Everybody knows that India is a huge and diverse country. But it has never really been seen as a country that can produce great wine, because… surely it would be a thing, right? The truth is, India does make pretty decent wine and has been since around 1982, when Château Indage first planted vines in Maharashtra, near a place called Narayangaon.
Most of the serious wineries that lead the scene today appeared around the turn of the millennium. There are certain Indian wines that are absolutely fantastic, most of them are pretty great, and some… not so much. But we’ll get to those later.
The interesting part is, unlike other parts of the world, most of the wineries here don’t actually own the land on which the grapes grow, so they very rarely “grow their own” wine. Instead, they source most of their grapes from contracted local farmers, and are often supervised by a foreign winemaker.
Usually, there’s either a French or Italian influence – which are two wildly different styles and methods of winemaking.
Now when it comes to Indian wine, there are a few names that everyone immediately thinks of: Sula usually tops that list – the others are usually Grover’s and Fratelli.
And while it’s true that these “Big Three” do produce an overwhelming majority of wine in this country, a large part of the best stuff is also coming out of smaller, boutique wineries in Nashik and Bangalore. There’s a BUNCH of producers in both places that don’t get the kind of recognition they need; and deserve.
Here are some of them. It’s a pretty long list, and you may be surprised by how many you haven’t heard of.
1) Château Indage
Way back in 1979, back when our parents still walked 15km a day to go to school (or so they say), India had its first experience with a vineyard dedicated to wine production and she has never looked back since.
The first wine made in India was a Champagne-style bubbly with a very interesting backstory: Shamrao Chougule, who hailed from a poor farming family, eventually landed a job where one of his clients was a Frenchman that often traveled to Paris for business. During that time, he was introduced to French wine, and fell in love with it.
Eventually, with the help of a subsidiary of Piper Hiedsieck (one of the world’s largest Champagne houses), he sought to introduce a wine culture back home.
His main focus was on exporting wine to Europe and the USA, where his wines would’ve had a novelty value. The wine was named ‘Omar Khayyam’ in Europe and the US, and sold as ‘Marquis de Pompadour’ in India and Japan.
Château Indage became India’s market leader pretty quickly, along with becoming an acclaimed name in the UK, as per this 1999 article in the Independent.
They soon went on an expansion spree, buying wineries in Australia and the UK in the early 21st century, and unfortunately racking up heavy debts in the process. The financial crisis of 2008 struck Chateau Indage hard, and in 2010, the Mumbai High Court issued an order for winding up activities of Indage Vintners.
A small winery by the name of Château Indage still exists in Narayangaon, and if you come across any of their wines, I’d recommend you to try it (and bring me a bottle too!), just for the sake of history and novelty.
2) KRSMA Estates
This winery is some cult stuff. Very mysterious, very under-the-radar, and producing some stellar wine. The bottles are jet black with a simple label and not much else. It may be understated, but the stuff inside it is anything but.
Karina Aggarwal is a pretty well-known figure in the beverage scene. She’s known on the interwebs as “gigglewater411” and has written a great piece on KRSMA, that goes into much more detail. You can find it here.
Pronounced Kris-ma, it’s named after its two founders, husband and wife duo Krishna and Uma Prasad. If you’re big on organic stuff, you’ll be pleased to know they use organic fertilisers only.
They don’t have a very wide range (they make four wines, two whites and two reds), but the depth they manage to show within that range is exceptional.
KRSMA is a legendary name among wine connoisseurs and consumers alike, despite being relatively new: They set up in the late 2000s and their first known release was in 2011. It’s only available in Bangalore, Hyderabad, and…
Mumbai, surely. New York. Go figure.
It may still be a while before it hits Mumbai, but if you happen to be in Bangalore or know someone who is, definitely pick this stuff up. It’s pricey, but it’s bloody good. First-time wine drinkers may not enjoy it as much, but if you come back to it later, it will change your life.
Must try: The Cab Sauv. Oooof.
Priced around ₹2500
3) Reveilo – Vintage Wines
In a country that puts French wine on a pedestal, Reveilo has more of an Italian influence. Led by winemaker Andrea Valentinuzzi, this boutique, family-owned winery is making a lot of good wine, at a VERY good price point.
Like any regular Italian, Mr Valentinuzzi takes a bit of Italy wherever he goes. And boy, does he get around.
These guys do a lot of experimental stuff that ventures outside the “safe” space of winemaking. Everyone grows a Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz or Chardonnay (and they grow those, too), but they are also growing varietals never seen here before.
They’ve been doing their thing since the early 2000s, and they make some stunning wines.
Must try: The Grillo (white) and the Nero D’Avola (red).
Both are priced around ₹ 700-800, which is an absolute steal. Incredible value.
Mohan V : This is also a great wine to gift! Easy on the pocket, up there in quality and taste, and you would be supporting the local scene. Can’t go wrong with that.
4) SDU Winery,
Nandi Hills, Karnataka
SDU is one of those quiet champions. No hype, no fanfare, just exceptional wines consistently delivered. Set up in 2003 in North Bangalore by Shambhavi Hingorani, they launched their first wine in 2013.
Winemaker Andrea Valentinuzzi, once again, was a big part of this place. I told you he got around.
Their tagline is something we definitely believe in: ‘Wine for everyone’. It summarises their range pretty well, it’s a good mix of happy, easy wines and deeply complex ones. They’re doing quite a bit to promote wine in South India by hosting events at their winery.
Must try: They have two fantastic wines: The ‘Trilogy’ and the ‘Winemaker’s Selection’. These guys know what they’re doing.
5) Vallonné Vineyards
Winning international acclaim as among the best wines in the country, Vallonné launched in 2009, and is probably the smallest winery I’ve visited. They’re mostly known for their Rosé, which is admittedly really good.
There’s a bit of a badassery that exists in the owner that’s reflected in the wines. Allegedly, he’s made his wines extremely rare in Mumbai for a reason: he hates the general wine market in Mumbai.
If that is the actual reason for their rarity, I’d say the claims have a pretty strong foundation, since quite a few wine lovers I’ve come across in Mumbai are quintessential snobs.
Must try: Honestly, just ask for the Vallone Rosé. It’s a great place to start.
6) Soma Vine Village
This is the place where I had my first wine. It doubles up as a winery and resort, and it was awarded ‘Best Luxury Resort in Nashik’ in 2017 and 2018.
Their first release was in 2014 and they’re doing some interesting experiments with what they grow and make, which is always a good sign.
And yet… I’ve tasted their wine and I have to say, it seems as if they provide a better holiday than wine. Their wines are priced quite ambitiously, and in my opinion, none of them merit the tag.
That’s not to say it’s bad wine, since it’s always a matter of personal taste at the end of the day. But at a price point around 1500/-, I have to say I expected more.
Must try: Nonetheless, the better Soma wines are the ‘Sauvignon Blanc Gold’, the Riesling, and the Chardonnay.
7) Oakwood vineyards,
A simple family owned and family run winery which is in my opinion, one of the best in the business right now. If you’ve ever had ‘Gio Red Wine’, you’ve had a sip of Oakwood.
Actually, if you’ve ever had Indian wine, you’ve probably had Oakwood, you just don’t know it yet. That’s because Oakwood makes wine and sells it to other wineries who further refine it and label it as their own product. As it happens, that’s a pretty solid business plan.
They offer excellent value for money as they’re priced around ₹ 1000. Look for names like Reisha, Mystic Oak, and Bella Rouge.
Must try: Reisha ‘Grand Cru’.
8) Good Drop Wine Cellars
Another young winery, founded only in 2009, Good Drop has a collection of fun wines that seek to detach themselves from the fancy-schmancy part of the wine drinking base.
And it’s reflected in their range of wines such as ‘Rio fizzy’ which is a party wine with slight carbonation, ‘Casablanca’ which is an Italian style friendly bubbly, and ‘Good Earth’ which is a more serious brand. They’re loved by wine connoisseurs and consumers alike. Add to that, they’re even pocket-friendly (₹900 on average).
Must try: The Casablanca is a decent, bang-average sparkling wine, but keep an eye for the Good Earth ‘Basso’ which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignons from harvests of multiple years.
9) York winery
Up and running since ’08, York is another winery with relatively small production. Their winemaker, Kailash Gurnani, is India’s youngest winemaker. They’ve won their fair share of both international and domestic awards.
In spite of the smaller production, their wines are very widely available in stores in major Indian cities. You can find them for around ₹700. In my opinion, while their wines are not absolutely stellar, I haven’t tasted a bad one yet. They’ve been very consistent with their quality through and through. Solid value.
Must try: The York ‘Arros’ is a pretty awesome red, but their whites are great too.
10) Big Banyan Wines
Among the hustle and bustle of tourists, and people chillin’ on beautiful beaches enjoying cheaper booze than the rest of the country, there exists the biggest Indian winery you’ve probably never heard of.
Owned by John Distilleries which make the world-class whisky Paul John, some of their grapes are sourced from vineyards around Nashik and transported more than 600km to make wine in both Goa and Bangalore.
They’re priced around ₹ 1000 for which you can expect a great return. Their sweet wine ‘Bellisima’ and rosé ‘Rosa Rossa’ are quite decent.
Must try: Limited Edition Shiraz 2014.
11) Chandon India
If you’ve ever seen a bottle of Champagne, odds are you saw a bottle of Moet & Chandon. Owned by the luxury kingpins LVMH (that’s Louis Vuitton and Moet Hennessy), Chandon is one of the biggest names in classic Champagne.
And now they’re in India.
They’ve set up shop in Nasik in 2010, and make their wines with confident precision. They’ve quickly become the go-to bubbly for parties and celebrations, and they’ve managed to do it at a price that reflects their quality as without being extortionate.
They make a wine called ‘Délice’, which is quite honestly difficult to hate. They only make 3 wines (White, Rosé and Delice – all sparkling), but all of them are made perfectly. The average price is around ₹1600.
Must try: Chandon Rosé. It’s not often you find a good sparkling Rosé, and you should take full advantage of it.
12) The Daily Dose, by WinePark
WinePark is an importer that brings in niche wines from all over the world into India, and they have a niche wine of their own creation : The Daily Dose.
It’s made at Oakwood’s Winery (mentioned above), and priced at a VERY attractive ₹ 750 a bottle at retail. They only have one white and one red, but they do both of them right.
The red (Cabernet Sauvignon) is a one of its kind: a bottoms-up friendly wine, unlike no other Cabernet Sauvignon I’ve ever tasted.
But I actually prefer the white (Sauvignon Blanc), which I consider to be among the best in India!
That’s all I’ve got for now. Thanks for making it this far!
The objective of writing this was to show that there’s a lot more to Indian wine than just Sula, Grover’s, and Fratelli.
If you’d like us to go into more detail about them, let us know! We would be happy to dedicate full articles to them. For anything else, get in touch with us here, send us an email, or slide into our DMs on Instagram at @drunk_for_a_penny.
There’s a lot of smaller producers popping up everywhere, and they need your help. Talk about them, buy their wines, spread the word.
And take a chance on them. We have a long way to go in the wine world, but look how far we’ve come.
It only gets better from here. 🙂
Edited by Mohan V.