Bangalore-based SDU Winery heads the list of India’s top 25 wines
When the results were announced a week ago on Facebook (where else?) of India’s Top 25 Wines, most wine professionals reacted on their timelines with the phrase “bottle shock”. Not because they had just watched the wine centric film of the same name, but because the results came as a big surprise. Karnataka’s two-year-old SDU Winery, a boutique winery located in Nandi Hills, 75 kms from Bangalore, had topped the list with its Reserva Syrah 2012, edging out the big wine brands in a David versus Goliath scenario. Not just that, it had grabbed four spots in the list of top 25 wines, which were judged in a blind tasting by eight of India’s noted wine personalities at the Royal Bombay Yacht Club. (At a blind tasting, labels are obscured from the judges’ eyes, so that the wines can be judged on quality alone, with no preconceived notions.)
Many Indian wine drinkers hadn’t even heard of SDU, whose entry level Deva wines were launched two years ago at a reasonable `500. Subsequently, the Reserva range was launched (`800-`900) — Chardonnay, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, which have found widespread approval from serious wine drinkers. Of these, the Reserva Syrah 2012 topped the competition, with the Reserva Chardonnay 2012 in seventh place.
Mohit Nischol, SDU Winery’s business head, said he was confident about their wines all along, “but didn’t expect to be number one!” To top that, “four wines in the top 25! This gives confidence that you’re on the right path.” The young eight-member sales team is also thrilled at the accolades, as is SDU owner, Shaambhavi Hingorani. The working atmosphere is casual, the top brass is accessible. The organisation has a buzzy casual Bangalore vibe, to which they attribute their success. “I tell the team, enjoy your work. Work smart, rather than hard,” says Nischol. “Andrea Valentinuzzi, our visiting Italian winemaker, is also chilled out. He’s very involved, friendly and approachable. So is Shaambhavi. All this has worked in our favour.” There’s plenty in the pipeline — expansion into other states, exports, developing their winery for wine tourism, and looking for a presence on wine lists of the city’s fine dining restaurants and young hip pubs. All this has got a fillip from the big win.
It’s increasingly looking like Bangalore isn’t just known as India’s startup centre for young entrepreneurs, it’s also home to keen, enthusiastic winemakers, and a burgeoning wine appreciating community. Meanwhile, for SDU, it’s time to celebrate. It’s not often that a young winery can take on the long-established ones and emerge tops. “We are ecstatic,” says Hingorani. We’ll raise a glass to that.
— Ruma Singh presents a
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