A range of Indian wines is being launched in Britain in an attempt to conquer curry lovers' taste buds with blends designed to complement fiery food.
At a time when competition between French and New World wines is intensi-fying, south Asia's winemakers are determined to overcome what they say is a misconception that wines from India are inferior.
Indage, India's biggest wine company, which makes 12 types of wine and champagne, sees its products as a good choice to accompany the stronger flavours in curry, according to Eastern Eye newspaper. With curry bringing £3.5bn to the UK economy every year, it could prove shrewd marketing.
Indage wines will reach British restaurants within three months and its established brands, such as Chantilli cabernet sauvignon, will appear on supermarket shelves alongside popular French and Italian labels. Deals with two British distribution and bottling companies are being finalised.
Santosh Verma, the director of Indage, said wine experts and chefs had been working together to create a blend that suited curry flavours. The UK marketing strategy will target restaurants and bars as well as retailers. Some bottles will cost as little as £2.99.
Some of Indage's brands, such as Tiger Hill, are already on restaurant wine lists. "People have been enjoying them without knowing their origin," said Mr Verma, adding that it was a myth that subcontinental wine is inferior to its European counterparts.
"India has the perfect soil for grapes. With the Himalayas in the north and Western and Eastern Ghats towards the south, we are taller than any European mountains. Our wines are on a par with any superior-quality wines from any part of the world," he said.
The company has doubled its sales since 2003 and recently won five awards at the International Wine and Spirit Competition, the "Oscars" of the alcohol industry. The Indian wine market has seen a 52 per cent growth in the past year.
Wine festivals in the picturesque Western Ghats valley near Mumbai have been organised and increasing numbers of vineyards are being planted. Sula and Grover, which among India's biggest wineries, have won recognition, the latter earning the honour of "best new world red" from Decanter magazine in 2005 for its La Reserve cabernet-shiraz blend.
A beginner's guide
Seedless and thin-skinned, this indigenous table grape is one of India's most popular varieties. It is used in white and sparkling wines and white port.
Arkashyam grapes are indigenous and can be traced back to ancient times. Previously grown in small quantities for the home market, arkash-yam has experienced a renaissance, providing a base for red wine and port.
Literally translating as "12 rivers" or "12 combinations", baramati is one of the most popular red grapes. Rarely used alone, it is a popular and affordable choice for fortified and blended reds.
One of the most successful French grapes introduced to Indian soil. The country's cabernet blends are celebrated for their ability to complement the fieriest curries.
Chardonnay has thrived since its introduction to India and is the country's most popular white grape.Source : Independent