“I am planning to make this even better,” says Faheem, referring to the vineyard tour, as he leads us to the garden that has an artificial stream where intrepid white ducks meander around us in the hope of being fed. Faheem is the Business Manager at the Grover Vineyards and we were part of the vineyard tour, being organized by the Grover group. The tour is not hugely popular, either for lack of wine aficionados in Bangalore or general lack of knowledge of such enterprise. Although Faheem has huge plans to enhance the format of the tour – there is a new La Reserve (Grover’s flagship red wine brand) lounge coming up inside the premises – he doesn’t express any plans to pull more crowds.
On the same breadth, he mentions that Grover’s “aim is to invite people to come visit our vineyards and the winery”. “There are other companies that do the same but not at the deeper level we offer,” he adds. The Doddaballapur region is peppered with grape plantations and there is one such in a plot next to Grover’s winery. “Those are table grapes,” explains Faheem. “Wine grapes need certain temperature to grow and their skin is rather thick than the regular grape variety,” he further clarifies.
We wait for two more couples and a fairly big family – more on that in a bit – to join us for the tour of the winery. Faheem left us with the affable Kavitha to explain the crushing and bottling process. Kavitha took the tirade of questions from the wine novices to her stride and answered each one of them genially. The wine is sent through a crusher and in this process manual labor is also employed to segregate the over ripe and under ripe grapes before the grapes reach the crusher through a conveyor belt.
The crusher’s job is to separate the seeds and the thick skin of the grapes leaving a pulp to ferment, for days depending on the nature of the grape. For instance, the white grapes will ferment for 10 days while the red will be made to ferment for about a month. The grape juice is made to ferment in tall, cylindrical tanks in varied temperatures (for white it’s 180 and for red it’s slightly higher), Kavitha explains us. She also lets us a peek into the bottling and corking process. The bottles are labeled by manual labors and are packed subsequently.
Now comes the fun part, announces Faheem as we climbed down to the basement cellar that stores numerous wooden casks where ageing of wines take place. This is where we would have the wine tasting. The tour also includes wine tasting – of 5 varietals of Grover’s wines. The cellar has wooden floors and the walls are musk-yellow to suit the ambience.
After briefly explaining the techniques of holding a wine glass – you need to hold the wine glass by its stem, so as not to let your body temperature affect the wine’s qualities – Kavitha proceeds to pour out Grover’s Viognier in the wine glasses set on our tables. Viognier has fruity and floral notes, while Sauvignan Blanc, served next, was acidic. Shiraz was served right after, followed by Cabernet Shiraz and Grover’s flagship brand La Reserve.
All this while, Ave Maria was playing in the room. Oh yeah, it’s Ave Maria to which we drank our wines. The ever genial Kavitha was still answering questions about food pairings as the big family got tipsier and started feeding wine to the noisy two-year old they brought along. Grover hires famed artists for their label paintings and they have a wine consultant – Michel Rolland – who comes in twice a year from France to oversee the wine making process.
The wine tasting was followed by a lunch, pleasing to the eye but hardly so for the palette. Lunch was served with a glass of Grover’s very sweet Reva wine. While Faheem and his colleague Gareema ardently listened to the enthusiastically advices tossed by another bunch of couples on how to make the wine tour popular, we quietly sipped our soup and ate our biriyani. It’s probably better this way, I thought. The more exclusive and non-touristy the entire affair is the more enjoyable experience it remains.
Finally, the vineyard tour culminated in the vineyard visit, a few meters away from the winery. Neat rows of different varieties of grapes planted in both Indian and European manner of growing grapes are shown and explained by Seema.
As we drove back, I cud-chewed on the nuggets of information peppered the tour. There were quite a few and any wine novice’s knowledge is sure to go up after the visit.
Drop in a mail to the folks at grover vineyards and fix your visit. Their email is available on their website. You can pay at the winery office and also buy wine at a small discount.