July 28: Kanwal Grover Founder of Grover Vineyards in 1988 and a Doyen of the Indian wine industry passed away yesterday at the age of 85 in Mumbai after an illness of 2-3 months. He would have been 86 on August 4, says bereaved Kapil Grover, Director of GV, adding that the family had been planning a celebration for his 86th birthday.
Kanwal Grover was an unconventional man who decided at the age of 60, when people start planning their retirement; to convert his passion of wine into creating something for the future generation and made it a lifetime dedication. Accepting the immense challenge of growing French grape varieties in India for the first time, Kanwal Grover, together with George Vesselle took the onerous task of creating the first premium wine estate in India. He could be justifiably called the Father of Indian Viticulture.
He had the vision to make Indian wines known in the world as top quality wines and when Sham Chougule of Indage had focused on sparkling wine, he introduced wine grapes for the first time in India. He had the far-sight to engage Michel Rolland as his wine consultant on a long term basis by giving him minor stakes, much before he became one the top flying winemakers of the world. The La Reserve created in the 90s after his son Kapil joined him in the business in 1993; it is still considered the best value for money, high quality Indian red wine by critics throughout the world.
Because of his successful career of dealing with technical equipment and doing business with the French fro many years, he thought French and breathed French, with the philosophy-never to compromise on quality. He was perhaps the first to export wines to France. It was his philosophy that made them leaders in exports as a percentage of total business with around 20-25% of the production being exported. He was also decorated by the French for promoting business between France and India.
While Jancis Robinson and Steven Spurrier have been impressed by these wines and have so written among many journalists from across the world, Adam Strum, Managing Editor of Wine Enthusiast for whom Delhi Wine Club had organised a dinner with Grover’s wines on his visit to India about 5 years ago, said that the history of Indian wine industry would be written around wines like La Reserve. This could have been perhaps the best tribute to him in laying foundation for the wine industry of India as the New World wine producing nation.
Although he had handed reigns of the company to his younger son Kapil; the elder son Karan is an architect and not directly involved with the business, he was quite active in the policy making of the company and proudly drank his own wines with dinner.
His passing away is a great loss to the industry besides his immediate family. Our heartfelt condolences go to his sons Kapil and Karan and the grand-daughter Karishma who is a winemaker at the winery and other members of the family.
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