Oct 14: Sula has recently introduced the improved version of Rāsā Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Zinfandel with modernistic, chic packaging, with RĀSĀ Cabernet and Zin being in the Bordeaux style bottle and Syrah (Shiraz) in the wider Burgundy bottle design- claiming entry into the Indian world of high-ended top wines, keeping prices about the same, with the wine in its new Avatar shining better than ever, writes Subhash Arora
Hasn’t the label been in existence for many years? Yes, that’s correct. I also put the same question to Rajeev Samant, the Founder CEO of Sula Vineyards, who has multiple offices around the globe but I caught up with him in Dubai. Rāsā label was born as the high-end label in 2007- 8 years after Sula surfaced on the Indian wine scene. Shiraz was the first varietal launched in 2009. Cabernet Sauvignon followed in 2015 whereas the third label that completes the RĀSĀ Trinity-Zinfandel was introduced recently with 2018 being the first vintage.
‘We have of course been evolving over the years. As you know, we started mainly with white wines and our Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc were instant hits,’ reminisces Rajeev. In fact, Nashik came to be known as the great area for white wines. He becomes quite pensive as he says,’ I have been drinking wines from all over the world but when it comes to Sula wines, I realised I was drinking whites much more often- even as the sale of red wines was increasing and we were expanding the range.’
Give me better Red
For the last few years, the theme seems to have changed from ‘ Better give me Red to Give me Better Red. 'We have been giving a re-look at the whole regimen of red winemaking, even though our quality has been improving. With RĀSĀ , we have been tasting each and every single barrel and we’ve selected only the ones which were up to our expectations. We’ve worked a lot on our barrel ageing, alongside our barrel hygiene, and we got exactly what we wanted; expressive wines, personification of our terroir, with really balanced primary and secondary flavors,' says Rajeev.
‘We also went for a different packaging- chic, bold, yet elegant design that stands out in the crowd. We had been looking at the New World for packaging earlier. This time we assigned our Global Brand Ambassador & AVP Tastings & Marketing, Gregoire Verdin to be the Manager for Packaging. He did a lot of work in Bordeaux and results are here to see-we are extremely happy with the new packaging,’ he adds.
‘With the much-improved packaging and improvement over the years in the vineyards and grape selection and finally, the barrel hygiene management gave us a truly world class wine- especially Shiraz. We are making it in fine Northern Rhone style and even changed the varietal name from Shiraz to the French SYRAH,’ says Rajeev.
The label design is a contemporary take on Indian winemaking with sleek and minimalistic art which speaks elegance, class and fine wine. It is already available in Mumbai and is on its way to Bengaluru. Gurgaon will soon have it. 'We will have to wait and watch the Delhi excise policy to decide on our future course of action anyway,’ says Rajeev.
Keeping in line with the use of screwcaps on most wine bottles at Sula, RĀSĀ also uses screwcaps with the traditional design, although Sula could have looked for even more contemporary screwcaps used by some of the foreign companies like the French Le Grand Noir, that give the cork closure look.
But why the Burgundy type bottle for Syrah while the other two are Bordeaux styles, I ask. Rajeev says, ‘the wine is truly a Northern Rhone style wine-where they use Burgundy type, wider bottles. Even Chateauneuf-du Pape which uses Syrah as one of the ingredients (up to 13 grapes in all but predominantly Grenache) also uses essentially a Burgundy-type bottle though embossed with the local crest.’
When placed and tasted side-by-side, one would find the new Avatar RĀSĀ tastes positively superior to the older version Rāsā which is being replaced in steps with the switch making it an excellent example of premiumisation.
Interestingly, prices have generally not been increased. RĀSĀ Cabernet Sauvignon retails at Rs. 1850 in Maharashtra though it is expensive for Delhi at Rs. 2290. The RĀSĀ Syrah variant at Rs. 1695 in Maharashtra is surprisingly lower at Rs. 1450 Delhi and makes it the Best Buy of the three. RĀSĀ Zinfandel (known as Primitivo in Apulia, southern Italy) at Rs.1540 in Maharashtra (Rs. 1440 in Delhi) is the lowest priced of all and has higher alcohol and is not as dry but also robust.
RĀSĀ Cabernet Sauvignon is made from grapes grown in their prime vineyards. It is a powerful, elegant and full-bodied wine. The delicious RĀSĀ Syrah has about 5% Viognier (Think North Rhone!) to make it supple. It is rich, opulent with typical notes of pepper. Black fruits, dark red berries, oak vanilla, mocha and spices are the hallmark of flavours for this elegant wine. The dry, full-bodied wine with medium acidity and fruit has been matured in French oak for 14-16 months, making it a complex wine that will age gracefully for a decade or more. RĀSĀ Zinfandel has been aged for 4 months in the French oak barrels. It is quite vivacious, with smooth flavours of plums and blueberries with rich texture and luscious taste. All these wines are made with strictly sustainable practices and utmost respect for the environment.
In order to give it unique branding and differentiation from Sula, The Source and Dindori, Sula is also gradually delinking the label from Brand Sula and has an independent website. Apparently, it is going in the direction of a totally independent top quality label. Rajeev is very proud of these high-end wines and is confident they will win several medals in the international wine competitions. For details visit www.rasavineyards.in
For wine lovers looking for top quality red wine without burning a (big) hole in their pockets RĀSĀ brings out one of the best wines India produces. Knowing the general preference of Indians for Syrah (Shiraz), delWine can recommend looking at the 3 bottles and pick out the widest (Burgundy-styled) bottle at the check-out counter in a 6-pack though we advise buying 2 of each variant the first time to decide what you best like.
Of course, now there would also be the Dindori Shiraz, aged in American oak with the improved barrel hygiene programme, ready to welcome the consumer looking for prices, around Rs. 400-500 lower.
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