Finally, a much awaited trip came to execution for which Gurjit and Gagan have been anticipating and creating a massive pain in the neck for Magan. After many rounds of patience and tolerance back home, we were on our way to the bus stand at Dadar TT in Mumbai at 7:30AM on a fresh Saturday morning, to catch the first flight to Nasik, the wine capital of India. For the sake of fun and excitement, we did not plan this trip or informed the wineries before visiting them. We wanted to pay a spot visit to these wineries and learn the ground reality of the Indian wine scene.
Standing at Dadar TT at an unusual start to our weekend, we passed a plethora of travel desks before we finally stopped at the one yelling his lungs out. In a matter of little time we were on our way to the highway, smiling with twinkle for some Indian wine tastings and winery visits in the rainy muddy weather. The rain accompanied us all the way to Nasik city, where we got down at Bombay Naka and stretched our muscles after an elongated 6 hours journey. Welcoming us in the city was a maxi-cab that was pre-arranged by one of our winery-owner friend. We took the nearest Bombay-Pune NH-3 and set our ways to the first winery. As we set driving on a rain-cleaned road, we went pass many beautiful hills and green sites. The first tourist destination in our way, were the Pandava Caves. The caves are set on a high held mountain that takes you over an hour to climb to reach them. It is said the Pandavas rested there during their exile. We didn’t stop there as our interest was something else. As we progressed, we remained on and off the roads during our approach to the wineries. Cows, sheeps, dogs, swines, ox are a sacrosanct part of the Indian highways. We found more of them than the speed-breakers.
Another interesting observation was the Indian GPS system. We strongly believe GPS will never work well enough in India as we have one of our own, the local people. The Indian GPS is what one will have to rely on if you have to reach these wineries. The funny thing about this system is that people will totally be unsure about the ways, and you can see it on their faces, but will guide you as if they have been brought up in that area and the address you are seeking for is like their backyard. We can’t drive with them and can’t even survive without it, as good as women for us.
We visited five wineries during our trip starting from Vallee de Vin and Vallonne on a rainy day-one and ended our two day trip by visiting Chateau d’Ori, Renaissance and Vintage wines. Needless to say, this visit opened our eyes to many unknown facts and issues about the Indian wine scene. We now look at the Indian wine-production scene as one of the most challenging one given the level of government support and aids, contract farming issues and concerns, climate, terroir, managing the conditions to come up with a product that suits the Indian palate and pockets and many such areas to which much thought should be given before criticising wines of our country.
Finally, on our way back we had some nice taste on our tongues and some new discoveries about Indian wines. We reached the Bombay Naka again, where it all began, and were on our way to Mumbai again. We learned a lot about India, Indian wines, psychology of Indian wine makers, their concerns and problems, the infantry age of the our country’s wines scene and much more. What is to come next is not only a wine revolution but also the emergence of India as one of the leading wine countries. As we see it, India will soon be holding its produce as different styles of wines.
There were certain issues, pointer and observations we made during our much enlightening visit. These observations were made personally and during interviewing some of the hospitality managers, winemakers and owners of the wineries we visited:
1. Wine Tourism: The next big thing. It will be on the wine companies and the local government to decide how things can be taken forward to develop the local infrastructure of these talukas (zones) as we approach to mark the beginning of wine tourism in Nasik. All the wineries have been looking up at it as the next major happening.
2. Wine Styles: The consumers and professionals should understand that comparing Indian wine style to that of Australia or EU countries is not just. India makes wines of its own style and that’s the way it is. Shiraz made in India gives off a different tasting profile. As we tasted Shiraz door to door, we first thought that the wines are off or have gone bad. But, as we noticed the same pattern everywhere we realised it is not a wine fault but a style of Shiraz made in India. Later on this style was well appreciated by us. This could be due to the dominant black soil of Nasik or younger vines or just the Indian terroir.
3. Assumptions: Our basic idea of having this trip was to learn what actually happens in the winery in India. We were surprised to see the level of cleanliness, hygiene, professionalism, automation, seriousness, attention to detail and the amount of efforts input by every one in every aspect of wine production. To assume, it being an Indian wine will be like this or that will be incorrect and bias.