Let me show you how this is done. First thing, hold the glass up and examine the wine against the light. You’re looking for color and clarity. Just, get a sense of it. OK? Uhh, thick? Thin? Watery? Syrupy? OK? Alright. Now, tip it. What you’re doing here is checking for color density as it thins out towards the rim. Uhh, that’s gonna tell you how old it is, among other things. It’s usually more important with reds. OK? Now, stick your nose in it. Don’t be shy, really get your nose in there. Mmm… a little citrus… maybe some strawberry… — Sideways
India is hardly a destination fabled for the wine it produces, for the way a demure petite lady holds a gleaming glass in her well groomed hands a la French mademoiselle, and least so for the huge plantations of grapes waiting to be squashed into wines. With increasing international influence however, the trend has changed and wine has gradually made its place within the suave section of the Indian society. Maharashtra is India’s largest grape growing region and has seen many vineyards forging up in the last few decades, with Nashik even earning the sobriquet as “Wine capital of India”.
Located on the outskirts of Nashik, Sula Vineyard’s signboards are seen throughout the city, as the estate has managed to carve a niche for itself and now attracts people to the place otherwise associated only with the mythologies of the Hindu religion. Situated at a hill side, it welcomes the excited visitor with lush green waist high vines on both sides of the pathway, a charming edifice in sight and a distinct aura owing to the aroma of wine-bearing grapes in the air. The building houses the winery, restaurants and a store. There is also a tour of the winery on offer for a small fee, which includes a guided tour of the factory with a sommelier and sampling of various kinds of wines.
The tours take place every hour and last for about thirty minutes. It starts with the guide apprising about the history of the business, and then moving on from one room to another while explaining about the processes undertaken at Sula to prepare wines. The manner in which the tour is conducted might leave a connoisseur unsated, but for the amateurs it surely is worth every penny of the modest fee charged. Once inside the tasting room, about 10 ml of wine is poured and the sommelier apprises about its fragrance and texture. He takes care of the way the glass is held lest the texture of wine changes with the heat of the palm, and also of the swirl one might be tempted to give to the glass as the air that dissolves could again take down the quality of wine. What follows is a visual and olfactive assessment of the wine noticing its color density and the concoction of aromas ranging from woody to citrusy before finally savoring it. This repeats for the next few rounds of wines.
The process of vinification or wine making is a time consuming albeit seemingly simple chain of events – ripe grapes are harvested, crushed, fermented with yeast and then stored in barrels for years for maturing before finally being bottled, in layman’s terms. Cognizance of a proper climate is paramount while making wines and a slight difference in technique appears depending on the type of wine being made i.e white, red, rose, sparkling, etc. When it comes to Sula, they mostly make white wine as it complements the spicy Indian food.
There are many vineyards dotted along the periphery of Nashik to choose from like Sula vineyards, York Winery, Chateau d’Ori, Grover Zampa, Vallone vineyards, etc. with Sula being the most commercialized. With visible distant hillocks and long green trails of vines, a trip to them fills up the mind with pictures of the quintessential American countryside. Away from the dissonance of a city, it indeed is a one of its kind experience in India and makes for a perfect weekend break.