An Indian tasting room with a view, York Winery, Nasik Valley
York Winery is situated on the banks of the Godavari River, which makes for a lovely view from the tasting room. Grapes always pick good locations with fantastic views, funny that, anyway…
York Winery, while it may have lovely views is most probably better known for its wines. They specialize in white and sparkling wine but do make an exceptional red as well. I met with York’s chief winemaker, Kailash Gurnani to find out more about the project.
Kailash and his brother Ravi run the lean operation which was founded by their father in 2005. York, an acronym of the siblings names 9Yogita, Ravi and Kailash) is the biggest privately owned and run winery in India. The vineyards are scattered around a 100 kms radius in the Nasik Valley. Kailash told me that this allows for many different microclimates and variations within the plots. York, like most of the wineries in Nasik, uses contract growers to supply their grapes. Similar to Champagne, they use the growers who they think have the best grapes for them. Kailash spends a lot of time on the road he told me, visiting the various sites to see how things are going. Individually the sites may vary but put together and they can be consistent year after year.
It also helps that there is a big diurnal difference with temps ranging from 6C to 26C between day and night in winter. Summer also has this same difference when it can get up to 40C or more plus you have the rains. York do two harvests but only use the second harvest for winemaking. This adds to the cost of winemaking because the vines are only productive for 20 years or so before they have to be grubbed up. Due to the high cost of production, Indian wineries can’t afford to have old and lazy grapes that don’t have high yields.
I was most impressed by York’s sparkling wine. It’s made from Chenin Blanc and produced using the methode champenois, 16 months on the lees with 8.5 gr/l. The result is a creamy but dry wine that struck me as a cross between champagne and fine prosecco, bubbly and light but at the same time having complexity and a streak of fruity flavours running through it. Very tasty!
Their flagship wine, the Arros is also no slouch. I tasted the 2015, a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Shiraz, the blend changes every year according to the selection and comes from two particular parcels. The wines spend 13 months is French oak. The result is a silky smooth, complex wine. The oak was nicely integrated, giving the wine balance and structure. This is a serious wine and Kailash reckons it can age for 5 years minimum. Kailash’s aim is to make only quality wines and based on these two examples, he is well on his way.
Being an Indian winery has many challenges Kailash told me, chief among them is how to reach the consumer. India may be producing some high quality wines now but there are still many obstacles to market. Another is the problem of taxes and distrubution. India doesn’t have a chief tax collecting center or central distrubution centres. Each state in India, sets it own taxes and insists on it’s own labeling laws. Another issue is the fact that the wine drinking population is still relatively small, only about 15 million drinkers out of a population of 1.2 billion and that the government currently doesn’t have much of an incentive to help the nascent wine industry.
However, Indian consumers are waking up to the high quality wines being produced in their counry. The biggest growth is in the Indian fine wine category. Indians are looking for quality and willing to pay a premium for it. Good news for York and the other fine wine producers of India.
York’s wines are coming to the UK and will be available soon. Next, a winery further afield from the Wine Road….