitter taste in the back palate was minimal for the Chenin Blanc. 'It will evolve into honey and tropical flavours with a small loss of freshness,' explains Paul.

The Syrah had a hint of oak vanilla which might be short lived on the palate due to the staves used only. But it had a pleasant mouthfeel of berries, coffee and mocha. As Paul confirmed, they have already purchased 18 French hog-heads (300-liter oak barrels) and 12 nos. of 500 liter barrels and one would see more complexity in the future reds due to this addition. 

Prices vs. Quality

At the MRP of Rs. 570 for the Chenin Blanc and Rs. 600 for the Shiraz with Rose to follow at Rs. 580, are the wines not priced higher than the market? 'Well, we had taken the decision right in the beginning that we shall not play with the quality and must keep high standards. Naturally, the cost of production is higher and the result is visible in the taste in the glass. Most of our customers are willing to pay slightly extra for the superior quality,' says Paul with conviction, adding, 'it is now for Ashish and his team to build the brand and impress upon the customers about the premium quality.'

According to Ashish Kohli, Marketing Manager for the Northern region, wine has already been listed at premium restaurants and hotels like Olive Beach, The Lalit, Magique, Tonino and Veda with repeat orders trickling in.

Nashik Quality

Most foreign observers feel that the Indian wines are green and vegetal in character. Recently a group of foreign wine producers and wine makers who were judging at the Indian Wine Challenge had visited Nashik and tasted almost the full range of Indian wines and this was their consensus too. What does Paul say about it?

'I feel this is due to the farmers taking too much fruit out. The grapes remain phenolically unripe although the potential sugar (Brix level) is reached. We at Zampa, control this by keeping the yield low- our target is 3 tons from our vines. We also keep the extraction lower at 600 liters per tonne for whites and 720-750 liters for the reds, which is less than the industry. It will help that we have imported A and B clones which are of superior quality.' 

Vines of Vallee de Vin

Although VdeV vineyards have already been planted, the first fruit comes out in 2009. Like any good winemaker, Paul understands the benefits of the long aged vines and the limitation of the younger ones. Initially, using the judicious blends, he hopes later to segregate some premium blocks in the vineyards to make reserve wine or use his blending expertise to ferment different parcels of grapes separately and get the judicious mix to improve the wine quality. 'Of course, we are looking at adding more vine land to our portfolio and hope to add a big chunk soon,' he says. 

Range to expand

What other labels does Zampa plan to bring out-after all three labels make a portfolio not? 'We plan to launch four more premium wine label by the year end. These include the Cabernet Sauvignon, the Sparkling and the Syrah Rosé Sparkling. The company also plans to launch a Viognier and some reserve wines next year,' he informs.

Entering the important markets in a blitzkrieg with the help from Paul and Simon, Zampa which has taken a launch lead from UB's Four Seasons, seems to have passionate plans to proliferate the Indian wine market with wine tourism, tasting room and opening wine bars on its agenda-like many other wine producers of the region.

The Indian wine consumer never had it so good! And for those who have been waiting to turn to 25 or have the first heart attack to switch from whisky to wine, the time was never better to start!

Subhash Arora


Posted By : Sanjiv K Singh
December 09, 2008 16:13
Well done guys, keep up the good work, your chenin blanc is simply fabulous. The shiraz opens up very well after decanting and tastes fantastic.

Posted By : Saji Joseph

December 09, 2008 08:01

congrats to all behind this,a great success waiting on your way good luck


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