With almost every Indian wine brand opening up their properties for a 360-degree experience, Indians can experience how wine is made, consumed and celebrated.
For the hard working women and men of Mumbai, Pune and Bengaluru, the Nashik-Baramati region of wineries, vineyards and cheese farms is the new weekend getaway option. The usual suspects of Mahabaleshwar-MatheranLonavala have lost their charms, and this new belt — a short drive away, serene, great climate, fresh air and a lot of greenery — checks all the boxes.
Over the last five years, wine tourism has seen a boom in India, with almost all the big players opening their doors to patrons from around the country. Why so? For starters, Indians are taking an active interest in wine. They want to know their wines, and even millennials are actively taking to what was seen as a classical adult obsession. We want to know what wine to drink with which food, and how to pour it, serve it and enjoy the experience. A “wine getaway” also conjures up very posh, Instagrammable images, so wine brands have decided to cash in. These are plush properties, with good food (inclusive of local flavours, which is an added perk) and open spaces, making them a great weekend outing for a couple or families. Also, every wine brand in India needs engagement with their customers, and wine tours, grape stomping, food pairing and wine tasting sessions are the best introduction to the brand’s product bouquet.
Possibly the most expansive wine resort in the country presently, The Soma Vineyard Resort is an intrinsic part of the Soma Vine Village. Soma is India’s largest vineyard resort and boutique winery, spread over 25 acres, with 46 rooms (including luxurious pool villas), a unique Vino spa (massages and masks use red and white wines — absolutely divine), restaurants, hookah bars and an adventure sports park. It is also equipped for destination weddings and corporate events. Ask them to take you over to Mrs. Pai’s cheese farm for some locally made cheese varieties, which the wonderful Pai couple make themselves — they have an herb garden for flavoured cheeses. To add another feather, Soma Vine Village recently got a Geographical Indication Status for the Nashik Wine Valley. A personal recommendation would be to try out their whites and roses. Soma’s Sauvignon Blanc is definitely the country’s best (this is coming from a hard core red wine drinker, by the way).
Grover Zampa, possibly India’s best red wine producers, have vineyards and wineries in both Maharashtra and Karnataka (Nashik and Nandi Hills, respectively). They offer experiential tours of their wineries and have tied up with top hotels in both places, for visitors who are looking to stay over. “Wine tourism is acknowledged as a growing area of special-interest tourism throughout the world, and it is an increasingly important tourism component for many wine-producing regions,” says Sumedh Singh Mandla of Grover Zampa. Indian wine brands have noticed that wine tourism is becoming quite a hot trend in India, and other than weekend getaways, family events, wedding receptions and corporate outings and conferences are now being hosted at vineyards. Add annual festivals and events like The Sula Festival and The Great Grover Wine Stomp in Nashik, and The Great Grover Wine Festival in Bengaluru to the list of activities.
Sula is India’s largest wine producer, exporting to over 30 countries, and with a winery spread over 3000 acres. Arguably, it was Sula which spearheaded the wine tourism trend in India, with its first resort at its vineyard in Nashik. Sula Vineyards’ hospitality has three properties: The Source (a 23-room resort with tree houses, courtyard rooms, suites, tower suites, spas, restaurants and infinity pools), Sky Villa (a private villa for an intimate group of 9-10, with personal catering services and other amenities) and Beyond by Sula (7 rooms). Sula has already received 100,000 visitors, and is on track to hit a record number of 300,000 this year. “At Sula, we believe that to propagate wine tourism, it is important that our consumers are aware of the wine culture,” says Cecilia Oldne, VP, marketing and global brand ambassador at Sula. “Therefore, we introduced the concept of wine education, wherein consumers who visit the vineyards for a stay can also get an in-depth knowledge of the process of tasting wines, savouring them with food and understanding the process of both wine making and tasting. With this, every time a consumer leaves, they become brand ambassadors for life.”
Another wonderful winery and vineyard to check out is Yorks, in Nashik. It is situated quite close to Soma and Sula and is just a short walk when you are staying at either of the resorts. The Four Seasons vineyard has a gorgeous French chateau-style winery, and is nestled in the village of Roti in Baramati, 70 km from Pune. It is surrounded by wilderness, and gives you the chance to escape from the madding crowds and enjoy a luxurious break. With 10 rooms and 4 suites, an open air pool and jacuzzi with the Sahyadri valley as the backdrop, cycle trails, nature hikes, barbecue evenings under the starlit sky and bird watching walks, the Four Seasons winery is quite the experience. I am also quite smitten with the Fratelli winery in Akluj, in Solapur. Not only are their guesthouses luxurious and slick, I am a huge fan of their reds.