After attending Le Cordon Bleu’s 120th anniversary celebrations at the Sofitel Mumbai (Bandra Kurla Complex) on the 13th of October 2015, I decided to venture north to Nashik and “check out the wine scene” in India.
It was in a word- educational. Seriously. The Nashik experience is an eye opener for any one interested in wine any where in the world. It’s especially interesting to see how foreign grape varieties do under Indian conditions.
Nashik is about 180km from Mumbai. It takes about 3.5 hours to get there by car and the route is picturesque as you cut through the Western Ghats. The Western Ghats are gentle and the climate gets cooler and better as you get closer to Nashik.
Since the purpose of our trip was to explore the Nashik vineyards, we decided to stay at “Beyond”, the resort associated with Sula wines. The vineyards and the resort itself are some 7-11km from Nashik city. Just as you reach Nashik, you turn off towards the Govardhan village. The scenery is beautiful with cows grazing unsupervised on the hills, and a sort of gentle peacefulness that I associate with vineyard life present throughout the journey.
When we check in to Beyond, we are given our passes for our tour of the winery (it’s included in the cost of stay at Beyond). After a hasty lunch we drove down to the winery which is about 3km away. On our way, we passed York vineyard and winery (which is about half way between Sula’s winery and Beyond).
On a side note, the food at Beyond was scrumptious. Try their goat’s cheese and greens salad with grape seed oil (not the right name, but it was the only salad with goat’s cheese). I loved it! The goat’s cheese was creamy and sharp and if they had it available for sale I would have bought some!
Coming back to the Sula tour, it takes 45 minutes and includes a tasting but no real tour of the vineyard. It’s more for novices who don’t know that Rosé wine isn’t made from roses. There is also an opportunity to buy wines at the end of the tour and there is a “gift shop” where you can buy merchandise like T-shirts, etc.
Despite the tour being for beginners in wine, we did find out some interesting things. For one vignerons don’t wait 5 years (as they do in France) for producing wine. The harvest from year 2 is fit for wine production. We also find to our surprise that vines in India have 2 crops a year. The first crop comes right after the monsoon and is not fit for consumption in any manner. The second crop comes in January/ February. This is the main harvest and these grapes are used to make wine.
But we learn the real relevance of this information when we travel to Grover Zampa vineyards and speak to the assistant wine maker there. Because vines in India have 2 crops a year, they are tremendously stressed and so their age is reduced by half. So, where a vine may live to 100 years in Europe/ France, in India you are lucky if it lives to 40-60 years. For a vigneron, this means that he has to keep considerable funds in his life time to replant his entire vineyard. We also found out that the crop after the monsoon is normally turned back into the soil as fertilizer, it’s not much good for anything else- not even grape juice.
Vines reach maturity earlier in India (at 2 years as compared to 5 in Europe) because of the terroir in India – specially the weather aspect. The soil in these parts doesn’t change for quite a distance. By that I mean a hundred Kilo meters or more.
Keep a day and a half for touring vineyards in Nashik. That should be more than enough to see the vineyards that allow tourists.
In terms of the wines I bought on this trip, I would strongly recommend:-
From Grover Zampa: The “Chêne” (an exquisite Syrah and Tempranillo blend), and the “La Reserve”
From Sula: The Riesling, and the Chenin Blanc (oaked). Also go for the late harvest if you like sweet wines
From York: Go for the Merlot.
That’s all for now, but until next time, enjoy Indian wines (responsibly) and here's wishing every one a very Happy Diwali!