A glass of wine is not a common sight in an Indian dining scene. Well, for a country where wine consumption 1/8000th of France, this seems to be about right. That doesn’t mean there is no wine culture here. Take a closer look and you will find a flourishing wine paradise in Nashik, by the name of Sula Vineyards, situated 180 km from Mumbai.
Nashik – the wine capital of India
In 1996, Rajeev Samant, a Standford graduate, established Sula vineyards on his family estate in Nashik after quitting his corporate job in San Francisco. After experimenting initially with teakwood and mangoes, Samant realised that Nashik has just the right soil and climate that could support the growth of wine grapes. He then decided to cultivate a few varieties of wine grape like Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc in his family estate of 30 acres. This started what could be called a wine revolution in India. It takes about 2 to 2.5 years to get the right coup of grapes and finally in the year 1999, he got what he wanted— a perfect harvest.
Next year, Sula entered the wine scene of India and today, the enterprise is a sprawling 1,800 acre of cultivation and Sula Wines is recognized for its quality, its brand, and has found a respectable position with wine connoisseurs.
Sula Wine Fest 2016
Speaking of wine, I am reminded of the Sula Wine Fest, which will be back with its 9th edition this weekend. The event will feature over 100 international and national artists, more than 25 genres, 23 nations and more than 30 gourmet food and beverage options.
Moreover, bands like The Cat Empire, Kailasa, Balkan Beat Box, Dub Inc, Success, Made in Barcelona, Delhi 2 Dublin, Reggae Rajahs, Madboy/Mink, Tribal Flora, Rodney Branigan and Aqua Dominatrix will be there to enthrall the wine and music enthusiasts this time.
Further, a variety of other activities such as foot massages, tarot reading, and grape stomping are sure to make the event bigger and better this year.
Trip to Sula vineyard
A group of 9 friends, including two teetotalers, left Mumbai at 7:30 am. The journey was a nice one, for the sudden shift from Mumbai’s metro aura to the bare rustic feel of rural can be startling, but in a pleasant way. However, a piece of advice: The journey takes around 3.5 hours by road, and there are very few places, where you can stop by to have snacks after you hit the highway. Therefore, if at all you plan to travel to this place, ensure that you have had a hearty breakfast either before you leave or before you enter the NH3. Another pointer here is to only enjoy the local dishes like Pahe, wada pav, missal pav etc. Anything other than the local cuisine will be a surprise and not necessarily a pleasant one.
We made it there by 12 pm and what grabbed our attention was the gate, which had this huge human-sized wine bottle. As soon as we entered the vinery, we found the reception/information desk to our left and the subsidized Sula wine shop to our right. And when I say subsidized, I really mean it!
The vinery also has a huge, beautifully maintained garden as the front yard. Here is a concrete area in the front corner of the garden, where you can experience the grape stomping fun. The stale grapes are somewhat already stomped and are brought out in a wooden barrel and we had a 20-minute window to stomp the hell out of the grapes that will be later used for wine making.
Wine and cheese
The deck at Sula vinery is made for the wine enthusiast to have a delightful time. It overlooked the garden, creating a perfect setting and we ordered the flagship product Chenin Blanc and Sula Brut Rosé. Now, this deck is a melting pot of culture. You will always find an interesting company here. As luck would have it, we met a couple who had returned from Switzerland and had bought along different varieties of cheese. They sent a platter to every table and we had our first grownup experience with wine and cheese.
After that, the laughs came easier, the talks got candid and the evening became much less lucid. Around 4:30 pm, we decided to call it a day and head back to Mumbai. However, before that, we stopped by a shop and bought lots of classy wine at an affordable price, the lowest being at Rs300, just to keep the memorable experience of wine making close to our hearts!
Trip Images by Sneha Pujani