This winter, let loose in mellowed indulgence — the magic of swirl, sniff and sip — grape stomping, wine tasting and food pairing sessions at lush vineyards and state-of-the-art wineries are fostering wine tourism sector in India, says Tapapriya Lahiri.
How often do you think about wineries or vineyards while booking leisure tours? Or you just select usual places? If you haven’t become familiar with wine holidays, then mark the dates in your calendar with grape expectations and decide — a vineyard of your choice to enjoy a mellowed indulgence — especially in winters. To draw a close look, medium-scale urbane young connoisseurs are choosing assorted vineyards located in Nashik, Maharashtra — which have been termed as India’s Napa Valley.
Wine tourism is reasonably gaining momentum, but in compared to the West, India is still considered to be in a tad nascent stage. Nevertheless, the business of making wine, fostering viticulture and oenology or viniculture, conducting wine tasting and food pairing sessions, stays at winery-themed villas or resorts are undoubtedly creating a niche segment. In winters, Indian respondents are always in exploration of outdoor activities and it is considered as one of the most sought-after leisure tours.
The presence of lush vineyards, exceptional winemaking activity and state-of-the-art wineries where wine is produced and stored — expands the production to the core. In India, November and December showcases full-grown grapes and January and February are grape harvesting season, therefore walking down amid greenish-burgundy vineyards is a promising fad among the discerning connoisseurs.
To affirm the growth, Gagan Sharma, an eminent Wine Expert and Mixologist said, “The growth has been tangible, however it is yet to reach its optimum. It is positioning a prominent space with the continuous efforts being made. Revenue, minus room rates, can be sourced from tastings, cellar door visits, direct sales, restaurant and dining options, and more. It is definitely more profitable for the wineries to sell at source, as it guarantees the consumer, freshest and ripest expression of the produce, unmarred by logistical and storage issues.”
Several vineyards in the vicinity of Nashik namely, York Winery, Fratelli Wines, Soma Vine Village, Four Seasons Vineyard are rewarded as a quality wine grape-growing region for favorable climatic conditions. On this note, Gagan added, “Unfortunately, guided wine tours are yet to set their foot in the ground and catering to the demand, their continuous and sustainable viability is not that prominent. Despite orchestrating wine tasting sessions, there is a lack of educational angle in the wineries and edification leads to interest in visiting wineries.”
Uncork the taste
Wine tourism initiative in India is raising a toast to the avid travellers and wine enthusiasts by arranging petite wine tours, predominantly in Nashik. Pradeep Panchpatil, Founder and Managing Director of Soma Vineyards and Resorts shared some insightful yet real-time procedures to bring the blend from vines to bottle. Pradeep expressed, “From selecting and planting our rootstock, handpicking grapes at optimal maturity, transportation to the winery in climate-controlled vans, ageing to bottling, every step between the winery and the wine bottle for us — is an art made to perfect. While walking down the vine aisles, he added, “Guests can experience the process of wine making on the tour and tasting sessions in the winery while treating themselves with some great wines.The boutique winery produces fresh, young and fruity wines of different styles for the niche market.”
In affirmation, Ajit Balgi, Wine and Spirits Consultants at Happy High expressed, “Certainly, opportunities have grown over the last five years and the reason is — quality of wine has improved, gained worldwide acceptance — aficionados’ want to know about the wineries and people behind it.
Now, wineries are also confident of lapping up the opportunity and investing in tourist-friendly facilities. Ajit also stated, “Wine tourism is in a flowering stage as we say in wine parlance, a long time before we harvest and it can certainly help the local industry, hotels, restaurants, farmers and craftsmen to generate revenue, creating more jobs.”
While talking on piquant wines at Four Seasons winery, Abhay Kewadkar, Chief Winemaker and Director, Four Season Wines Limited said, “Set amid Shayadri Valley, we have structured tasting sessions conducted by professionals and visitors are taken through the basics of wine followed by a tasting of our best-in-class wines. The visitors get an opportunity to learn and experience food &wine pairing techniques for varied cuisines.
Abhay also added, “Grape stomping is a fun activity that connects well with potential consumers and it is a best way to introduce them to the world of wines. This entices interest to visit wineries and plan a getaway and wine tour ensures pleasurable contrasts — rustic beauty with cutting-edge technology, earthy surroundings with modern facilities — and the call of birds with the clink of glasses.Wine tourism offers consumers a first-hand opportunity to understand, appreciate and enjoy the beverage, enhancing the experience thereby.For small to medium size wineries, wine tourism can fetch 20 to 30% of the revenue, apart from direct benefit to the brand.”
“It is definitely more profitable for the wineries to sell at source, as it guarantees the consumer, freshest and ripest expression of the produce, unmarred by logistical and storage issues.” – Gagan Sharma, Wine Expert & Mixologist
Wine enthusiasts’ talks
An extensively travelled urbane Indians through overseas landscapes are well-versed with the culture of wine tourism that is relentlessly prevalent in the West. On this note, Senjuti Das, a legal professional from Kolkata expressed, “It is an elucidated tourist outdoor activity, while procuring firsthand experience in winemaking which renders a unique experience among the wine connoisseurs and novices.
When I was in Ithaca, New York, I have visited several wineries in finger lake region, which is one-of-its kind experience, as for the first time;I was participating in wine tasting sessions. I have learnt several wine making techniques from the chief winemakers.” She also added, “I am equally interested to visit the Indian wineries and vineyards located in Nashik, as wine tourism is fairly picking up pace,and, discerning Indians don’t have to choose exotic foreign locales to experience the wine tourism.”
An Indian citizen, Sarasi Das, student at University of Stavanger, Norway is equally enthused about the up-and-coming concept of wine tourism in India. Sarasi said, “I think promoting a wine culture in India through tourism would provide a fresh perspective opposing the age old persistent taboo of alcohol consumption in Indian culture and society. Knowing the elaborate processes of grape farming till aging and bottling of the wine, understanding the complexities in their tastes could easily become an enjoyable conversant topic amongst the Indian youth, let alone the charm of the vineyards.
I am really astonished to see the elaborate efforts of the Indian vineyards and wineries to make the business, remarkable.” She also added, “Wine enthusiasts can also woo their taste buds at affordably priced wines —which are young, fresh or aged blends compared to exorbitantly valued wines from the West, and I would try to visit one of the Indian wineries, when I will be back in India.”
To liven up the vibe, Indian wine producers are mastering the art of promoting wine tourism, incessantly to make a money-spinning source of revenue and cost-effectiveindulgence for vacationing hideaways.