Soul Tree Wine: “Character is Everything”

Soul Tree is unusual in almost every way, giving good reason for its motto “Character is Everything”. Its wines come from Indian soils – specifically the western Nasik Valley – but its wines aren’t sold on the peninsula. This five-year-old, crowd-funded wine brand – one of the world’s very few thus far – is headquartered in the UK and aims for global distribution.

Its vineyards could be cropped twice a year thanks to the country’s tropical climate, but Soul Tree prunes off the first crop to concentrate its grapes for the second. Though (obviously) located in the Northern Hemisphere, the harvest occurs in February and March. Rather than June through August being a critical ripening period, in India the vines undergo a near dormant period thanks to India’s infamous monsoons. These wines need the comparatively arid winter to dry-out then develop a full array of flavors for picking.

The wines are highly distinctive due in good part to their volcanic soils. There is a characteristic and sometimes powerful smokiness to all the wines.

The wines take a bit of searching to find in the US and UK as their distribution is in its early days, but they reward the time and effort. Pairing any of the reds with grilled lamb or steak will be a sure-fire, made-in-heaven match.

Soul Tree 2014 Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon 13.5%
This wine bursts with character. If I were to draw on other regions, I’d say it is Rhône-esque in its earthy minerality and cracked black pepper on the nose, but it is more Napa-like in its richly fruited, popping-ripe black currant and blackberry palate. The soft, almost voluptuous tannins and gentle acidity give the wine a very gulpable quality, even if it is a wine that deserves to be savored. Its oak touch is light and integrated, having seen a mix of new and old French oak for 12 months. This was hand-picked the last week of March 2014. So, while labeled 2014 for its harvest, the buds for this wine were from 2013!
Drink: 2016-18

Soul Tree 2014 Shiraz 14%
This wine has a mid-depth color with lots of rusty nuances. This wines comes across as a bit challenging at first, and its decidedly strong smokiness and earthiness – while attractive – seems as reminiscent of brett as volcanic soils. At any rate, there’s a lovely fleshiness of fruit accompanied by equally spry savoriness in this wine. I preferred the wine on day two (re-capped and stored in my wine fridge overnight) as it showed many more layers. (I wonder if the screwcap was working some reductive wonders on this notoriously reductive grape?) The tannins are fine-grained and the acidity is reserved but smartly balanced.
Drink: 2016-17

Soul Tree 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon 14%
Rather like the Shiraz, this wine’s pervasive aroma is in the earth and smoke family: mulch and creosote. The palate brings on the fruit – and lots of it – with forest berries, black plum skin and cassis. Crunchy tannins and mild acidity nicely encase this harmonious, full-bodied wine. The moderate finish pops with exotic spices.
Drink: 2016-17

Soul Tree NV Aikya 12%
The name Aikya touches on the Hindi idea of spiritual harmony or one-ness. This vividly aromatic blend of Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Symphony and Shiraz is fresh, floral and fruity. The light-bodied palate tastes a fruit salad: peaches, nectarines, pears and cantaloupe. It’s a zesty aperitif wine with a pleasant touch of sweetness that will pair well with succulent shellfish like shrimp and scallops. Though easy-going in concentration and quick on the finish, this does a very nice job for its charmingly perfumed and early-drinking style.
Drink: Through mid-2017