I have been to vineyard earlier but getting an invite from Four Seasons to visit them at their Vineyard was another experience. There was no preset agenda sent to us and accompanied with few other bloggers from Delhi – Deeba Rajpal, Rekha Kakkar, Sangeeta Khanna and Ekta Khetan, we onboarded our flight to Pune. By now am sure you would have noticed that I was the only lucky guy amongst four beautiful girls.
The flight was on time and an Innova dropped us to the Baramati plant in about 90 min journey. On nowhere land we saw a beautiful landscaped resort cum factory of Four Seasons designed by Naozar Irani and is built to promote wine tourism in the country. We were amongst the first guests here and it will be open to public in coming year. We were given a warm welcome and sipped on the ‘Ritu Boulet’ which is a bubbly. On my inquisitiveness on the ‘Ritu’ brand, we were told that Four Seasons wine is exported under the name of Ritu to London, Paris and few other countries. Ritu is a Sanskrit word and signifies seasons. It is a premium brand which will be available in India shortly after the wine quality is further enhanced, and perhaps the pricing too.
It was already lunch time, and the Director and Chief Wine Taster, Abhay Kewadkar, welcomed us to the dining hall where much to our delight a four course wine-paired Maharashtrian meal was waiting for us. Unlike most company who try to pair wine with French or Italian food, if the wine penetration has to grow in India, it has to go well with the food we normally eat it home. At the table we also met Sourish Bhattacharya, Ex-Executive Editor- Mail Today and Reva K Singh (Editor of Wine Sommelier Magazine) with her husband Bunty Singh.
Chef Nilesh Limaye was specially invited from Mumbai to accentuate our experience of wine with the food pairing. Starting with simple but robust Sol Kadhi (Kokum extract laced with mildly spiced coconut milk). Bombil Rawa Fry was paired perfectly with Ritu Sauvignon Blanc 2012. Chef cleverly kept the heat factor low in Mutton Saoji (Traditional Nagpur lamb dish with hot spices) to pair it well with Ritu Shiraj Barrique Reserve 2010. We ended with innovative Beet & Lapsicha Halwa with Gulkand Rabdi (Duet of beet root and cracked wheat halwa with twsit of rose preserve) and it was paired with Ritu Late Harvest Chenin Blanc 2013.
For most of the bloggers it was first time experience to see how the wine is made and we also tasted the young wine still to be matured. The entire plant was spic and clean. In a normal course we would have thought that the cleanliness drive was done to impress most of the guests who were here, but knowing that Four Seasons has received relevant certificates ISO 22000, is an indication that outside experts have certified the hygiene and cleanliness. It is youngest winery to receive this award and Abhay confirmed that apart from them only Nine Hills has received this certification.
Amongst the new products to be launched is Super Barrique Reseve 2009, which has a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Shiraz. The wine is currently aging in the casks. Abhay did not mention the tentative launch price point at this time. Four Seasosn would also be launching sparkling wines soon. The Four Seasons Brut will have a blend of Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay while a Rose Brut will be introduced under premium Ritu brand. We were most impressed by Ritu Barrique Reseve Viognier which has a complex flavor and is being matured in Oak barrels that would give it an oaky flavor.
Next day we ventured with Dr. A.S.Deokate (DGM Viticulture) to the fields learning from him the various techniques deployed to get the best wine grapes. Company of Sourish and Reva, who had some advanced queries, helped me learn the nuances faster.
I hope the company can position ‘Ritu’ brand as a premium offering which otherwise (atleast for North Indians) is a very common name. The trip was fun learning and I hope I will be able to appreciate wine further while in each sip I would know few technicalities apart from hard work gone behind.