Aug 31: With the launch of fruit wine from pomegranates and labelled as Anarkali, Nashik-based Somanda Vineyards has expanded its horizons beyond the conventional grape wine and has introduced two versions, off-dry (slightly sweet) and a sweeter version styled as Medium Sweet, which might be attractive to those who enjoy pomegranate as a fruit but enjoy high alcohol in their fruit wine, writes Subhash Arora
When you think of Anarkali, you are transported to the legend of Mughal-e-Azam and the illicit- love affair of Crown Prince Jahangir and the courtesan Anarkali (pomegranate blossom). The wine lovers might also think of Shiraz, the imported wine that was then popular with the Royalty and Nobility who imbibed wine. So it seemed to be an apt name for fruit wine made from Anar (pomegranate) introduced by Somanda Winery in an attractive label.
I am very fond of Anar as a fruit and so could not help but notice with interest the new wine released earlier this month by Pradeep Pachpatil, owner of Somanda Vineyards at the residence of the former Agriculture Minister and now a part of the Maharashtra Coalition, government-Sharad Pawar’s residence.
Made from pure pomegranate juice transported to the winery in Nashik, the wine is made in two distinct versions- the slightly dry (Gold Cap) priced at Rs. 1475 and medium sweet (Rs. 1400) in red cap. The fruit has a lot of antioxidants but the wine is also quite potent for a fruit wine, with 13% alcohol.
‘Farmers of pomegranate growing in Baramati region and we worked together for a year and tried small batches, but juice extraction was a challenge. Therefore, we decided to extract and freeze the juice in their plant from where they export juice, and brought it to Nashik in drums at -20⁰C,’ says Pachpatil who presented the first bottle to Pawar.
Somanda also tried similar wines from Israel where they make 3 variants. ‘Indrajeet Kakade, Kadam and other farmers roped me into this experiment,’ adds Pachpatil who justifies the relatively high price of the wine because the cost of juice including transportation and only a small quantity of around 2000 Liters (225 cases) made. It is available at the cellar door,and a few wine shops already stock it in Mumbai. In fact, Pachpatil was kind enough to organise the samples to be sent for tasting to Natasha Vohra, Assistant Editor of delWine, in Mumbai through a distributor as the bottles could not be sent to Delhi for my tasting.
Medicinal benefits of pomegranates are well known. However, it is too early to conclude that the wine would be superior to grape wine for health reasons. Pachpatil feels the life of this wine is as much as quaffable grape wine and suggests storing it for a maximum of 3 years.
As is common in most fruit wines, the aroma profile is not as intense as that of wines made from grapes. They do offer a quaffable substitute to those who love the pomegranate fruit though the higher acidity in the fruit makes the wine a bit harsh on the palate. The higher alcohol level than other fruit wines also makes it very tight on the palate.
This is the maiden vintage. One can hope for the alcohol and prices to come down in the following years. The quantity produced is also rather small so it should be considered as an experimental vintage. In fact, Pachpatil confirms he would be working on reducing the alcohol level and increasing freshness next year. ‘This was the first batch and it will definitely be better and taste like fresh juice. Many guests prefer such taste. In fact, one guest purchased a full case! I am sure they will definitely accept the taste and flavours,’ says Pachpatil with a note of confidence, adding, ‘we had compared the flavours with similar ‘Pome’ wines from Israel and it tastes just as smooth as the imported wine’.
Commenting on the seemingly high price, he says, ‘pricewise it is costing higher due to the schemes being offered to retailers. Another reason is the 20% VAT which is refunded (16%) on grape wines but not on fruit wines. Pomegranate fruit conditions are sometimes even worse than the grape market so the farmers are also looking for value addition.
With the taste of fruit wines like pomegranate and Jamun (another new kid on the block from Resvera Winery in Nashik) mapping closer to the fruit on the palate, it is possible that the government might even consider wines like Anarkali, as a naturally fermented fruit juice-and not liquor as it would be classified today’s Primary School of thought.
Meanwhile, the canvass of wines (including fruit wines) is getting bigger and bigger with the addition of exotic wines as Pome, Jamun and Chikoo. Mango would surely be the next fruit to tap!
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