Why Maharashtra is India's wine tourism capital? Find out

Feb 27, 2014, 10:06 IST | Ruchika Kher

The buzz around wine is huge. Vineyards are looking at maxing the wine tourism experience in Maharashtra. Scenic locales, wine trails, luxe retreats; the great escape is a just few hours away

Last month, Grover Zampa, one of India’s oldest wineries, announced the launch of a resort at their Sanjegaon, Nashik vineyard, hinting at their foray into wine tourism. While wine labels like Sula and Indage were among the first to cash in on the concept, the trend is finally finding a strong footing as players from all over are taking the plunge. 

Sula Vineyard
Sula offers comfortable staying options and tours of its vineyard and winery along with wine tasting sessions

The time is ripe
“Sula has been conducting wine tours even before the tasting room opened in 2005. We believe that we need to provide a memorable experience to visitors besides educating and making them taste wine,” says Ajoy Shaw, chief winemaker and vice-president, winemaking, Sula. When they started the tasting room, it saw a slow stream of visitors but now, nearly 1,50,000 visitors drop by, annually. “Initially, people from Mumbai and Pune would come by, but in the past two-three years, we’ve had visitors from Kochi, Chandigarh and Sikkim,” he shares.

The bottling plant at Fratelli
The bottling plant at Fratelli

Grover Zampa Vineyards is a new entrant in the wine tourism space; its CEO Sumedh Mandla feels that the existence of the resort, to be positioned on a hill overlooking a lake, will offer the complete wine experience, and be a strong marketing tool to push the brand.

Festivals loaded with fun dos, music and of course, a variety of wines, also play a key role in drawing people. The Sula Fest, The Great Grover Stomp, The York Live Festival and the India Grape Harvest Wine Festival have grown to become annual crowd pullers.

Grover Zampa organises an annual grape stomping festival
Grover Zampa organises an annual grape stomping festival

Shift towards wine
Wine is also now a popular choice among the masses. Kapil Sekhri, co-owner and director, Fratelli Wines explains the change, “Today, many more people travel abroad, than before. There is more exposure and awareness. Also, younger India has more disposable income than previous generations.”

He comments that as a result, people have adapted to wine drinking, looking at their counterparts in the West and since, today’s consumer needs to know the source of their products, wine tourism is witnessing a growth.

More impetus needed
Industry experts feel that wine road shows can take wines to two-tier cities. Wine festivals, tastings, and wine and food pairings can increase consumption. “Special buses could be run by the Government or local bodies to wineries. More vineyard resorts should be encouraged,” opines Shaw. Sekhri feels that “Better roads, faster access to wineries will change fortunes.”

A clear view
Overall, Shaw lays it on the table that the wine industry in India is growing at 25% for the last few years. In 2010, we were consuming 10ml of wine per capita. This has increased to about 20ml. This can go up but India has a long way to catch up even with Kenya or Egypt.

Wine Tourism Hub in Maharashtra

Other players
>> Nine Hills
>> Reveilo Wines
>> Turning Point
>> York Winery
>> Vallonne

We visited Charosa winery for the wine tour. Ashok Patil, the wine maker of Charosa wineries shows us a ripe grape bunch which will be harvested in March and then taken to the winery to make wine
We visited Charosa winery for the wine tour. Ashok Patil, the wine maker of Charosa wineries shows us a ripe grape bunch which will be harvested in March and then taken to the winery to make wine

In a nutshell > The wine-making process
>> After harvest (March), grapes are stored in a cold room overnight to chill at 8-degree Celsius
>> Next, grapes are put on a moving conveyer to remove bad grapes
>> Good grapes fall on the Destemmer Crusher, where berries are separated from stems, and berries are gently crushed
>> Crushed grapes move to fermentation tanks. Red grapes are fermented with the skin for colour while white grapes are fermented without skin and the seeds. Fermentation takes one-two weeks
>> Each block is blended, based on taste demand
>> The stability process is next, where wine is placed in insulated tanks, chilled at 12-degree Celsius
>> The bottling and aging processes occur where wine bottles are stored into barrels made from French and American oaks

Why Maharashtra tops the list?
“Nashik, at 600 metres above sea level, makes it India’s northernmost region where wine grapes can be grown easily. The big diurnal variation or the difference between day and night temperatures is suited to get a great balance of sugar, acid and flavours in wines. Plus, the Maharashtra Government has rolled out a conducive wine policy to simplify wine regulations, and make it easy for wine producers to focus on quality winemaking,” says Ajoy Shaw, chief winemaker and vice president, winemaking, Sula.

Wine Facts
> Maharashtra leads in demand; next up are Karnataka, Delhi and Goa
> Red wine tops over wine white
in India
> Most wineries in Chile, Australia and South Africa use screw caps since in cork shrinks in hot climates, affecting wine quality

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