This year the trophy is likely to be wrestled out of their grapple by Italians. They are using good wines. In fact, I have just come back from Vinitaly wine event in Verona and after five days of tasting and sampling I am convinced that Italians will ascend the throne of Indian wine market rulers. When one has sampled the world full of Chardonnays and Cabernets (even Syrahs), its a revelation to sample the joys of Corvina, Garganega, Nero Davola, Primitivo and Sagrantino.
So yes, it is well established that Italy has some amazing grape varietals.
One more thing that they have are some unusual wine-making techniques. Taking harvested grapes and putting them into a vat of fermented wine (a technique called apassimento) and using the dried grape matter that still has some sugar to ferment in another wine (ripasso) are all traditional time-proven methods that yield mind-boggling wines.
At the Vinitaly, they didnt just stress the Italian. They stressed fine wine. For example, they showcased the cream of the worlds finest wines at The Young Lions Tasting Seminar, while another tasting focussed on odd wines that came from 15 metre high vines, rocky slopes and other odd land masses.
Then there were a lot of Indian and Polish consultants hawking their services (from barrelmaking to wine consultancies) although from the looks of it I think it was just a great vacation for most of them. However, coming back to wines, I always maintain that a good wine is not about just grapes and technique.
A good wine is one that can be served often (is price-effective) and is enjoyable each time. Irrespective of ones wine background, if one can pick up a glass and relish it before asking for another is the true mark of a good wine.
Finally, the ambience where one enjoys the wine is equally relevant. All the wines I tasted in the busy halls of Vinitaly didnt taste half as good as the glasses of Valpolicella and Amarone I shared with a winemaker and a friend somewhere in the vineyards just outside of Verona, all with simple tit-bits to munch on!