If one were to make a list of the best places in the world to drink wine, India wouldn’t be one to be strongly placed. In fact, it wouldn’t even register the weakest blip on the viticulture radar. This isn’t surprising given our desi penchant for whiskey, rum, the climactically-suited chilled glass of beer and the more au courant gin craze.
While places like Goa do display a prowess for the Portuguese colonial hand-me-down of the cloying sweet port wine, the mainstream wine-drinking scene is a much more recent, and unequivocally nascent one. But over the last decade or so, thanks to a burgeoning wine industry, there has been a perceptible shift.
Engineering this fillip has been the establishment of several indigenous vineyards and wine labels, particularly in the new world wine belts of Maharashtra and Karnataka. Along with concerted efforts by trained wine masters and sommeliers to bring wine to the forefront of the drinking scene, is the setting up of several restaurants and wine bars that feature extensive wine lists and dedicated enotecas and cellars.
We introduce you to a few such wine-fronted places across the country.
In perfect sync with the plated, multi-course dinner experience that this Indian fine dining, ever-changing food menu restaurant is known for, the wines on offer here are some of the best in their class. The list of over 70 wines comprises of some robust reds, such as the velvety El Goru from Jumilla, Spain and the complex and elegant Metal Label Durif from Riverina, Australia. For those with a penchant for bubblies, the ebullient Villa Sandi Aslo Prosecco from Veneto, Italy, never fails to impress. These are all stored in a dedicated, on-site cellar, equipped with optimal temperature and humidity controls, to ensure the perfect food and wine pairing.
An extension of the Italian restaurant La Brezza that’s housed in the Jaypee Greens Golf & Spa Resort, as its name suggests, Enoteca was one of the first wine bars to open in the NCR over a decade ago. Offering a list in excess of 40 international and Indian wines to choose from, all displayed in true enoteca style in floor-to-ceiling glass cabinets. Full-bodied Italian reds like Montepulcianos and Sangioveses on offer here work well with pasta dishes such as the rigatoni al forno and mains like the costolette di agnello (grilled rack of lamb). While whites like the fruity Falanghina from Campania complement the subtle flavours of the umami-rich fungi e tartufo pizza.
This brand new contemporary European restaurant with a wine-forward ethos claims to have India’s first and one-of-its-kind below-ground old European-style wine cellar. This cavernous stone-clad space sits twelve feet below ground level, with the capacity to hold almost two thousand bottles of wine along with an exclusive tasting zone. Each of the 51 wines on offer has a definite set of both savoury and sweet dishes that pair best with them. Take for example a red like the Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhône Syrah from France that is twinned with both the steak skewers with au poivre starter, as well as with a main like the braised Bannur lamb shoulder. Even rare to find (in India, at least) dessert wines like the Vietti Moscato d’Asti Tre Vigne Piedmont from Italy is paired with the burnt orange chocolate mousse for that perfect bitter-sweet finish to your meal here.
The 30-plus varieties of wines at this new multi-cuisine resto-bar are housed in a wall unit that is easily visible for all to appreciate and one that forms the focal point of the space. Here, the focus is on a wine list with a wide selection of premium age-worthy wines and affordable young house wines to cater to all palates. This includes bestsellers like the El Volquete from Tempranillo in Spain, Stonecross Deetleefs Chenin Blanc from South Africa and for a more fruity, refreshing palate, the French Dog Grenache Rose from France. We’re told that plans are afoot to soon start wine masterclasses on site along with an even wider selection of wines that will be sold by the carafe, which is generally enough for two generous wine glass pours.
With a name more befitting an alcohol retailer (it also has an on-site bottle shop) than a resto-bar, The Wine Company very understandably has one of the most extensive wine lists in the Delhi NCR, offering over 40 varieties of reds, whites, roses and sparkling wines. Keeping the vibe and list fresh and young, most of these wines are from the new-age wine-producing regions. This means one gets to pick from reds like a La Fantasia Carmene from Chile and the robust Trapiche Oak Cask Malbec from Argentina to have with mains like the quinoa edamame biryani and the BBQ pork ribs. The Cloudy Bay Chardonnay from New Zealand and the Robert Mondavi Woodbridge Pinot Grigio from the US are great examples of zesty whites that pair well with seafood dishes like spaghetti gamberi and seafood risotto. Also on offer is a wine flight called ‘Wine Trails’ with three wines (75ml) on offer and regular wine-tasting sessions. Both are designed to demystify the wine-drinking experience for the wine novice.
Exuding serious speakeasy vibes, right from the heavy curtains and tiny ‘Wine Bar’ lettering that separate and delineate it from the rest of the perennially buzzing cafe, is this wine bar. At this 30-seater sky blue tiled bar, one feels transported into the Bombay of yore with plenty of bentwood chairs fronted by wooden tables. The rather unpretentious wine list has everything from Indian wine brands like the ubiquitous Sula (chenin blanc), sette from Fratelli to organic wines from Italy, and sauvignon blancs from Bordeaux, France. These are all available by the glass, carafe or bottle. Tapas like crab cakes, smoked rawas carpaccio and chicken yakitori pair well with wines like The All Rounder by York Vineyards, Nashik. This one is a unique blend of sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc grapes.
Balancing a rather tough act of coupling wines with a spice-lead cuisine like Thai, both the outlets (BKC and Colaba) of the brand operate with a similar wine list, as the selection is a considerable one with over 85 wines on offer. Both in harmony with the dishes on offer. These are kept in temperature-controlled cellars, with the whites at an understandably lower temperature level than the reds. Dishes like the chicken larb gai and the aromatic steamed John Dory fish are paired with sparkling wines such as the Riunite Lambrusco from Italy, and a few light and fruity whites like Dr Schmitt Riesling from Germany. The more full-bodied meat dishes like the nua phad prik lamb and the kang massaman je lamb curry work well with medium reds like the Chateau Gomin from France.