Indo-Aussie Nazaaray Pinot Noir wins Top Award

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Nazaaray Estate, a winery owned by Indo Australian Punjabi couple Paramdeep and Dr. Nirmal Ghumman in the Mornington Peninsula, about 100 kms South of Melbourne, has won the People’s Choice Award for its ‘Pinot Noir Reserve 2015’ at the 17th International Cool Climate Wine Show last month after bagging a Silver Medal earlier at the International Wine Challenge in London, writes Subhash Arora who met the lady at his residence a decade ago

I met Dr. Nirmal Ghumman on October 19, 2008 for a paratha breakfast at my residence. She was visiting her hometown in Chandigarh and the meeting had been fixed through correspondence with her husband Paramdeep Ghumman with whom she owns Nazaaray Estate winery in Flinders, a small town in Mornington Peninsula, about an hour’s drive from Melbourne. She was a practicing doctor but helped her husband manage the winery in her spare time. She was on the lookout for an importer for their wines in India to distribute a small quantity of their varietals. I presented to her the Indian market scenario and explained how tough and time consuming it was finding importers who were looking only for $2-4 wines for the market because of high taxes.

I never heard from them after that pleasant morning when I was very impressed by the passion and dedication of the hard working couple in Australia until I saw a Post a couple of days ago on the Facebook page of the Indian Wine Academy closed group I have created with a current membership of over 9,500 members from India and overseas. Their cool climate Pinot Noir Reserve 2015 had won the People’s Choice Award from among 544 entries on May 26 at the Cool Climate Wine Show. Quite an achievement that, after the wine had recently won a Silver Medal at the International Wine Challenge in London this year!

The Award is a testimonial to their dedication to wine and assumes a greater significance, especially since Param had been from the IT industry, now retired. He has had no formal education in wine barring some short evening courses in winemaking and viticulture he took after buying 50 acres of land in the southernmost part of the Mornington Peninsula. In fact the first glass of wine he had was on the flight to Melbourne in 1981 when he and his wife were migrating to Australia towards greener pastures.

They bought the land in 1991 and eventually decided to enter grape farming and started the winery in 1996, naming it Nazaaray. It means ‘beautiful vistas’ in Persian and the land had beautiful wildlife and enchanting sunsets. The farm was on a hillside, exposed to wind from all directions, but overlooking the verdant landscape. They grew several cypress trees to tone down the wind velocity.

Delhi-born and brought up Paramdeep Ghumman started his journey in winemaking in 1996 when he planted 10 rows of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling. He experimented with different types of trellising and vine spacing. The couple used to go to the farm over the week-ends but now that they are retired they have moved to the farm permanently.

Param is one of the few Indian winemakers in Australia, and makes varietal wines from his own single vineyard grapes in his cooler climate farm. He admits being a student of Burgundy styled wines. He seriously planted Pinot Noir in 2001 and as the vines have matured, the wines have evolved and developed in character from a fruitier style to a spicier spectrum with fine tannins and intense, complex flavours. Average age of the 4 acre plot of Pinot Noir is 19 years and the yields are extremely low at 2 tons/acre. The Burgundy producers might be aghast though that keeping with the Australian tradition, the bottles are screw-capped.

The couple has been lucky to have with them a young farmer, Ranjit Singh Gill, from a village in Punjab. A quick learner, he also took classes in viticulture and has been running the farm for the last 10 years or so. The couple is committed to organic farming and follows sustainable practices.The winery produces around 1000 cases of wine every year and hopes to expand gradually. Wines retail for Aus$30 to 45 at the cellar door, with the Award winning Pinot Noir selling at Aus$40 ($30).

As I had told Nirmal back then, it is very difficult to sell Australia wine in India at those prices; importers are looking for wines costing under $4 unless they have a USP like Penfolds or Henschke. Hopefully, they can find a niche buyer for the Burgundy styled red and white. The Sauvignon Blanc made in the Sancerre style is also quite popular. If the top Australian restaurants like Vue de Monde, Attica, Aubergine, Ten Minutes by Tractor, The Ivy and Merivale serve it, hopefully it would pique the interest of some fine restaurants in India.

For the information of such restaurants and the Indian wine geeks, judges at the IWC London noted that “the wine exhibited Pencil shavings and subtle oak with cherry and spice. A very elegant style with well-integrated tannins. A classic style,” says Param adding that due to the vineyard’s cooler location at the southernmost tip of the Mornington Peninsula and its long, slow ripening season, the natural acidity of the grapes is usually high at harvest.

For now, Param has been invited to be one of the judges on the panel to the next year’s edition of the Cool Climate Wine Show which was first started in 2000. Nirmal tells me they are visiting India in October when the Australian High Commission plans to organise a small celebratory party for them. Hopefully, one would be able to taste the award winning Pinot and other wines in the Nazaaray range. Our congratulations to the couple for the accolades which would make every Indian wine lover proud.

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Subhash Arora