Putting their best foot forward

Kangaroos are not an uncommon sight within vineyard rows in Australian wine regions

Craig Wedge is bullish about the rising quality of Australian wines entering the Indian market

When I was asked by the Editor recently if I would contribute to Sommelier India, this pioneering publication on all things vinous, I said, “Of course! Who would put aside the opportunity to stand upon a soap box and spout to the world about the wonderment of the grape? And what individual (not yearning like the rest) for 15 minutes of fame, still wants their voice heard over the vast, crowded sea of Indian “wine con-or-sewers”…. This Aussie of course.

But herein lies the irony. For Aussie I am, and yet, whilst I still proudly put hand-on-heart and sing the mighty anthem, “Waltzing Matlida”, I am what some would call, desi-fied after all the years I have spent here and very much a Mumbaikar at heart. So, when asked to put pen to paper and write about the current state of Aussie wines in India following the trade agreement between the two countries, I have to admit, I had to scratch my head and think about it. But here is the thing. Aussie wine has really not changed in all the years I have been here. I guess you could say that it
has simply refined itself.

What I mean by this is that the great southern land of my birth has always inspired a treasure trove of incredible and diverse wine styles, and the vast majority of them are world class without
question. Everyone knows that the Clare Valley is home to iconic Riesling and Shiraz, that the Margaret River unleashes world class Chardonnay and Cabernet on the market, that the Hunter Valley has Semillon like no one else can produce anywhere, yes anywhere, and Tasmania is producing Pinot Noir that would make most Burgundian’s weep. It is from within these very wines and regions that the Indian market is now seeing how the Aussies have refined themselves. Refined how, you ask?

Quite simply, the Aussies are now putting their best feet forward and the Indian market recognizes it. The one-time message that big fruit and big alcohol make for quality wine is a thing of the past, replaced with the new wine speak of ‘leƒss is more’. Bigger and more expensive is certainly not better, but spending a couple more well placed rupees on a bottle of varietal white or red wine from a small focused producer, will yield nothing less than serendipity.

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So how does that same principle apply in a place like India? In the time I’ve been here, I have seen brands like Jacobs Creek and Yellow Tail do a just job to kick-start the Indian market. And all those recipe wines that followed have gone a long way to firmly plant Aussie wine as a mainstay of the Indian table and push the wine industry forward. Fifteen years later, here we are and where we are is a much better place.

Essentially, the overabundance of run-of-the-mill bottles of formulaic drivel that once permeated every liquor store have done their collective job and are now being overtaken by regional and varietal gems that truly showcase the incredible diversity of the Aussie terroir, and now more than ever are relevant as an accompaniment to great food and good company across the tables of India. So much so, that in the last few years Australian wine has remained at the top of the tree of international wines at a whopping 45% of all wines imported into India.

And this is only the start. With the new hallowed AI-ECTA agreement (Australia- India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement) in place, the years ahead are somewhat positive (on paper atleast) for this new refined sway of Aussie wines. The smart importers are doing what they need to do to bring in a whole range of different and sometimes eclectic wines at an affordable rate without compromising the quality of the producer. At the same time that we have to deal with archaic and restrictive excise policies across the informed about what’s in the bottle and has a keen interest in discovering the regions of Australia and tasting varietals of all denominations in the search of pleasure.

And there it is — at the end of the day we, in this amazing wine industry in India, are in the pleasure business. Our job is to take this simple yet pure wonder from the creator’s bag of tricks and hold it up high for all to see. For it is in its simplicity that wine is at its most beguiling. and there is no question that in India, the Aussies are certainly leading the charge with fresh, exciting and
dynamic wines that are delivering endless pleasure in every glass.

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