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How Chandon Aurva Aims To Push Indian Winemaking To New Heights

How Chandon Aurva Aims To Push Indian Winemaking To New Heights

Moët Hennessy India landed a pleasant surprise for Indian winemaking with the launch of Chandon Aurva, a premium made-in-India still wine made exclusively with Shiraz grapes. Gurgl got Chandon India’s head winemaker Kaushal Khairnar to spill the grapes on all things Aurva. Edited excerpts from the interview.

1: Tell us about the genesis of Chandon Aurva

Chandon Aurva was born from a compelling blend of inspiration, innovation, and collaboration, ever since the brand’s inception in 1959. The spark for Aurva ignited when Chandon India achieved resounding success with its award-winning sparkling Rosé, crowned as the Best Indian sparkling wine in 2020 at the CSWWC, often referred to as the “Oscars” of champagne and sparkling wines. This achievement underscored our mastery of noble and unconventional red grape varieties when crafting sparkling wines. It prompted an intriguing idea – to establish India on the global map of exceptional red wines by creating an exclusively Shiraz-based still wine sourced from Nashik, a region with tremendous potential.

The result is Chandon Aurva – the fruit of the earth, in Sanskrit, and a meeting of minds. (Two, to be precise. Kaushal Khairnar – Nashik born and bred – one of the youngest Head winemakers, and Dan Buckle, Chandon Australia’s Head winemaker, and a master in the art of Shiraz wine winemaking came together to create Aurva.)

Chandon Aurva is a world-class red wine crafted with 100% Shiraz grapes grown in India. It not only builds on Chandon’s global reputation for excellence but also cements India’s presence on the global wine stage, showcasing the unique marriage of terroir, expertise, and pride in locally crafted wines.

2: How is Aurva different from other wines in India?

For Aurva, we wanted the wine to be aromatic, fruit-forward, and easy to drink, a showcase of the black- and red-fruit lusciousness of Shiraz, but with an element of sophistication from judicious use of oak. A still wine that would push the boundaries of Shiraz, that would stand up proudly and even challenge more traditional expressions around the globe. What also sets Chandon Aurva apart is the dynamic collaboration between two winemakers coming from different domains across the globe.

3: What does it mean for India to be producing a wine like Aurva?

The Indian wine market has unique characteristics and complexities that require careful navigation. I believe that success requires a well-planned strategy, a commitment to quality, an understanding of local nuances, and a long-term vision. Chandon’s entry into the Indian still wine market with Aurva exemplifies how a brand can leverage its expertise and innovation to make a mark in this evolving landscape.

4: What has the response to Aurva been so far?

We are overjoyed by the overwhelmingly positive response Aurva has garnered since its recent launch. In a short span, Aurva has not only etched its place within the illustrious landscape of Indian wines but has done so with a distinct flair—much like our acclaimed sparkling wines, Chandon Brut and Chandon Rose. Aurva’s success is a testament to its exceptional quality and the passion with which it has been crafted. Aurva is poised to become a formidable player, not just within the Indian market but on the global stage. Its unique character, coupled with the legacy of excellence established by Chandon, positions Aurva as a symbol of sophistication and a true ambassador of Indian winemaking. We are excited about the future as we continue to set new standards in the world of fine wines.

5: What makes Aurva the best wine to gift for this festive season?

Aurva boasts a meticulously crafted blend that marries rich, full-bodied flavours with a velvety smooth texture. The wine’s distinct notes of berries, oak, or spice create an exquisite taste experience that lingers on the palate, making it a true connoisseur’s delight. The bottle itself is a work of art, reflecting the elegance and sophistication that the festive season demands. With its refined label design and attention to detail, Aurva makes a statement even before the first sip, enhancing the overall premium gift-giving experience. Hence, gifting Aurva is a testament to your commitment to providing nothing but the best.

 6: What were the challenges while making Aurva?

We felt confident that by bringing our expertise in viticulture, winemaking, and blending to a still Shiraz, we could realize it and produce a wine of great beauty and richness. It required a creative approach, a profound understanding of the terroir, and a fusion of Indian and Australian winemaking expertise. The process was marked by exploration and a culmination of decades of shared know-how. While different from our previous vintages, this journey is about us taking our age-honed expertise in Shiraz and giving it a poetic new expression.

7: How was it collaborating with Dan Buckle and what inputs did he add?

Recognising the inherent potential of crafting an exceptional still wine using Shiraz grapes., we understood that we possessed a winning combination: the noble Shiraz grape variety flourishing in its ideal terroir, our six-decade legacy of crafting exceptional wines worldwide, and a fruitful collaboration with Dan Buckle, a Shiraz maestro hailing from one of the world’s most renowned wine regions for this grape variety – Australia. Working with him has helped us leverage his expertise into collaborating resulting in the creation of Aurva.

8: What’s the best way to drink Aurva and what are the best food items to pair it with?

Chandon Aurva offers a versatile and delightful wine-pairing experience. Its exceptional qualities make it a perfect match for a variety of dishes – both traditional and contemporary. From grilled meats, including steak and lamb, to traditional Indian cuisines like tandoori chicken and biryani, Aurva complements a range of flavors. Cheese platters, featuring aged cheddar or blue cheese, also pair beautifully with this red wine. For a vegetarian option, one can consider roasted vegetables, such as eggplant and bell peppers. And don’t forget dessert—Aurva pairs wonderfully with dark chocolate. Whether you’re enjoying a special occasion or a casual meal, Aurva’s complexity and character elevate your dining experience.

9: What have been the major learnings from the entire experience of creating Aurva?

Creating Aurva bolstered our existing learning of blending and experimenting by going beyond just the variety. With Aurva, it has been tensions between power versus finesse. By using oak barrels and creating a wine that balances oak and fruit. Aurva also required fruit to hang on vines for quite a long time to achieve the perfect ripeness and fruit concentration at the same time and try to stay away from a cooked or too jammy a sensation. We had to take many steps to ensure that the fruit that was going into tanks reflected harmony and consistency in terms of colour and maturity. This was done by careful selection of bunches of berries in the vineyard and in the winery. Some of the key aspects were around too much or too little, over-extraction versus perfection.

10: How does Aurva position and help the Indian wine industry grow?

In recent years, the wine industry in India has undergone a notable transformation, reflecting the diverse culture, evolving palate, and discerning preferences of the country’s consumers. India’s wine consumption landscape has become increasingly diverse, with preferences shaped by a combination of cultural, climatic, and individual factors. This diversity mirrors the rich tapestry of Indian tastes and regional variations. Red wine, particularly varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Merlot, has experienced a surge in popularity. The bold and robust flavours of red wine harmoniously complement the richness and spiciness of traditional Indian cuisine, making it a preferred choice for pairing with these dishes.

Indian consumers are embracing a “drink less, but better” philosophy, showcasing a growing appreciation for quality over quantity. This shift in mindset reflects a more discerning and sophisticated palate among wine enthusiasts in India.

There is a palpable sense of pride in locally crafted products within the Indian wine market. Consumers are increasingly recognising the value of locally produced wines, contributing to a heightened interest in Indian wines. This pride in locally made wines not only supports domestic wineries but also fosters innovation and excellence in the Indian wine industry.

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Overall, the wine industry in India is experiencing a dynamic and multifaceted evolution, characterised by diverse wine preferences, an increasing affinity for red wines, a focus on quality, and a deep-rooted pride in locally crafted wines.

11: What plans does Chandon India have to take Aurva to the global stage?

We are now embarking on a mission to broaden our product offerings and cement our status as India’s foremost premium homegrown wine brand. The timing couldn’t be more favourable, with the Indian wine market displaying remarkable potential. In 2022, the market’s size surged to US$ 444 million, registering impressive growth of +22% in value and +19% in volume compared to the previous year. Notably, the premium segment is thriving, boasting a remarkable +23% year-on-year growth rate. India’s still wine market, considered an emerging player, is witnessing a shift in consumer preferences towards more premium wines. There is a discernible uptick in appreciation for still wine, especially among urban and younger demographics, making it the preferred choice for various occasions.

12: Where does a niche product like Aurva sit within the premium wine range?

With Aurva, we are trying to bring another expression of our Rose sparkling that’s made with Shiraz. The product has gone through meticulous vineyard management, careful fruit selection, and aging in two different types of oak barrels i.e. new oak and used oak. With this product, we have the best expression of Shiraz coming from India, which reflects our climate, soil, and the region which is marked by contrast of strong summer versus wet monsoon. This product can be a part of a collection as we are focusing on vintage, with each vintage bringing its uniqueness and elements to cherish in a glass.

13: Tell us more about the starring role of Shiraz in Aurva

Shiraz has always been the emblematic grape of the Rhone region in France, and the Barossa and Hunter Valleys in Australia. It carries with it a freight of expectation. Our winemakers believed Indian soils and our climate – an unusual one for wine – could produce an expression of Shiraz that would be a little more colourful, aromatic, and sensual than the wines from more traditional terroirs. We felt confident that by bringing our expertise in viticulture, winemaking, and blending to a still Shiraz, we could produce a wine of great beauty and richness. Our expertise in the Shiraz grape has been demonstrated through our award-winning 100% Shiraz Chandon Rose and we wanted to give this expertise a new dimension.

14: What are some new initiatives that the winery has undertaken?

On the path of our commitment towards sustainability recently we have expanded our solar panel capacity which now covers 50% of our energy requirements via solar panels. For our winery operations and processes, we have got ISO certification for 45001:2018 Health and Safety Management Systems, 14001:2015 Environmental Management System, and FSSC 22000 V5.1 Food Safety System Certification in the last couple of years. That shows our commitment to achieving excellence beyond our wines which are constantly winning awards in competitions such as the Decanter World Wine Awards and The Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships. We are also incorporating regenerative organic practices in our winery vineyards that consist of focusing on the use of cover crops, the use of organic fertilisers, recycling of green waste generated as mulch under vines, and overall reduction of the agriculture inputs.

15: What’s next for Chandon India?

The culmination of our efforts is Chandon Aurva, a world-class red wine exclusively crafted from Shiraz grapes grown in India.

Aurva reflects our heritage of savoir-faire while maintaining a contemporary edge. This expansion adds a new dimension to our portfolio, signifying our willingness to explore different facets of winemaking. For now, our focus is on our existing portfolio and recent Aurva launch, but innovation and pioneering spirit is part of our Maison DNA so you never know where our next chapter will lead us.

Chandon Aurva, priced at INR 4250, is currently available in Mumbai.

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