GROVER ZAMPA - WINES OF INDIA
One of the oldest wineries in India, Grover vineyards (GZ) was set up in 1988 with 1992 as their first successful vintage. With more than 200,000 cases under production today, it stands second in volume to Sula, which is by far the leading and the most visible brand across India at present. As updated by the company officials, over the years, substantial investment has gone into Grover Zampa by way of merger with Vallée de Vin based out of Nashik (owned by Ravi Jain, Deepak Roy and Neeraj Deorah) in 2012 which along with Grovers hold 28% stake in the company (the name Zampa was added on to Grovers after this merger, the name taken from Vallée de Vin’s, Zampa range of wines). This association has paved way for the company to expand into Maharashtra and more importantly access the influential market of Mumbai (which is about 3 hours drive south west towards the coast), apart from Nandi Hills in Karnataka (Deccan plateau) where historically they have always had a dominating presence. Another 19% stake is owned by Reliance and in 2016, Singapore based Visvires Capital run by Ravi Vishwanathan acquired 32% stake in the company (French wine maker Edouard Labruyère has also gained access to investment through this route also). The balance is held amongst smaller investors. Roughly 800,000 litres of wine are processed at present and with additional unused capacity of tanks, this can be taken to up to 1,500,000 litres in the coming years.
VINEYARDS AND TERRAIN
According to Hemant Waluj, the chief winemaker of GZ in Igatpuri (Nasik), where GZ houses some of its owned vineyards and a purpose built winery, “Soils in Nashik are very suited for viticulture due to the red clay (murum) interspersed with sand which brings in a desirable level of porosity, making the soils free draining. Coupled with some deceptively steep gradients of upto 300-500 metre that are not uncommon, the region of igatpuri is very viable for wine grape growing bringing in refreshing fruit flavours balanced with notable acidity.” Growing season starts in October. The timing works well as sparkling wine grapes are harvested first in January, followed by the whites in early February. Reds are picked depending on the grape type and maturity levels between the middle of February to March. The vintage pattern follows the southern hemisphere that may confuse some of us. This is because the summer months are too hot to reap quality grapes and this time is used to prune and budding is consciously restricted to give the plants a break from the fruiting cycle. Grover is one of the few vineyards aiming for sustainable viticulture using selective harvesting methods and working towards responsible vinification practices in India. Here is a video below taken at Grover Zampa in Nasik, where I talk with the wine making team, Hemant Waluj and Parikshit Teldhune along with Sushant Soni from the Hospitality Team
With some of the most superior technology jacketed stainless steel tanks from Italy, GZ makes use of varying tank ranging from 25,000l to 2,500l sizes to optimise volumes from its diverse range of grapes. Apart from own 12 acre of owned plantation they also source grapes from 150 acre of rented vineyards and hence each of these plots and grapes are fermented separately to retain their unique flavours. GZ use the services of Michel Rolland’s team who come in for sample tasting of each plot and then advice on the best blends to maximise the quality of flavours. Lallemond range of yeast are the normally used to induce fermentation. A walk around their 3 acre winery will give you an idea of the multitude of tanks, filters, compact gyropalette, the sparkling wine disgorging line and also a sub 4 degrees temperature controlled cellar where they age their sparkling wines.
WINES TASTING NOTES
Below are some of the wines I tasted recently with the team organised by Karishma Grover, daughter of Kapil Grover. To read more on her, please click on Sumilier Stars.
Grover Sauvignon Blanc, Art Collection 2017
An easy drinking style of sauvignon blanc with lemon and grassy notes, slightly green on the nose but softens out on the palate. Very zingy in personality and fruit forward. (84/100)
Vijay Amritraj Reserve Collection White, 2017 (Tank Sample)
Viognier 2017 (tank sample)
Priced at INR 1500 (~£17.50), this is one of the premium range of GZ wines where quality is notable. Selective harvesting is done and only the best quality grapes go into the making of this wine. Fermented in oak barrels and ageing for upto 9 months in barrels (20% French Oak and 80% American oak). Ripe yellow stone fruits peach and apricot on the palate with mouthwatering acidity which is very well balanced with the fruity style of the wine, the texture is subtly rich without being overly done. A well-crafted viognier maintaining focused and lean acidity! (91/100)
La Réserve Blanc 2017 (Blend of Sauvignon Blanc & Viognier)- Tank Sample
Priced at INR 1000 (~GBP 11.50), there is overt tropical expression with mango, pineapple and apricot fruit notes, the acidity is definitely a notch above VA Viognier but the palate has rich and creamy texture and the wine is full bodied making it a strong contender to be paired with wholesome foods. (91/100)
Zampa Soiree Brut 2015 Brut 100% Chenin Blanc
An elegant sparkling wine made in the traditional champagne methods with impressive buttery and creamy texture, energetic bubbles and a vibrant fruit fuelled expression. The bubbles give way to subtle toasty finish. (residual sugar 8-10 g/l) (89/100)
Zampa Soire Brut Rosé 2014
Made of out of Shiraz grapes, the pressing is done very gently for a maximum of an hour to gain the light pink colour. This pressing is enough to bring out the rounded, creamy raspberry fruit notes. The acidity is noticeable but lower than the Soiree Brut, tannins are gentle but not imminent. Biscuity notes are vivid and the bubbles are vigorous and persistent. Would go well with lamb kebabs and meaty nibbles for aperitif. Priced at INR 1,200. (88/100)
(I was also informed that second and more consistent pressings of the wine are added into the red table blend and the last press goes into the table range of rosé get the last of the pressings.)
GZ, Art Collection Shiraz Still Rosé
Consistent and good typicity with red forest berry notes. There is a hint of floral personality and the wine has a delicate, crowd pleaser appeal to it. (83/100)
La Réserve Red 2016 (80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Shiraz)
Started off as one of the first wines of Grover Zampa, safely can be counted as their most reliable and quality wine, consistently increasing in character and finesse over the years and improving in age worthiness as the vines take shape and root themselves into the Indian terroir.
The wine expresses ripe red plum and cherry character with some hints of black currants. The shiraz although only 20% adds a lot of character to the wine, with its rich leather notes and adding a gentle polished structure. Tannins are what make this wine very distinct. Very ripe, dense yet smooth as silk, they make this wine an instant hit! Declared by Steven Spurrier in 2005 as the best New world wine, GZ have ensured that they keep up with the reputation year on year. Priced at INR 1000, this is a highly enjoyable and aromatic expression of this blend showing style and finesse, at the same time, captivating the palate with an elegant, approachable appeal. (89/100)
Vijay Amritraj Reserve Collection, Red 2016
(80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Shiraz and 1% Viognier)
Select plots are chosen for this wine. A soft and rounded aromatic expression with a good mix of red fruit and black cherry notes, there is marked acidity backed with fine and polished tannins. Oak flavours are mellow and integrate well into the fruit flavours giving just the soft edge of the vanilla, smoke and toasty character giving this wine a complex and long finish. Rhone appeal is visibly evident here. Elegant wine making skills gone into this blend. (91/100)
Chéne Grande Reserve 2015
(Shiraz 65% and Tempranillo 35%)
With production limited to no more than 500 cases, this is the top end of the range priced at INR 1,750 (~£20). Select hand-picked grapes go into this wine. Aged for upto 15 months in select French barrels, this is an ostentatious red with ripe and baked blackberry and black plum backed with smoke and toast, black pepper, liquorice, cinnamon and cloves. Well defined with robust ripe silk tannins, the finish has chocolate and coffee beans. Full bodied concentrated and dense, this is a rich wine to be paired with a meat laden dinner. (93/100)
Auriga Brut 2017 Limited edition launch
On the 1st November 2017, GZ launched a limited edition of Auriga, a new sparkling ceremonial wine to mark the occasion of the upcoming festive season and year end celebrations. Named after the constellation Auriga, the wine is made with 100% Chenin Blanc, has additional sparkly 24 carat glittery gold flakes added to enhance its glitter, making it that extra indulgent! I was privilege to hold this bottle and show case it, when I happened to visit the winery around the time of release.
With a total of around 30 wines under their belt, the growth for Grover Zampa has been stellar but not without a fair of share of regulatory and operational hurdles that they managed to overcome over the years while keeping alive their passion and enthusiasm to produce quality wines for the country. Some of the key achievements so far include:
- GZ’s crafting of India’s first reserve wine named, La Réserve that was released in 1998 and re-launched in 2012 after the Grover Zampa merger, bringing out a more distinct and international wine making style under Karishma Grover’s talented wine making skills (daughter of Kapil Grover)
- GZ is also India’s first producer of Tempranillo grapes (planted in 2010) which goes into creating their Chéne brand (more in the Tasting notes above)
- In 2014, they also released the Vijay Amritraj “VA” range of wines (endorsed by legendary tennis player Vijay Amritraj) which have been pushing the boundaries for premium category Indian wineGZ wines have not only won national awards from Spritiz group but also international awards from Decanter China and IWC, growing and gaining acceptance and respect from the world wine trade. A commendation that is prestige worthy for a nascent industry thus far showing mighty potential!
- In particular, is their elegant Sparkling range of wines made in the Method Traditionnelle, which has ever since become a favourite of mine, with a minimum of 9 months on the lees while some of the batch are on the experimental ageing for upto 3 years stored under tightly controlled cool temperature zones in the winery. The ultimate aim is to add that extra splash of complexity, toast and creamy notes.
- Exports of GZ are also on the rise with close to 20% production being shipped annually to Japan, US, Australia, Singapore
With majestic wines on the offer, Grover Zampa is on a steep upward curve, spearheading with a mission to instil quality, backed by numerous International and National Wine awards (such as Decanters and IWC) to its credit. Preserving international traditions of wine craftsmanship is high on their priority but equally important is their intention to safeguard and enrich the broader national ethics, while carving out a new space for the savvy and internationally exposed new generation of Indian Wine Market.