A selection of Indian wines

Top Indian Wines Worth Tasting: A Guide

In many ways, it is a miracle that Indian wine exists at all. The conditions of the subcontinent are far from ideal for producing grapes — with the summer growing season bringing with it tropical heat and ravaging monsoons. In recent years, periods of drought and unpredictable weather patterns have added to the challenge. Then, there are the cultural hurdles — alcohol has traditionally been perceived negatively in Indian culture, and some states ban it entirely. Overall, the annual per capita consumption of wine in the country is a mere 20 milliliters— around 4 teaspoons. Despite these constraints, India does have an exciting and ever-growing wine scene. Indian wine sales are forecast to grow both domestically and internationally over the coming years.

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to attend a wine tasting at Sula Vineyards, the biggest winery in the country. The vineyards are set in the rolling green hills of Maharashtra. I reached out to some of India’s top wine experts to find out which should be next on my list of Indian wines to try. I spoke to India’s only Master of Wine, Sonal C Holland, to Gagan Sharma, the first Indian to be awarded the French Wine Scholar (FWS) certification, and to certified sommelier Akshay Gharat, to get their recommendations of wines to try. I also dived into internet reviews to find out which Indian wines are the most popular among consumers. These insights led to this list of exceptional Indian wines that oenophiles should try.

Sula Vineyard’s Rasa Zinfandel

View of Rasa Zinfandel wine label

Sula Vineyards

This is one of the most memorable wines I tasted at Sula Vineyards. It is very full-bodied, with a multi-layered flavor profile. Fruity and spicy hints unfold progressively through each sip you take. I knew very little about wine back then, but this one made me want to know wine terminology so I could explain the sort of subtleties I was tasting. I muttered something about it being nosy, with a nice body and lots of leg, and then ordered another glass, feeling very sophisticated.

Zinfandel grape, a popular variety in the U.S., although the grape’s origins are unclear, is known for producing robust and intensely fruity wines, and Sula Vineyard’s Rasa Zinfandel is no exception. This powerful, luscious wine has a deep, ruby-red color and a complex bouquet of ripe berries, plums, and a hint of spice. Sommelier Gagan Sharma describes it as a “beautiful, age-worthy, fruity, oaky, chunky red which is a standalone hero for the varietal in the country.” A varietal is a type of wine made using only one type of grape.

Sula Vineyards stresses that the Rasa Zinfandel is made following “strict sustainable practices,” including the use of solar energy and measures to reduce water consumption. So, really, drinking a glass of this one counts as your daily good deed.

Fratelli Vineyards’s Sette by Masi Piero

Bottles of Sette

Fratelli Vineyards

Sette is the Italian-Indian lovechild of Fratelli vineyards in Maharashtra and late Tuscan winemaker Masi Piero. This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese, aged in French oak barrels, became the flagship red of Fratelli vineyards. Not one but two of the sommeliers I spoke to listed Sette among their favorite three wines. It is “one of the best wines to come from India,” assures Sonal Holland, describing it as an “elegant red known for its sophisticated yet vibrant taste.”

Sette is a medium-bodied wine, with “fragrant notes of ripe cherry, violets, layered with blackcurrants, cocoa, and vanilla,” describes Akshay Gharat. Fratelli Sette by Masi Piero is third on the list of Indian Red wines on Vivino. The director of Fratelli, Alessio Secci, explained on the winery’s website that he had asked Piero to help them make a “Super Tuscan in India — a Super Indian.” Super Tuscans are a category of high-quality, innovative wines from Tuscany in Central Italy. When they tried the first vintage of Sette, Secci immediately knew that they were on to something. They chose the name Sette, which means seven in Italian. In Hindu culture, seven represents the universe. Ranking among the top 10% of wines in the world on Vivino, Sette certainly seems to have a universal appeal.

Fratelli’s J’Noon Red U.V.

Jean-Charles Boisset holding a bottle of J'Noon

Fratelli Wines

This full-bodied red wine is another collaboration between Fratelli Vineyards and an international winemaker, this time, Frenchman Jean-Charles Boisset, owner of the Boisset Collection, which operates 28 wineries in France, Canada and the USA. According to customers on Vivino, J’Noon is India’s No. 1 red wine. One reviewer describes it as a “treat to the senses,” and another praises an “extremely interesting and complex wine” with a “juiciness and some herbaceous[ness].”

The name J’Noon is a French take on the Urdu word Junoon, which means ‘passion’ — an apt descriptor for the dedication behind this beloved wine. Kapil Sekhri of Fratelli Wines and Boisset say they had set themselves the mission to “create history together in India, producing the finest wine from the Indian terroir for the world stage.” They used four grapes for their creation: cabernet sauvignon, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, and Marselan. The result is J’Noon, a wine they describe as “subtle and intense — just like India.”

J’Noon has hints of plum, chocolate, and oakiness. The tannins — which play a crucial role in red wine — are mild, and the flavors rich. Vivino’s experts suggest pairing it with meats or spicy food.

Grover Zampa Vijay Amritraj Reserve Collection Red

Tennis star Vijay Amritraj poised with his racket

Russell Cheyne/Getty Images

Former tennis player Vijay Amritraj, who starred in the James Bond film “Octopussy,” joined forces with Grover Zampa Winery to make this opulent red wine. Produced with a blend of Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Viognier grapes, this wine is full-bodied and richly flavored. It has a deep, ruby-red color, and sommelier Akshay Gharat notes its “perfumed nose redolent of ripe dark fruit, spicy pepper, and subtle floral hints.” It is one of those wines whose color and aromas tease the senses, inviting you in. Once you have taken a sip, you’ll find that the flavors and aromas of the oak barrels have harmonized with the wine and given it a “silky mouthfeel,” Gharat adds.

Grover Zampa Winery is set in the hills close to Bangalore and is India’s most-awarded wine producer. The Vijay Amritraj Reserve Collection Red targeted an international audience, and a worldwide launch was held in the U.K. during Wimbledon Fortnight in 2014. As a bold red wine, the  Vijay Amritraj Reserve Collection Red would pair beautifully with rich dishes such as grilled meats, rich curries, and mature cheeses.

Fratelli Wines’ Sangiovese Bianco

Bottle of Sangiovese Bianco surrounded by vine leaves

Fratelli Wines

Fratelli Wines’ Sangiovese Bianco is a wine that stands out. Firstly, it is a white wine made from Sangiovese grapes. The skins are removed straight after juicing, allowing the winemakers to create this white wine from a grape usually used for red wines. The result is smooth and unique, and it is a favorite of sommelier Gagan Sharma. “It is an absolute underdog and a daring wine that symbolizes the nature of the Indian winemaking scene,” he said. “Decant it and serve it chilled, and it could remind you of a Chablis,” he recommended. Chablis is a classic wine, known for its vibrant acidity.

Meanwhile, Sangiovese Bianco is a less common variety of white wine. It is made from the Sangiovese grape, which is rare outside of Italy and is seen as a bit of a chameleon — it takes on different flavors and profiles depending on where it is grown. Fratelli’s Sangiovese Bianco has a crisp profile with notes of citrus, green apple, coconut, and subtle floral hints. These fresh flavors are contained by a wine quite fleshy for a white, with a rounded mouthfeel. Like a Chablis, this Sangiovese Bianco has a fresh acidity and a smooth, mineral finish, which make it perfect for pairing with seafood, salads, mildly flavored cheese, or for enjoying as an aperitif.

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Sula Vineyards’ The Source Sauvignon Blanc Reserve

A bottle of Sula Sauvignon Blanc

Sula Vineyards

Sauvignon blanc is one of the most popular white wine varieties. It is renowned as a super-dry wine with a citrusy zest. India produces several tasty sauvignon blanc varieties, but for sommelier Sonal Holland, the best is the Source Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, which she describes as a “lean and refreshing wine,” ideal for people who want “a wine that packs a punch with its livewire acidity.” This wine epitomizes the fresh, limey zing of Sauvignon Blanc, with added depths thanks to its oak-barrel aging.

The judges of the India Wines and Spirits Award, organized by Master of Wine Sonal Holland, wrote in their tasting notes for this wine: “Gooseberry and pear with bright citrus. White plums on the palate with a refreshing grapefruit finish”. Judges at the International Wine Challenge in 2022 wrote that the wine showed “tomato leaf and bergamot with a hint of coriander aromas — fresh and fruity.” In both cases, it received a bronze medal, revealing itself to be a classic Sauvignon Blanc with depths of flavor that are interesting to explore.

Sula Vineyards’ Chenin Blanc

A bottle of Sula Chenin Blanc

Sula Vineyards

When I think of pairing wine with food, I usually think of full-bodied reds with steak, acidic whites with seafood, and pretty much anything made of grapes paired with salty, hard cheeses. What is less well-known is which wines pair well with spicy curries. With chenin blanc, Sula Vineyards and winemaker Ajoy Shaw aimed to make something that pairs with Indian food. They focused on bringing out the sweetness and creaminess of this white wine to contrast with the strong chillis and spices local cuisine is renowned for.

Sula Vineyards’ Chenin Blanc takes the top spot on Vivino’s list of Indian white wines, with one reviewer praising it as an “easy drinking” white wine with “hints of honey and light sweetness of ripe tropical fruits”. From my Sula Vineyards wine tasting, I remember it as a pleasant, summery wine. It has a subtle sweetness, unlike any Chenin Blanc I had tried before, with a medium acidity and citrusy aromas. It went excellently with the selection of spicy appetizers we had, and I can picture it pairing equally well with other types of rich, spicy food — I’d love to try it with a butter chicken or a coconut dahl.

Sula Vineyards’ Dindori Reserve Viognier

A bottle of Sula Dindori Reserve Viognier

Sula Vineyards

Coming in second place in Vivino’s customer ratings of Indian whites is another wine by Sula Vineyards. This one is the Dindori Reserve Viognier and is one of its more lesser-known bottles. Dindori refers to the lakeside village where these particular grapes are grown. They are of the Viognier variety, a type of grape that originates in the Northern Rhone region of France and is known for producing distinctive full-bodied and floral white wines.

Drinkers describe Sula’s Dindori Reserve Viognier as a delightful Viognier. Many mention tropical notes of peach, apricot, lychee, and mango interwoven with vanilla and spice, which come from the wine’s oak aging. It is medium-bodied and has a long and pleasing aftertaste. Similar to Sula’s Chenin Blanc, their Dindori Reserve Viognier has a slight sweetness, which means it pairs quite well with Indian food or other cuisine with lots of spice.

Sula Vineyards’ The Source Grenache Rosé

The Source Grenache Rosé

Sula Vineyards

Rosé has suffered from a bad reputation over the years — and one that it certainly doesn’t deserve. It is often seen as less high-end than red and white, as it doesn’t spend much time in the barrel. Some consider it to be wine for people who don’t actually like wine. Others describe it disparagingly, in a way that is both sexist and snobbish, as a “girl’s drink.” Today, however, rosé is having a bit of a comeback — you need only look up the hashtag #roséallday on social media to know what I’m talking about.

Sula Vineyards has never listened to the snobbery and has been producing Rosé wines since 2001. The upper-end Source Grenache Rosé is a new addition to its catalog. It was launched in 2018, and sommelier Akshay Gharat describes it as a “lively rosé”, which is “dry, fresh and fruity.” It sounds like the perfect wine to drink as you soak in the summer sun! It has a pretty, pale coral color and is made from Grenache grapes, a popular choice for rosé wines, in particular in Southern France and Spain. Grenache grapes are known for their hints of red fruits and cinnamon, which are perfect for summery rosés. 

York Sparkling Rosé Brut

Glasses of rosé in garden

yorkwinery / Instagram

York’s Sparkling Rosé Brut is another pink wine demanding to be drunk. It blew judges away during the blind-tasting competition at last year’s India Wines and Spirits Award, organized by Master of Wine Sonal Holland. “This delightful and easy-drinking sparkling rosé has a refreshing and zingy taste that is perfect for India’s tropical climate,” she says. This zinginess is due to the use of very acidic grapes grown in some of the coolest parts of Nashik, where York Winery is based.

York Winery may have a very English-sounding name, but it is located in India’s wine capital, Nashik, close to Sula Vineyards. Owner Lilo Gurnani named it after his children’s initials — Yogita, Ravi, and Kailash — Y.R.K, which led to the name York. Holland notes the growing popularity of rosé in India, which could be linked to the country’s tropical climate. Rosé wines are generally lighter and crisper than red wines, making them refreshing on hot days. The acidity and freshness help quench thirst and provide a cooling sensation.

In the case of York Sparkling Rosé Brut, the aging process contributes to a depth of flavor. The bottles are aged on yeast for 11 to 14 months before an additional three months of corkage. This allows many layers of flavor to develop, from notes of red fruits to underlying tastes of cookies, cream, and honey.

Grover Zampa’s La Reserve Royale Brut

Close up of Grover label

Grover Zampa Vineyards

Life is too short to wait for a special occasion to indulge in some bubbles. Grover Zampa’s La Reserve Royale Brut is a sparkling Indian wine you’ll want to enjoy every day. It comes highly recommended by sommelier Gagan Sharma. “La Reserve Brut is a phenomenal sparkling wine,” he said. “They have really championed traditional method bubblies that can sit at par with good Champagnes.”

By “traditional method bubblies” Sharma is referring to sparkling wines made using the same process as Champagne rather than Prosecco. For Champagne, a secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle, creating natural bubbles. The base wine is bottled with a mixture of sugar and yeast, known as liqueur de tirage. The bottle is sealed with a temporary cap, and the yeast ferments the sugar, which releases carbon dioxide. Since the gas cannot escape, it dissolves into the wine, creating bubbles.

The fine bubbles of la Reserve Royale Brut form a delicate sparkling wine reminiscent of Champagne. It is made from chenin blanc grapes, and on the palate,  you’ll find crisp flavors of fresh pear, lemon zest, and a touch of honey. Its balanced acidity and creamy texture lead to a long, satisfying finish. This sparkling wine is great for pairing with seafood, creamy cheeses, or fruit-based desserts, Sharma notes.

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