Until a few years ago, ‘India’ and ‘wine region’ didn’t really belong in the same sentence. Today, as Subhash Arora, President of the Indian Wine Academy, puts it, the industry is growing at a rate of 20 per cent every year and producing 24 million bottles of wine (in 2013) for local and export consumption. We are now a wine hub, known for fine new world wines. Competing amongst the best and winning awards on international platforms, Indian wine is attracting a lot of interest.
Winemakers, hailing from France to Australia, and including famous names like Michel Rolland and Piero Masi, credit the fantastic soil and good climatic conditions. The transformation is evident, with Nashik emerging as a prime wine corridor with over 2,580 acres of vineyards used for wine grape cultivation. And this brings us to visiting benefits, for both the new wine enthusiast and connoisseur. With the onset of the harvest season (January to April), this is the best time for visitors to witness the journey from grape to bottle. Vineyards ripe with berries turn into ideal destinations, with early morning picking sessions, tastings, food pairing lessons, spa appointments and even some adventure with ATV rides. With at least seven vineyards to choose from, pick out comfortable clothing and footwear and get set to create your own Indian wine experience.
Sula Vineyards @ Nashik
Long before Nashik became the wine corridor of India, Sula was the first company to cultivate since 2000. Winemaker Ajoy Shaw insists, “India is a fairly new wine market yet we are able to produce quality wines utilising available resources. Our wine has its own character and are on par with the very best from around the globe.” Sula’s 300 acre lush vineyard is flourishing with 13 varieties of grapes, yielding 28 different types of wines. Currently commanding around 70 market share in Indian domestic wine sales in the country, this is the big daddy of the wine industry.
Pack your bags: Sign up for the day tour and bone up on sustainable practices of agriculture, storage tanks and walk around plantations of Zinfandel, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. During harvest season, visitors are encouraged to get their feet dirty with grape stomping and even get a chance to harvest grapes from the vineyard. Visit their crushing unit and tasting room for a masterclass on seeing, swirling, sniffing and sipping wine like a pro. Make sure you sample their best sellers — Cabernet Shiraz and Sula Brut along with their award winning Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah, which won a Silver medal at Syrah du Monde in 2010. If you have time on your hands, check into their luxurious resort close to the winery — 32 rooms, wine spa (wine treatments and grapeseed oil scrubs), infinity pool, restaurants (Little Italy and Soma), bicycle riding and yoga classes. While the Sula Gourmet Music Festival is conducted every year at the amphitheatre, the area is also a popular location for weddings and other events.
Harvest season: January to March
Priced at Rs 150 per person onwards for day tours and Rs 5,000 onwards for overnight accommodation. Details: 0253 3027777
Chateau d’Ori @ Dindori, Nashik
A vineyard nurtured by the renowned oenologist from Bordeaux, Monsieur Athanase Fakorellis, the estate is rich with Merlot, Chardonnay and other varieties of grape. “The wine industry in India is improving every year and the fantastic weather conditions is the prime advantage. Like France, India too is home to some excellent wines and this is only about to get better as the years progress.” All of Chateau d’Ori’s 14 wines, including their Cabernet Merlot and Cabernet Syrah, which won a Gold and Silver respectively at last month’s Indian Wine Consumer Choice awards, are produced from its estate grown grapes since the company’s inception in 2008.
Pack your bags: The estate comprises of a sprawling 100 acre vineyard along with an ultra modern winery. The silver oak plantations and coffee shrubs make it picturesque. Visitors begin the tour with resident winemaker Kailash Dhuru, at the vineyard featuring Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon plantations. Then comes a visit to the harvest areas and berry sorting room. The tasting room comes with the glass front offering a panoramic view of the estate (as at many vineyards). Their ‘live in the vineyard’ experience has many takers all year, thanks to the luxe guest house (suitable for up to eight) with a jacuzzi, pool and three artificial lakes. Group bookings with customised meals are available.
Sightseeing: Experience the rural culture of the village of Dindori. Harvest season: February to mid April
Tour prices from Rs 150 per person onwards. Accommodation rates available on request. Details: 022 65064933
Fratelli Vineyard @ Akluj, Solapur district
Fratelli wines, an Indo-Italian venture, may be only over three years old, but that hasn’t stopped them from sweeping up awards. Cultivating about 12 different grape varieties (imported from the world famous French Grapevine Nursery “Guillaume”) the 17 different wines showcase Italian heritage on Indian soil by celebrated Italian winemaker Piero Masi. “With the numerous protocols in Europe and other countries, winemakers are able to explore the creativity and freedom to create unique new world wines in India.” he says. Fratelli’s range includes their Chenin Blanc (incidentally the most awarded Indian Chenin Blanc at IWC), Merlot (first Indian Merlot to be awarded at the IWC) and Asia’s first Sangiovese Bianco.
Pack your bags: Their 240 acres vineyard, located in sugarcane county Solapur, is perfect to enjoy the harvest season with the winery staff encouraging you to pick and load berries, taste from vats or even create your own blends. Visitors get to enjoy a traditional Maharashtrian lunch paired with wines from the estate. Day tours and overnight stays at their guest house are popular. Indoor games and celebrity chefs are other attractions.
Sightseeing: Historic temples, Shivasrishto Fort, dairies and sugar farms.Harvest season: January to March
Priced from Rs 1,800 onwards. Details: 9970002196
Grover Zampa @ Nandi Hills, Bangalore
A collaboration of Grover Vineyards and Valle de Vin has resulted in the production of widely recognised wines in the country, the former since 1998. The 410 acre vineyard is dotted with sloping green hillsides and forestland. From this vineyard, the method of the company’s wine-making is finely orchestrated by wine consultant Michel Rolland. Pack your bags: Day tours by winemakers cover vineyard cultivation and winery operations in Bangalore and Nashik — crushing unit, fermentation vessels and ageing rooms. There are wine tasting sessions by certified sommeliers, conducted amidst oak barrels and soothing music. Their premium range includes the popular Zampa Soirée Brut Rosé, and Grover La Reserve. An exclusive restaurant in the Bangalore vineyard, is expected.
Harvest season: February to March
Priced from Rs 850 onwards per person. Details: 9379627188
Vintage Wines @ Nithad, Nashik
Under the expertise of chief winemaker Andrea Valentinuzzi, Reveilo Italian wines have been bestsellers since 2006. Their 215 acres of land is home to some of the best varieties of grapes like Shiraz and Chardonnay. The company takes pride in the wines that include an Italian white Grillo, Italian red Nero d’Avola, a late harvest Chenin Blanc and a premium Chardonnay Reserve.
Pack your bags: Their day tours offer insight into the entire manufacturing process. An added incentive is the interaction with Valentinuzzi, on request, who will be on the premises during the harvest season. Lunch on their lawns is a popular corporate offsite activity.
Sightseeing: Ancient temples, Pandav caves at Nasik.Harvest season: Mid March to April
Priced from Rs 500 onwards for wine tasting. Estate tours are free. Details: 9371780832
York Winery @ Gangavarhe, Nashik
Armed with a fresh approach to wine making, by young and vibrant winemaker Kailash Gurnani, York winery has been making waves for its new world wines. “The perception that India is not a wine drinking country and hence cannot be a wine producing one is slowly changing and we are now very much on the map of producing good wines,” he explains. Their vineyards at Nasik produce 10 varieties of wines.
Pack your bags: Overnight accommodation facilities are coming up but current packages of tours and tasting room experiences have gathered a tremendous response. The vineyard boasts of a restaurant serving specialty Indian cuisine.
Harvest season: February to March.
Priced from Rs 200 onwards per person. Details: 9657728070
Nine Hills @ Dindori, Nashik
Owned by the giant French beverage company Pernod Ricard, Nine Hills has been producing top notch wines from the same wine-making team as Jacob’s Creek, since 2006. With contract farming of five varieties of grapes like Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, Nine Hills produces seven varieties of wine, including the 2013 India Consumer Choice Award winning Viognier and Shiraz Rose with the former touted as the grape to watch out for from India.
Pack your bags: Uncover the mystique of wine making with a tour. Walk through their trial vineyards within the winery and experience the entire process that completes with a wine sampling session or a group lunch comprising of local food paired with Indian wine. While the current tour and participation in their Crush festival is offered only on invitation to associates, you can expect the tour to be available to any wine enthusiast, along with accommodation.
Harvest season: February to March.
Luca wines @ Bawal, Haryana
Minus vineyard, but you can visit their exclusive production and automated Italian bottling plant that uses imported grape juice from Italy, France and Nashik too. Sample their wide range of wines, including Luca Exotic Lychee and Mango wine which has won a Medal in the 2012 International Wine Competition held at Moscow. Details: 9810141635
Take a tour: Poshvine.com organises wine tours and vineyard trails around the Bangalore and Nashik region, from Rs 400 onwards. Winefriend.in, a company offering wine tours in the Nashik region, prices them from Rs 8,000 onwards and includes three winery tours, accommodation and more. Avjit Burman organises wine tours in 15 wineries in Maharashtra and Karnataka.
A trail costs Rs 2,500 for an individual for a day. Details: 9830180303
– Preeti GT