We all make lists of the best wines we’ve drunk, I guess, and it seems a little mean to talk about the worst wines we’ve drunk. But then it has to be said that not since the dark days of Don Cortez and Hirondelle (oh, and that Dutch Auxerrois which tasted and smelt of cheese) have I drunk anything quite so foul as this wine. It smelt of stewed prunes, was a fairly offensive brown colour, and was as cloudy as a bottle of well-shaken crusted port. I managed about three sips, mostly out of politeness.
But then you’d not expect such a negative assessment from the back label. “A sweet red grapes wine (sic) with full fruity flavours and a soft finish…”
And here’s the good bit: “…has always prided itself on the quality and reliability of its products. This philosophy has been instrumental in the Royal Gate becoming a french (sic) icon”.
Now before the French get upset with me, the wine in question is not French, and I very much doubt it is a French icon either. It’s Royal Gate Western Hill 2012 and it comes from Lamjung in Nepal, made by South Asian Wine Industries.
To be fair the problem could be down to age and, most likely, storage. Even in March we were experiencing temperatures between 25 and 30 degrees on many days, even in the Kathmandu Valley. And we worry if the cellar gets up to 18! I’d have liked to try it in its prime, but even in its country of origin finding local wines isn’t easy, despite the array of fine looking table grapes available on the streets at this time of year.
Of course we are beginning to see more wine from India. In Nepal, Sula isn’t hard to find, and in its various incarnations (ouch!) it is pretty much what I’d call a decent supermarket wine. Expensive for what it is in Nepal, yet UK duty charges pale at those imposed in much of Asia. It might not top the list of wines to try for many wine lovers, but it is perfectly decent when you want a change from a bottle of Everest beer. Actually, I see that M&S has a couple of Indian wines on the shelves right now, as part of their highly adventurous wine programme. I look forward to trying some, but would love to know if others have, what they think of them?
As I said, I feel mean speaking badly of this bottle from Nepal. The couple of times I’ve been to this wonderful country I’ve felt blessed. The scenery and the unfailing generosity and friendliness of the people in the face of poverty are remarkable, and you can’t help feeling you’ve glimpsed another world. But I’ve yet to discover whether they can make wine. I hope so. And I hope to be back before the year is out to continue my quest.