Kerry Damskey’s name is not familiar to people in the winery industry, but not many know how instrumental he has been in India’s wine journey. Shortly after Rajeev Samant had quit his job and was looking to start a winery, he got in touch with Damskey through a common friend and began India’s independent wine journey.
“I first came here during Holi in 1995 and the road to Nashik was a dusty one that took over six hours to reach. We took a risk and planted Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc and when I came back in December and tasted the grapes, we knew we could do this,” Damskey reminisces of his first tryst with India and winemaking in the country.
Fifteen years later, the staunch capitalist (who is quick to add he didn’t vote for Donald Trump) and wine master is back in India to launch a new winery for Sula in Bengaluru. The idea is to produce Sula wines in Nashik but create other wines in Bengaluru. “It’ll be produced and owned by Sula but the concept is totally new. We’re not revealing all the details at this point but rest assured, it’ll be Sula wine that you’ll be drinking once we start rolling,” Damskey says.
The new wines will be cheaper than the current Sula wines too, Damskey says. “We initially came to Bengaluru for taxation issues but now the scale is completely different,” he adds. Currently, there are plans to introduce four wines for oenophiles. There will be a Chenin that will be slightly dry, a Sauvignon Blanc that’ll be creamier and Bordeaux-like than other similar variants, a Rose and a Cabernet Sula blend.
Damskey has traversed the world from Napa in his home country to Nashik in India and everywhere in between and believes that Indian wines are only just starting out. “We’re babies when it comes to comparing wines from other countries. But the slightly smoky character in the back of your throat when you drink Indian wine has not gone unnoticed outside. I did a blind tasting once where the Rasa Cabernet came out on top. Indian red wines more than white have a lot more flavour of the soil where it’s grown,” he says.
Lastly, Damskey hopes that with GST finally coming in, the taxation rules change to benefit the industry. “India is so concerned about protocol that you get wrapped in rules. I believe in less taxation that leads to more consumption and ultimately to more taxes eventually,” he signs off.