There can hardly be a better way to begin the New Year than with a bottle of wine to set the tone for the months ahead. But amidst so many choices, which wines should you pick that would be the perfect way to kickstart the year? We asked sommelier Gargi Kothari to make the hard decision and came away blown with her handpicked list of wines.
Gargi stumbled upon wine by chance eight years ago and fell in love with it, going on to pursue her career in wine. She’s a WSET Level 3 qualified sommelier, and has been curating wine experiences since 2016, bringing people together over conversations about wine. Since last year, she has been curating monthly wine selections for people to enjoy in the comfort of their homes. Who better to suggest the best wines that you can drink in 2021?
1) Move over Champagne!
It’s 2021 and the right time to open up your palate to unique and interesting bubbly wines apart than Champagne. High-quality, age-worthy Cavas can provide equal depth of flavour, expression of terroir and drinking pleasure! The III Lustros, Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2007 comes from the famed boutique Cava producer Gramona, which is one of the nine members of the “Corpinnat” meaning “Heart of Penedes”. This association of quality Cava producers have strict quality and ageing standards including use of only certified organic grapes to produce their Cavas. Did you know that Cava is made using the same method as Champagne? However, the terroir (soil, climate) and use of up to 90% indigenous varieties in the blend make this one unique bubbly!
Price: INR 8436 in Mumbai
2) Volcanic Vines
Did you know that Mt. Etna – Europe’s biggest active volcano – also has vines growing on its volcanic soils? These make for some amazing wines that are known not only for purity and precision but also for their intense minerality. The combination of volcanic soils and the indigenous grape variety of Carricante makes the Tornatore Etna Bianco 2019 something unique and special. Produced by one of Etna’s first families that even helped in drawing the district boundaries, the Tornatore Family has deep roots in the region. The Carricante grapes are planted on terraced vineyards at 650 mts above sea level. The wine is deep and complex with zesty acidity and notes of grapefruit, melon and tangerine. It ends with hints of fresh herbs, sea shells and salty minerality. Price: INR 3988 in Mumbai
3) Chardonnay, Single Vineyard. Indian
Have you heard of a wine with the labels in its headline being made in India? If not, let me introduce you to the H Block Chardonnay that is made by York Winery from their own single vineyard. Crafted into an elegant and fruity style of Chardonnay, this wine ruled the favourites list of Indian wines during the festive season. I am confident that this wine will continue to make waves in 2021 as well.
Price: INR 950 in Mumbai
4) Pink from Provence
Undoubtedly the most premium region for Roses, the Provence region of France has the perfect terroir for making high-quality roses that are rich with a whole lot of elegance. The Aix Rose is made in the 135-year-old winery of Maison Saint Aix with the typical Provencal blend of Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah with the 2019 vintage having a touch of Carignan. Perfect as an all-day wine, this rose is quite famous the world over and has just made its entry into India. Price: INR 3972 in Mumbai
5) Pinot is Love
This list of Reds starts and ends with a Pinot!
Native to Burgundy in France and notoriously fickle, the Pinot Noir grape has found a home away from home in New Zealand, where it finds an expression that is intense, refined and fruit-driven. Durvillea is a boutique estate, producing terroir-driven wines through sustainable viticulture. The winery derives its name from the Durvillea seaweed that is found along the rocky shores of Marlborough where this wine is from. It shows pure notes of raspberries, cherries and star anise complemented by vibrant acidity and velvety tannins, ending on an earthy finish. This wine is bound to please Pinot Lovers and wine novices alike. The best time to drink the wine is right now!
Price: INR 3200 in Mumbai
6) From the Land of Origin
Did you know it was the Phoenicians (modern-day Lebanon), way back in 5000 BC, who were one of the first civilizations (along with present-day Georgia and Iran) to domesticate vines, make and export wine and grapes and viticultural knowledge across the Mediterranean to the Greeks who then passed it on the Romans who spread it across Western Europe?
Yes, Lebanon is one of the countries where wine originates from and it was the Hochar Family of France who combined their wine know-how from Bordeaux along with the wine-making roots of Lebanon and started Chateau Mussar back in 1930. They even continued to produce the wine during Lebanon’s Civil War.
The grapes are grown organically while the wine is made naturally with ambient yeasts and is released only 7 years after the vintage. It is made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Cinsault with vines ageing an average of 40 years, grown on gravelly soils. The wine is certainly age-worthy and is recommended to be decanted for at least an hour before drinking. This is a piece of history in your glass and is something that definitely deserves a taste.
You can now find the First & Second Wine of the Chateau known as Chateau Mussar & Musar Jeune Red, respectively. Jeune meaning ‘young’ in French is an un-oaked blend of Cinsault, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, made for immediate consumption.
Prices: Chateau Mussar – INR 8400 in Mumbai; Musar Jeune Red – INR 3800 in Mumbai
First a temple, then a fortress and a monastery, then a castle, a manor house, a shelter for shepherds and their flocks, and, finally, an art workshop and winery. From the Etruscans to the Romans, through the turbulent Middle Ages, abandonment and then restoration by Sandro Chia in the eighties, Castello Romitorio is a place where time has a physical, tangible dimension.
In 1984 when Chia restored the castle and made it his home and art studio, he breathed new life into the place and revived its wine making traditions. After thirty years of hard work in the area, Castello Romitorio is now an internationally recognized winery specializing in Sangiovese and Brunello di Montalcino. It is a wine that expresses the Montalcino terroir with purity and embodies the finest aspects of the area’s longstanding tradition of cultivating world class Sangiovese. The Castello Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino 2015 is the latest Brunello to be introduced to the Indian market. It is a wine that demands cellaring and will start showing off its true, deeply complex character only from 2023, up to 2040 – making 2021 the best time to pick this wine. Price: INR 9674 in Mumbai
8) Chilean Charmer
Monte Pacifico is one of latest entrants into India from Chile. A collaboration between an Indian importer and a Chilean winery, the brand is available only in the Indian market and is crafted to suit our palates and food. The newest wine being introduced this year is the Monte Pacifico Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon that comes from the Rapel Valley that is flanked by the Andes Mountain on one side and the cold Pacific Ocean on the other. The wine is a premium offering from the brand. It is barrel-aged and displays a fruit-forward style that is easy on the palate and the pocket. Price: INR 2200 in Mumbai
9) The 5th Child of the Illustrious Haut-Brion Family
The Gallo-Romans, creators of the vineyards of Saint-Emilion, had the habit of naming their 5th child Quintus (fifth). Domaine Clarence Dillon (the owning company of Chateau Haut-Brion & La Mission Haut-Brion) paying homage to its glorious predecessors re-baptised the wines from their Saint Emilion estate, naming them Château Qvintvs, Le Dragon de Qvintvs and Saint Emilion de Qvintvs – the 1st, 2nd and 3rd wines respectively.
Saint-Emilion de Qvintvs is grown on the same soil and terroirs as Château Quintus and Le Dragon de Quintus and receives the same care. The vines have an average age of 30 years and produces a superior quality wine that is fresh, generous and enjoyable in its youth. It offers a great quality-to-price ratio for a Bordeaux wine coming from the superior terroir of Saint Emilion. The 2017 and 2018 vintages will be available in Mumbai, Delhi & Bangalore from February 2021. Price: INR 6333 in Mumbai
10) Rising Star from Spain
Jumilla is a phenomenal wine region on the Mediterranean coast in South-Eastern Spain. With a winemaking history dating back to Roman times, Jumilla is known for its full-bodied, rich and complex wines made with the Monastrell grape; also known as Mourvedre.
Even though the terroir here is hot, dry and harsh, Jumilla vineyards have a cooling influence in the night as they are at elevations ranging from 400 to 800 mts above sea level. The cool breeze from the Mediterranean Sea offers additional respite from the heat that retains the acidity and freshness in the grapes.
The region also boasts of an extraordinary stock of very old, bush-trained, un-grafted vineyards, 80% of which are organically certified, giving very complex, minerally and age-worthy wines. All of this goodness comes at a super value for money price, as Jumilla wines even though high quality, don’t yet command very high prices. One of the bigger producers here is Pedrera whose Monastrell wine is available in India and is a must-try for wine lovers.
Price: INR 1350 in Mumbai
11) An Icon of Northern Rhone
Chapoutier, one of the oldest names in the Rhone Valley, needs no introduction. Farming vineyards sine 1855, the winery rose to fame under the guidance of Michel Chapoutier who took over the reins in 1988 and pushed for higher quality production. Today the vineyards are either bio-dynamically or organically farmed and the wines are bottles un-fined and unfiltered to give the truest expression of the Syrah grape from the famed terroirs of Northern Rhone. From 1996, all M. Chapoutier labels have included braille in honor of Maurice Monier de la Sizeranne, who created a form of modern abbreviated braille, and was the original owner of the Chapoutier vineyard in Hermitage. My recommendation would be the M. Chapoutier ‘Les Meysonniers’ Crozes-Hermitage that comes from a larger area surrounding the famed hill of Hermitage, giving a great wine at a phenomenal price. It is made with vines having an average age of 25 years, giving a rich and intense wine while displaying an elegant style with notes of black pepper, raspberry and black currants. INR 3990 in Mumbai
12) From the Slopes of Igatpuri
If you haven’t tried wines from Vallonne Vineyards, then you are definitely missing out on something. One of India’s premier boutique estates, they have been making wine for over 10 years now and offer one of the best winery tour and tasting experiences in the country. They also have the cosiest vineyard stay with some stunning views and flavourful food from the kitchen of Malaka Spice of Pune that has their outpost at the winery.
The wines are of superior quality including some of the longest aged and age worthy wines that India produces. I would recommend to try all of their wines but the one to look out for in 2021 would be the newly-released 2017 vintage of the Cabernet Sauvignon Classique Reserve that is made with the highest quality grapes from their own vineyards. It is aged in French oak barrels for 18 months, followed by another 18 months of bottle ageing. The style is complex where the fruit stands proud and exhibits its varietal characteristics and terroir. Only 2800 bottles were made so get your hands on this one soon! This one is ready to drink now but has an ageing potential for 8-10 years if stored well.
Price: INR 1800 in Mumbai
13) A Maverick Spirit of South Africa
Boekenhoutskloof was established in 1776 as a farm and homestead but was converted to a winery in 1993 when it was bought over by Marc Kent who today is the winemaker, MD and Technical Director at the estate. Located in the furthest corner of the beautiful Franschhoek valley, the farm’s name means “ravine of the Boekenhout” (pronounced Book-n-Howed). Boekenhout is an indigenous Cape Beech tree greatly prized for furniture making; hence the label design. As a producer, Boekenhoutskloof is a Syrah specialist, with its premium Boekenhoutskloof range selling out on release each vintage.
They are also the makers of the Syrah-based wines like The Chocolate Block and The Wolftrap Red that are extremely well known South African wine brands in India and around the world. The Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2017 even though from the new world is very Rhone-like in style. Complex and brooding, it is savoury with firm, fine-grained tannins and preciseness that comes with high-quality Syrah. This wine is definitely for cellaring and will evolve beautifully in the next 10-15 years.
Price: INR 10,648 in Mumbai
14) India’s Finest
Wine lovers in Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Goa might have the privilege to drink one of India’s finest wines but Mumbaikars will definitely miss out on wines from this stunning estate that is situated just two hours away from the ancient town of Hampi.
Established as a passion project by the husband-wife duo Krishna and Uma Chigurupati, comes KRSMA that was awarded the 46th place in Top 50 Wineries of The World in 2020. Being wine connoisseurs, the seed of a top-class Indian winery was planted in their minds long ago, but the dream came to fruition in 2008 when they found the site in Hampi and produced the first vintage of their famed Cabernet Sauvignon in 2011. But their wine that I want to recommend for 2021 would be their latest entrant – the Krsma Estates Syrah.
A refined, elegant and yet powerful style of terroir-driven Syrah that promises to get better year-on-year as the vines grown older. I tasted all the vintages to date and I can definitely see that evolution. The latest available vintage now is 2017. Get a bottle before it runs out as the production is very small.
Price: INR 2000 in Bengaluru
15) Burgundy Bliss
Like I said I’d be ending this list with a Pinot — this time from Volnay in Burgundy. Volnay wines are possibly the most feminine of Burgundian Pinots and are characterised by their perfumed, complex and harmonious style. The Domaine Michel Lafarge Volnay Vendanges Selections is a wine that is made in the most natural way possible with minimum intervention and not more than 5% new oak, allowing this ethereal grape to express the superior terroir it comes from.
Domaine Michel Lafarge was founded in the 18th century and today is run by the 5th generation of the Lafarge family that has been following the same winemaking traditions passed down through the generations. All their vineyards are either biodynamic or organic, making them one of the forerunners in viticultural practices in Burgundy. This Volnay is drinking beautifully right now and will age well to express its delicate and complex character. Price: INR 13,215 in Mumbai
Those are the wines that are #HandpickedByGargi that would be perfect to kickstart this year full of promises. You can reach out to Gargi via email on email@example.com or DM her on Instagram here in case you wish to buy any of the wines in this list.
We’re pumped about trying each of them one after another. What about you?