A wine rendezvous quite obviously entails tasting of wines and food to go along. It is only theorientation of such events that sets them apart on the basis of aspects like- the venue, exclusivity of wines and food and the profile of guests in attendance. Recently, the launch of Vijay Amritraj (VA) Reserve collection by Grover Zampa Vineyards (GZV) in New Delhi witnessed these elements, befitting the stature of the event that saw Mr Vijay Amritraj himself fly in from Los Angeles to mingle with wine lovers of Delhi. The venue was the expansive 2nd floor terrace of Hotel Leela Palace at Chanakyapuri where the who’s who of Delhi’s wine fraternity descended to enjoy the wines amidst an evening full of festive revelry (Diwali, the festival of lights being just a day away)- and some classy hors d’œuvres.
Having been launched earlier at London, Mumbai and Bangalore, the VA collection is the first ever attempt by an Indian producer to model wine around a celebrated personality. This bold step could probably not be taken by anyone else than one of the oldest and the most respected wine brands of India. Mr Kapil Grover, Chairman GZV informed the gathering that the wines had been developed in close coordination with the tennis ace over a span of two years, and as such, incorporate many aspects of his versatile personality of being a Hollywood actor and producer, UN messenger of peace and a wine connoisseur . Two variants – a red and a white, form this premium collection, which retail at Rs 1200.00 and £ 14.99 a bottle in India and the UK respectively.
The evening started with rounds of GZV’s sparkling wine Zampa Soirée Brut as the guests engaged in animated conversations with the top brass of the company present on the occasion. Shortly after the tennis legend arrived, the collection was launched with short and humorous talks by him and Mr Grover. The wines were then uncorked and flowed freely for the guests to sample. Around the wines I had the opportunity to have passionate discussions with both Mr Amritraj and Mr Grover that enabled me draw my own inferences on the legend’s specific personality traits mapped to the respective wines. I am listing these below:
VA Collection Red:
Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Viognier
Wine lovers would know that Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are two robust grape varieties with good level of tannins that are often used to provide backbone to a blend. Only a warm weather region could pull off the coup of having these two varietals to facilitate a blend that has sufficient ripeness while retaining an excellent structure. As I spoke to Mr Kapil Grover, inquiring about the premise of adding Viognier, he highlighted the reason being the desired upping of the fruitiness quotient- a common practice in the renowned blends coming from the famous Rhône valley in France.
Tasting Notes: Deep ruby red colour with a very expressive nose of red fruits, spice and discernible oak. Well structured with rounded tannins, a taste of red fruits and a long finish. Those who do not prefer prominently oaked wines may do well to reserve the bottle for an year or so, to enable the wood tannins to mature further. Ideal for pairing with rustic meat or well textured vegetarian dishes.
How it matches to VA’s personality: The potent volleys of the tennis ace are represented well by the wine’s bold demeanour. The aromatics (fruits, flowers,spice) imparted by Viognier bring out his colourful charm as a Hollywood artist- not to forget the wine’s complexity rendered by ageing in French oak barrels that signify his many skills.
VA Collection White:
The main challenge in a Viognier based wine is in getting the right acidity level, as the wine starts getting flabby with increasing ripeness. So what was boon for the red in our context could well have been a bane for this one. But I would say that VA Collection White has been managed very deftly going by its sprightly acidity that complements its fruity and floral notes rather well. The wine has been barrel-fermented which makes it toasty and creamier along with an extra chutzpah imparted by barrel maturation.
Tasting Notes: Straw coloured wine having aromas of white flowers and stone fruits. On the palate it is fruity with pleasing acidity and mild spiciness. A versatile wine that could be enjoyed as an aperitif or with food.
How it matches to VA’s personality: The noble grape varietal that has been adapted extremely well to the Indian conditions signifies Vijay’s momentous achievement of putting India on the world tennis map wherein he stood at No. 16 in the world rankings, beating well known worthy competitors such as Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. This Viognier may well establish India as being highly competent in producing a single varietal wine that defies traditional perceptions about terroir influences.
During my interaction with Sumedh Singh Mandla, CEO Grover Zampa Vineyards, he brought out that apart from India, the key markets envisaged for these premium wines are UK, USA Europe and South East Asia, where the initial response to the wines has been very encouraging.
With GZV wines winning 05 medals at the recently concluded Decanter Asia Wine Awards (DAWA) 2013, the VA Reserve collection has lots to cheer about. Developing wines around a famous personality may also work well in the interest of the consumer, as the producer will be obliged to maintain the wine style over the years- a quality measure that has so far been lacking in the unregulated Indian wine scene.