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South Africa’s biggest selling export wine comes to India and its winemaker is on a mission to get us acquainted with it

JUST one meal into his first visit to India – lunch at ITC Grand Maratha’s Peshawri in Mumbai – and Ben Jordaan is hooked. Understandably, for he has sampled the raan – the restaurant’s legendary leg of lamb cooked in the tandoor. As the unofficial ambassador of Kumala Wines, the winemaker has several dinners coming up in the South over the next few days – from Bengaluru to Hyderabad and Chennai. And he is upbeat about all of them faring splendidly with multiple glasses of Kumala. This is South Africa’s biggest selling export wine, has been in the UK market for more than 20 years and has the British supermarket seal of approval, after all. In India, Kumala has begun retailing in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru (from Rs.1,199 onwards), and you can look out for the nifty bottles with the gecko icon in Chennai and Hyderabad mid-December.

Of the 45 different wines from Kumala, the four in the country are Kumala Sauvignon Blanc 2015, the Chardonnay 2014, Pinotage 2014 and Shiraz 2014. Given that the brand has been brought in by Sula Selections, the import arm of Sula Vineyards, the team seems to be well aware of our buying habits. “We know that the single varietal works best in the Indian market, as opposed to blends,” reveals Jordaan, adding, “The story on the back of the label is also important here.” Quick pairing notes follow. The Shiraz is “an absolute charm” with lamb, he says; the fat chardonnay with spicy chicken, fish and tandoor; and the Sauvignon Blanc with king-size prawn. The Pinotage, the robust red wine from the native grape of South Africa, can be had with venison and, in its absence, beef in a pepper sauce.

The 39-year-old insists Kumala, a “premium entry level wine” remains accessible despite our liquor laws. Kumala wines, he shares, depend on contract growers and makers of wine to create about 30 million litres a year. “We are in a way, the Coca Cola of the wine industry,” he says, adding that the wines are popular with millennials. “Our wines are fun and we don’t want to overcomplicate it. What you see on the label is what you get.” Besides meeting new Kumala fans, he has a task to complete – get the wife a sari from here. But the adventure-junkie hopes to soak up a bit of the cities he visits. “The traffic sure gets your adrenaline going; the way the tuk-tuks weave in and out of traffic, ah!”
Ben Jordaan will be hosting wine dinners in Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad this weekend.
Details: 022 61280606
— Rosella Stephen

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