For India-born vigneron, the grapes are sweet! (With Images)

August 15th, 2008 - 1:52 pm ICT by IANS  

By Neena Bhandari
Mornington Peninsula (Australia), Aug 15 (IANS) Come December, and award winning Delhi-born winemaker Paramdeep Ghumman will be in India with his selection of fine wines, as Australian Red and White become the toast of the festive season. He has already carved a niche with his Nazaaray boutique wines in the southernmost shire of Flinders located on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria.

Ghumman, a computer software engineer turned professional wine grower and wine maker, migrated to Australia in 1981 from Kolkata, with his doctor wife, Nirmal. Having grown up on agricultural farms back home, the couple soon invested in a farm along the eastern curve of Port Phillip Bay, a 90-minute drive south of Melbourne, to provide their son and daughter “the typical Aussie lifestyle”.

“We had the option of moving to Canada, but Australia seemed more attractive with its vast beaches, sunshine and passion for hockey, cricket and wines”, says the 57-year-old, while pruning the grape vines in his sprawling eight-acre vineyard, overlooking the undulating hills dotted with kangaroos and wallabies.

Aptly named Nazaaray Estate Winery, Ghumman has won many accolades for his boutique wines since 1999 and just last week his Pinot Gris 2007 was awarded the silver medal at the Victoria regional showcase in Melbourne.

But turning the paddocks used for grazing cattle into a vineyard has been a labour of love. Ghumman grew up in a teetotaller family and hadn’t sipped any alcohol until the age of 22.

“I acquired the taste for wine after coming to Australia and was fascinated by the wine industry. How the soil and climate influenced the wine was intriguing. So I began reading books on the subject and attending wine making and viticulture (science of growing grape vines) courses,” Ghumman told IANS.

In 1996, he planted his first vines on a patch named “Param’s Folly” by his wife, and three years later made his first wine in a converted cattle shed on the property and soon received his licence as a vigneron. From a modest beginning, today he has 5,400 vines and makes the sought after brands of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and a small amount of Shiraz.

Nazaaray’s cellar door is unique too, housed inside a 1930s railway carriage. The couple invites wine lovers on the first Saturday of every month for Table d’hote (Table of the Host) to join the family and workers for a traditional Indian lunch ranging from tandoori paranthas and tandoori chicken to the good old Indian street chaat experience.

This year, Ghumman is hoping to bottle 500-600 cases (each case has 12 bottles) of Pinot Noir and around 250 cases of Pinot Gris.

Wine exports from Australia to India have gone up four times to 1.4 million litres from 360,000 litres just a year ago. Australian wine exports to India total A$800,000 (Rs.28 million), mainly through tie-ups. Australian companies such as Jacob’s Creek and South Corp have also entered into distribution tie-ups for their wines.

“Our focus is consistent quality and depth of flavour rather than quantity. The strategy is to use traditional Burgundian wine-making methods (for example, low yields per vine, open vat fermentation) to produce wine that best represents the meso-climate of green hills on the western side of the vineyard and the ocean to the south,” says Ghumman, who feels “women are more discerning and appreciative of wine flavours”.

The Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia’s garden state, extends south into the treacherous waters of the Bass Strait, dividing the water into the protected Port Philip Bay and Oceanic Westernport Bay, providing the valley with a cool climate and red volcanic soil that gives the wines from this region a distinctive flavour. The relatively high rainfall accentuates the intense fruit flavours in these wines.

Being in a competitive industry, surrounded by 60-odd nationally and internationally renowned wineries, the Ghummans have been a mentor for Indian overseas students looking for work experience in the industry.

An engineer, who has represented Delhi state in the National Hockey Championships and played for the East Bengal Hockey Club, Ghumman now devotes his spare time to the vineyard or to one of the 18-hole Golf courses on the peninsula, some with breathtaking vistas of the Tasman Sea.

True to the logo - a lady with the falcon from a Rajasthani miniature - Nazaaray represents the owners’ Indian heritage and the refined taste of their premium wines.

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