Last night I was out for a friend’s birthday cocktail party. The smell of red wine really made me crave for a glass. Well – I did stick to water but I walked down memory lane to the day we visited a vineyard in India.
From Mumbai, the 180 kilometer long drive to Nasik (or Nashik), home to Sula Vineyards, makes a perfect day-trip. We decided to hire a driver who picked us up early in the morning. We left Mumbai before the morning rush hour and headed Northeast.
We were amazed that, shortly after leaving the city, there were hardly any settlements. It makes you reflect on how incredibly crowded a city like Mumbai is whilst massive land and villages outside the cities are abandoned. There would definitely be enough space for all people but it seems the hope for a better life keeps making people move to the cities – a phenomena known as rural exodus.
The only people we saw were pilgrims in orange frocks – some of them on their own, many of them in groups – who were walking towards Nasik, one of the holiest cities for Hindus as it is said to have been the abode of Lord Rama during his 14 years in exile. Located on the banks of the holy Godavari river, the city is one of the four places in the world where the Kumbh Mela – a mass Hindu pilgrimage in which Hindus gather to bathe in a sacred river – is held.
Personally, we were on a different mission as we did not plan to bathe in the Godavari river. We were in search of Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, which we hoped to find on Sula vineyards – India’s leading premium wine producer.
India – as well as Thailand – is not known to be a traditional wine country even though grape growing has been introduced to India from Persia 500BC. Religious and cultural vetos on alcohol consumption proved to be a challenge. Nevertheless, in recent years India is a rapidly emerging wine economy in terms of both production and consumption, and has the potential to become a significant player on the world wine scene. This stems from the fact that the country has consistently experienced the highest growth in consumption in the world – around 20–30% a year.
Also Sula has expanded from the original 30 acres family estate to about 1’800 acres (owned and contracted) under plantation, both in Nasik as well as in nearby Dindori, India’s upcoming wine region. Varietals planted include Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Zinfandel and Merlot along with Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Riesling.
We took a winery tour where we were shown around the vineyard and winery and learnt about the wine making process. The tour ended in the tasting room where we degusted some of their wines. Sula produces red, white, rosé, sparkling and dessert wines.
We personally enjoyed the sparkling wine, which we had for our wedding in Goa and is produced using the champagne method. The white Sauvignon Blanc is a noble, soft, assertive and herbaceous wine. The red ones were a bit too sweet for our taste, however we did not try the new flagship Dindori Reserve Shiraz.
We had a really good time and could imagine going back for a visit. In case you plan to stay overnight, you can rent one of the 32 rooms at the Beyond resort located just a short distance from the winery.
Check for events at Sula vineyards, e.g. the SulaFest and make sure you don’t plan your visit on a “dry day” – otherwise you can only look at the grapes, which would be a shame!