Franconia wine region, Bavaria, Germany
The fairytale Romantic Route rolls into neatly-furrowed vineyards, with spectacular panoramas of the Taubertal Valley. Franconia is one of Germany’s exclusive wine regions, nurturing truly unique grape varietals. Castell, a tiny hilltop village in Franconia, greeted us with a sweep of unseasonal showers at the world-famous Castell Winery of well-known global brand Faber & Castell.
These erudite pioneers offered us a thrilling summery white wine—a 2008 Schloss Casteller Bausch Mueller Thurgau-Kabinett Trocken (dry)—and their signature 2009 Casteller Silvaner Kabinett (premium), both truly outstandingly dry and aromatic wines. Known globally for their award-winning ‘Good Growth’, the GG Schlossberg Silvaner label, the wine offered grand floral notes matched with lingering grapefruit and light melon flavours.
The superlative 2009 ‘Apriles’ Silvaner was like nectar, with fresh jasmine, lily and white rose bouquets. But the bespoke Castell grand reds—the 2007 Spaetburgunder Trocken, 2008 Reitsteig and the innovative 2008 Castell Cuvee blend—wowed with striking leather and pine aromas. An outstanding Casteller Kugelspiel Silvaner 2007 Eiswein (ice wine) with vanilla, honey nectarine and lemon rind hints bowled us over.
Nandi Hills, Karnataka, and Nashik, Maharashtra
Forty minutes on a salubrious wintry drive to panoramic Nandi Hills near Bengaluru brought us to the verdant Grover Zampa Vineyards and winery. Greeted with a finely-chilled jasmine and pink rose-tinged Grover Art Collection Rose, we drank in the irresistible charm of the vine rows over wine talk.
Their cellar haven brought us up close to their award-winning labels celebrated in India and abroad. The unmistakable granddad among Indian reds, their marvellous ‘Grover La Reserve’ Red in a Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon combo, waltzed on our tastebuds, with its full-bodied coffee beans, cigar, musk and vanilla flavours, while spicy, fruity aromas lingered on our olfactory senses.
The light limestone and slate minerals of the soil around Nandi Hills abundantly complement the vines and the grapes. The super trio of Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz-Viognier metamorphose as the charming blend ‘VA Reserve Collection Red’ (VA for Vijay Amritraj). The wine is delightful with a deep purple body, dark fruit, pepper, moist oak and currant bouquets. Sipping it reveals fine flavours of smooth tannins, balanced with violet, wild mushroom and truffle back palates.
But the king of kings, rated as one of India’s most premium wines with an impeccable sensory repertoire, is the Zampa Chene Grande Reserve, the Beluga among all. Two celebrated red grapes—Tempranillo and Shiraz—present an outstanding wine. Deep ruby and maroon tones lend space to blackberry, ripe plum, roast almonds, cedar and oak bouquets, while quaffing it gave us elegant flavours of cinnamon, roast coffee, prunes and light black pepper, prominent yet smooth tannins.
At the second Grover Zampa vineyards, a crystalline crispness in the atmosphere, created by contrasting landscapes and lush greenery, uplifted our wine tastings. The much-acclaimed Grover Art Collection Chenin Blanc welcomed us with its remarkable guava, green grass, pineapple bouquet, complimented by smooth and dry bamboo, citrus and green apple flavours. Another svelte white wine greeted us at the wide-angled, glass-covered cellar door—the Grover
Art Collection Sauvignon Blanc with its unmistakable peach and lemon fragrances and impressive lemon rind and sweet lime palate.
Cantons-de-l’Est, Quebec, eastern Canada
The scenic Cantons-de-l’Est (Eastern Townships) is Quebec’s prized wine region, a 40-minute drive from Montreal. Boutique wineries here have made a significant mark with indigenous grape varietals, especially Canada’s pride, the ice wine.
At the glorious vineyards of the oldest operational winery in Quebec, Domaine des Cotes D’Ardoise Vignoble, we relished their award-winning 2009 Cotes d’Ardoise’ cuvee, a peppery and spicy communion that had aromas of pine and lingering roast chestnut, the well-rounded taste akin to lychee and very light fennel.
Their teasing red Haut Combe 2007 boasts of a light peppery palate of well-balanced tannins, lightly acidic, but ripe with smoky burnt wood flavours. Their award-winning honeydew-scented 2008 ‘L’Or D’Automne dessert wines offered unbeatable bouquets and flavours.
Canungra Valley, Queensland, Australia
In the thickly-wooded Canungra Valley in Lamington National Park near Nerang in Queensland lies the picturesque O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Winery. Catherine O’Reilly’s pleasant and easygoing demeanour is a cheery precursor to sampling their magnificent wine labels, some of Australia’s finest. Their gloriously fruity, peach-, plum- and citrus-flavoured 2007 Sparkling Semillon is an all-out winner. O’Reilly offered us her classique Sparkling Chambourcin with grassy, woody and musky flavours. As the fragrance of tall, swaying eucalyptus trees from the estate caressed our mood, we tasted her other outstanding labels: the 2008 Platypus Unwooded Chardonnay with striking lily and jasmine nose and the 2007 Merlot Chambourcin blend with bouncy herb flavours.
Massa Carrara wine region, Toscana, Italy
It was a very steep and precarious ride that brought us up to the confines of the massive, hyper-cavernous marble caves in Carrara, the world’s fabled marble capital, where the most exclusive wine tastings and lunch awaited us.
Among the most outstanding Tuscan white wine varietals is the boutique, limited-edition Vermentino grape grown on the scenic hill slopes of Marina di Massa, overlooking the dazzling Tyrrhenian Sea. Boutique winemaker Pierpaolo Lorieri’s top wine, Lorieri Vernero Toscana IGT 2009, from this region and his signature, Lorieri Vermentino Bianco 2010 and Lorieri Vermentino Nero 2010, score in altitude above other fine Toscana whites.
Lively, mild sunshine yellow in tones, rich in aromas of petunia, passion fruit and green apple bouquets with distinct, well-structured, smooth, floral flavours with light acidity, white rose, grass, citrus and lemon, commanded admiration on our palates.
Paired with Lorieri’s own charcoal and Tuscan herb-covered goat cheese chunks, we relished and savoured our most unforgettable and intense wine and grills fiesta.
By Kishore & Smita Iyengar
The writers are wine, travel and lifestyle writers, and wine awareness consultants