The words ‘wine’ and ‘India’ in one sentence may sound very unusual, but it is one of those stereotypes
s I would love to break. It is true that when it comes to drinking wine, India is nowhere close to western countries. In fact, as per Wikipedia, annual per capita consumption of wine in India is a mere 9 millilitres, approximately 1/8000th that of France. However, India is on the verge of a major shift in many areas, and the wine culture in India is least talked about but rapidly growing.
While travelling in India, I was in Pune to meet some friends. I found out that the biggest vineyard of India has located only 210 km from Pune in a city called Nasik in the state of Maharashtra. ‘SULA’ is the biggest winemaker in India and covers about 70% of Indian wine share. Owned by Mr Rajeev Samant, the brand was named after his mother ‘Sulabha’. Started only 17 years ago, SULA owns more than 1800 acres of land in the states of Maharashtra and Karnataka. This makes it the biggest vineyard in the Asian continent. I could not let this opportunity go, so I decided to plan a trip to this vineyard in Nasik with a couple of my friends.
How to Get to SULA Vineyard in Nasik
Nasik is 180 km from Mumbai and 210 km from Pune; a car is the most convenient option if you live in the southern region of the country because the green mountains, cloudy weather, cold winds and broad national highways can be found along the drive to Nasik.
You can also reach Nasik by bus or train from either Mumbai or Pune. Once you are in Nasik, you can take a local ‘Tuk Tuk’ or a taxi to the vineyard.
Visiting the vineyard can be one of the major reasons for you to visit the place, but SULA has a lot more to offer than just a vineyard. The vineyard has its own restaurant, resorts, an amphitheatre that you can book to organize special events, and a yearly music festival called ‘SULAFEST’. The place is undoubtedly beautiful and was full of people of all age groups—some enjoying the wine in the Sun, some taking vineyard tours and some just taking pictures in the beautiful vineyard. The range of wines produced by SULA has something for everyone. SULA introduced grape varietals such as Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Zinfandel to India as of 2013. The most famous and premium Wine is RaSa Cabernet Sauvignon, where the word RASA comes from the initials of the owner Rajeev Samant.
The Vineyard Tour
The tour was available in English or Hindi based on a majority vote in the group. I chose to take the vineyard tour that lasted about 45 minutes to 1 hour. It costs INR 375 if you want to participate in wine tasting at the end of the tour. Otherwise, the cost is INR 250 for only the tour (minus the wine tasting). The tour takes you on a journey of the lifecycle of wine and shows how a grape transforms into the delicious wine in your glass. I have done wine-tasting tours in South Africa and Andorra as well, but this one was not as detailed. The tour does give you many photo opportunities because vineyards are not very common in India. While most people did feel the excitement of taking photos, they ignored the fact that the tour was only limited to crushing, fragmentation and tasting.
Bearing in mind that everything was a new experience for everyone in the group, I went with the flow instead of moaning about things that were not there. I enjoyed the wine tasting part as well. You do not know how humorous Indians are while drinking, even if it is just tasting.
Winemaking is not new to India, but due to many reasons and drastic changes in policy on alcohol in India over the decades, the industry never found the pace it needed. Having experienced similar tours in other wine-drinking nations, I felt good that SULA was no less than other world-class vineyards. It is worth a visit if you are in India and travelling in the South—not because it has a vineyard, but because it is an Indian vineyard.