How does a Hungarian living in London write about wines in India? For Peter Csizmadia-Honigh, the process has involved tasting over 400 varieties of wine and trekking thousands of kilometres, from Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra to Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, to unravel the vast landscape of wine production in the country. “The diversity of regions, varieties, styles and qualities is quite astounding,” says Csizmadia-Honigh, on the sidelines of the launch of The Wines of India – A Concise Guide, at Pali Village Cafe in Bandra. The 450-page book is rich with maps, illustrations, stories of wine makers and Csizmadia-Honigh’s recommendations.
Born and raised in Hungary, Csizmadia-Honigh grew up spending his formative years in a small vineyard owned by his family. “In my teens, I was involved in every stage of the process, from planting the vines to toiling the land and the final extraction of wine,” he says. He remembers being rewarded for his work with a tiny quantity of wine in a glass.
While the 32-year-old first visited India in 2005, “to get some winter sun in Goa”, it was only three years ago that he started visiting wineries in the country. A recipient of the Geoffrey Roberts award — given to someone who demonstrates a genuine commitment to New World wines — Csizmadia-Honigh realised that despite the rich and complex cuisine India had to offer, there was disbelief about Indian wines in international circles, and even Indians tended to be dismissive of local offerings. “I read a few articles on the alcohol business in the country, and there was little or no information on Indian wines,” says the former education manager of Institute of Masters of Wine in London.
With his partner in tow, Csizmadia-Honigh visited all the wineries that were in operation in the country. These included Sula Vineyards and Vallonne Vineyards in Nashik, Elite Vintage Winery near Bijapur in Karnataka, Ambi Vineyards near Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh, and Heritage Grape Winery in Bangalore. While he has visited numerous wineries around the world, discovering how grapes grow in a sub-tropical climate like India’s was an exciting experience.
Csizmadia-Honigh hopes The Wines of India interests people enough to know more about Indian wines, and the professionals who are crafting them. “Then they can be experimental and pair it with different dishes, including chana masala.”