The Taj’s expanded selection of private label wines makes it easier for guests to experience some of the world’s best
More than a hundred years ago, the wines from Château Cos d’Estournel, ranked a Second Growth according to the historic 1855 Bordeaux Classification, were being served in the royal households of Jaipur and Jodhpur. Louis Gaspard d’Estournel, the founder of the Château, who was also known as ‘the Maharaja of Saint-Estèphe’ was so impressed with India that not only was the architecture of his Château influenced by Indian palaces but so was one of its wine labels.
The second wine of the prestigious estate, whose neighbours are Château Lafite-Rothschild and Château Montrose, is called Les Pagodes de Cos. In India, it is exclusively available with the Taj under the label Les Pagodes de Cos au The Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai where it is the star of the newly expanded Private Label wine selection.
Like the Pagodes de Cos, which was the first wine to be introduced five years ago, all the wines for this selection have been carefully curated to offer guests a chance to experience some of the best wines from India and the world over.
Noticing that wine consumption was growing and that their customers responded very positively to a label that had the brand name on it, the Taj decided to extend the selection. While Indian guests are interested in international labels, foreigners are keen to taste Indian wines. “We started the Private Labels to help our guests through their journey of wine,” explains Jyoti Narang, Chief Operating Officer, Taj Luxury Hotels and Taj Safaris, who conceptualized the initiative. “We realised there are many Indian consumers who are still discovering wine and so unsure about which wines to order. Similarly, international travellers are not familiar with Indian wines and wine labels,” she adds. It stood to reason that if the wines were endorsed by the brand it would remove the element of doubt and uncertainty.
Ensuring that guests have an adequate choice, the selection includes a white and red wine from the Old World, a white and red from the New World, champagne and an Indian wine. And it’s a list that will please the palate of both the novice and the oenophile.
“We didn’t want wines that were too tannic, or too big, or too dry,” says Parveen Chander Kumar, Deputy General Manager, The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai and the person responsible for curating the collection. “We chose easy-drinking, fresh wines that go well with Indian food, ensuring that we offer a variety of grape-styles, quality levels and regions.”
At the entry level are the two Old World easy-drinking, everyday Palais wines: a white Palais Corte Giara Venezie IGT from Veneto in north east Italy and a red Super Tuscan-style blend from Tuscany.
Crisp, dry and light-bodied, the Pinot Grigio is from the Corte Giara range produced by the house of Allegrini, who have been making wines in the region since the 16th century. The Palais Castellani Toscana IGT, a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, produced from hand-picked grapes, has a pleasant roundness and is perfect to drink by itself.
In the Cellar Selection are two stellar New World wines: the Saint Clair Pioneer Block 2 Taj Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and the Penfolds Koonunga Hills Seventy Six Taj Cellar Selection Shiraz Cabernet. “The grapes that go into this Sauvignon Blanc,” says Vishal Kadakia, who imports the wine into India, “come from a single vineyard. The vineyard is close to the sea and the wine has a discernible saltiness to it.” It’s unquestionably a beautiful wine, bold flavours of guava and red chilli on the palate are certain to evoke childhood memories. The silky smoothness of the Penfolds Koonunga, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, is completely breath-taking. A rich, deep, luscious wine, it is one of most perfect expressions of the New World style of wine making.
In a class by itself is the wine that set it all off: the Grand Palace wine — Les Pagodes de Cos au The Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai. Elegant, classy, subtle, a thorough-bred, this is a wine to be savoured leisurely sip by sip. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, it’s a testament of the unparalleled beauty of Bordeaux wines.
While the other wines will be available at all the Taj Luxury Hotels, Les Pagodes will be restricted to the Grand Palaces of the Taj, including The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai.
Svara, the only Indian wine on the list, produced by Fratelli in Akluj, Maharashtra, is a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Oak-matured, it is an easy-drinking wine that’s suitable for all occasions. Explaining its unique label, Narang says, “We felt that if we’re doing an Indian wine then it should reflect what India is today which is a blend of old and new. We wanted to represent to an international palate what we believe is contemporary India and so we came up with the concept of the Sounds of India. This reflected in the vivid label packed with Indian motifs and that also uses cutting-edge technology to communicate the idea: when viewed through the mobile app Blippar, a set piece of Indian music plays on the phone.”
With wines for every occasion and for every level of drinker, the Taj Private Label selection is a wonderful innovation that promises an easier and less stressful wine-drinking experience for guests.
Published Taj Magazine February 2015 Photographs Prateeksh Mehra