Vallone Vineyards, a boutique Indian winery in the Nashik Valley
Vallone Vineyards is one of India’s first boutique wineries and was started in 2009 by Indian wine industry veteran, Shailedra Pai. His aim was to produce French style wines in the Nashik Valley. Vallone is a neighbour of Grover Zampa, who I wrote about here, and they share similar terroir. Like most other vineyards in the region, they source grapes from local farmers as well as grow their own grapes. However, that doens’t mean that they don’t closely monitor what’s going on in their contract growers farms.
Vallone make wine from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc. The grapes are picked and soretd by hand and minimal intervention is practiced at the winery. I tasted through some of the wines with winemaker Sanket Gawand, who told me that although they are not biodynamic or organic, they try and practice as many of those principles as possible. However, due to the climactic conditions, if they have to spray or use other interventionist practices, they will. Sanket is a local boy but he has spent time studying and working in Europe and other overseas vineyards.
The reds that I tasted do indeed spend a significant amount of time in French oak barrels and have the tell tale smoky notes that appear in this part of the Nasik Valley. What I found was that the wines had plenty of structure and acidity, the winemakers really strive to produce wines that are substantial but elegant at the same time. Sanket emphasised that the domestic markets tastes are changing and that in the past Indian wine had a reputation for being sweet but nowadays, Indian winemakers are striving for food friendly and drier styles of wine.
Vallone is also the only producer in Nashik to make a rosé from Cabernet Sauvignon. It was quite dark in colour but they don’t macerate the must, the colour comes from the first pressing only. Sanket noted that it is the driest Indian produced rosé with only 4 gr/ltr of sugar. He aims to make a rosé with structure and roundness. It has enough natural acidity to keep it fresh and is a great food wine. In total, the winery only produces about 5000 cases of each variety a year.
What really bowled me over was Sanket’s pet project of a passito style white made from Chenin blanc. We tried the 2016 which was full of dried apricot and honeyed notes but with good acidity, a rich and sweet wine but excellently balanced. Sanket even showed us the huts they built for drying.
They had just finished the harvest and the grapes were currently out drying. Sanket said that it took 300 people 7 days to tie and hang up the bunches of grapes. This year they had only 6 tonnes of grapes to dry. They only do the passito when the grapes are what Sanket deems as perfect for passito. So far they’ve produced vintages in 2011, 2013, 2016 and now 2017.
As well as having vineyard tours and tastings, the resort also offers 4 bedrooms for short breaks and they have a branch of a well known Indian restaurant chain, Malaka Spice, which serves South East Asian cuisine on the first floor. The restaurant overlooks the Mukhne Lake and has a lovely terrace where you can enjoy lunch or dinner.
If you’d like more information about booking a stay, you can visit their website or contact Manoj Jagtap of Wine Friend, he’ll help set up your tour and tastings for both Grover Zampa and Vallone and he’s an excellent driver!