Grover Zampa: Wine from India

Grover Zampa: Wine from India

I recently attended a wine pairing luncheon at India’s Tandoori in Brentwood, CA featuring Grover Zampa wines from India. Indian wine…who knew? This story began in the 1970s when Kanwal Grover met George Vessel, Technical Director of Vineyards at Mumm in Champagne and had a thought: why not try to make fine wine from French grape varietals back in India? After exploring several geographical areas, climates and soils (India’s terroir), they developed a 40-acre vineyard in the Nandi Hills about 40km outside of Bangalore. Nine French varietals were well-suited to the site, and adding French superstar oenologist Michel Rolland to the team in the mid-90’s sure didn’t hurt their quest for quality production.

A 2012 merger with the makers of Zampa wines, Vallée de Vin, located in the Nashik Valley north of Mumbai, created the powerhouse Grover Zampa brand. GV is the second largest wine producer in India with sales of over 2 million cases. In this case quantity doesn’t trump quality as this relatively new player on the scene has already garnered 57 awards for its wines. Raising the bar on Indian wines also helped raise awareness of India as a hot destination for wine tourism– with some calling the Nashik Valley “India’s Napa Valley”.

Grover Zampa Vineyards currently produces three lines of wine, listed here in ascending price points: the Art Collection, La Réserve and the Vijay Amritraj Reserve Collection. All the wines we tasted were surprisingly balanced and restrained (considering the generally blistering Indian climate), and all were paired with traditional, spicy Indian dishes. But two were standouts: the Vijay Amritraj Reserve Collection White and the La Réserve Red.

Grover Zampa Vijay Amritraj Reserve Collection

Grover Zampa Vineyards

First off, the VA Réserve was presented by Vijay Amritraj himself. You might remember him as a top-seeded tennis star (having bested the likes of Björn Borg, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors in his heyday) or perhaps as a movie star (Octopussy and Star Trek). Or maybe you know him because of his humanitarian efforts as a UN ambassador or through his eponymous foundation. In any event, the Vijay Amritraj Reserve Collection White is 100% Viognier– fresh, floral and fruit forward with notes of white peach, honey and apricot, offering a smooth round mouthfeel and fairly long finish. Complex and crisp, a nice counterpoint to the curried mussels in saffron cream sauce.

The La Réserve Red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, aged in French oak barrels. I’ve not had much of this particular grape combo, which was made famous by Penfolds in Australia, another hot country. Adding in Shiraz contributes mid-palate fruit to the Cab and spice to complement Indian cuisine. Decanter magazine recognized the La Réserve Red as “Best New World Red Wine” back in 2005. Which is quite an accomplishment, and also, quite a good deal.

All Grover Zampa wines are very attractively priced. Take the Art Series. Unlike France’s Mouton Rothschild Art Series ($500+) or even Australia’s Leeuwin Estate Art Series (around $50), GZ’s Art Series retails for $9. La Réserve is only a few dollars more, and the VA line is a few dollars above that. All are well under $20 a bottle.

One last surprising statistic: Grover Zampa’s largest export market is France. Talk about full circle: the French buying Indian wine, who would have thought? KEN

Ken Eskenazi Sippity Sup at Grover Zampa event Grover Zampa Vineyards

I was invited to this event to taste Grover Zampa Vineyards’ wines. All opinions are my own. Some photos appear courtesy of Grover Zampa.