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A Comprehensive Tour of Indian Wine Country

A Comprehensive Tour of Indian Wine Country


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This honeymoon trip goes through India’s major cities

If you happen to have an extra $10,164 to spare for your honeymoon and want to ride some elephants, float in a hot air balloon over Jaipur, and tour Indian wine country in the process, well, you are in luck with the 14-day "Honeymoon Wine Tour of India" from Geringer Global Travel.

One minute you’re in Mumbai on the pachyderms, the next you are in Pune at Chateau Indage where they first produced champagne in India. Grover Vineyards in Bangalore, you will find, uses only French grapes.

"We have created this exotic 14-day honeymoon to entice newlyweds and wine lovers to India where they will experience Indian sites and the regions’ best wines," says president of Geringer Global Travel Susan Geringer. "Branching from a typical honeymoon, this itinerary offers insights to India as well as a culturally rich journey."

In Jaipur create custom garments with a tailor, and while there taste the aloo tiki, and in Delhi the spice markets are a must. Also on the tour is a stop at Fratelli Wines Private Limited, also in Pune, is home to 58 tanks of different wines.

The marriage is supposed to be the hard part, but this turbo honeymoon, while rigorous, will leave you with an culinary and oenophilic experience you will remember.


Wine is fuelling growth in India’s tourism industry

India has a bright future both in terms of producing and consuming wines.

We’re all drinking a lot more wine, and from a pleasing array of countries. The wine sector in India is a market to watch out for. The excessive exposure to new cultures, Western concepts, overseas education and rapidly changing demographics are driving wine consumption in the country. India, with its young population, changing trends and an understanding of status choice are becoming parallels to most Asian markets where there is an acceptance and growing preference for wine, especially in the upper and middle classes.

If we see the consumption in recent years, it has increased tremendously. From the year 2017, the sales of wine have grown faster than of spirits and beer in the country. The hospitality sector has quickly picked up the wine trends in India and is booming. We have a bright future both in terms of producing and consuming wines.

Over the past couple of years, there has been an interesting and counterintuitive trend in the tourism industry. More and more industry leaders around the world are embracing wine. Owners now invest time and efforts while selecting wines for their hotels. Today, in our industry we are taking the initiative to understand different varieties of wine, countries of origin and regions. There’s another trend in the market for drinkers who are vegans. With social trends and millennial preferences, consumers are becoming aware of vegan wines and a lot of vegan-only and vegan-friendly wines have been introduced in the sector.

Wine tourism is a massive business not only for the wineries, but also for the region as a whole.

Well-travelled millennials have also impacted the popularity of wine in the hospitality sector. Wine is something that has come from different countries and people have preferred its taste. And now it is India’s young crowd that is showing an interest in the beverage.

In the context of hospitality, wines are making their way into functions, events and marriages, and are a particularly popular gift for status-conscious Indian consumers. As wine is seen as a sophisticated and stylish drink compared to whisky, scotch and rum, it has gained humongous popularity in the market.

Some facts from Indian Wine Academy: There are more than 300 wine importers in India and the number is growing every year. India has its own domestic industry too, with Sula Vineyards, Indage and Grover Vineyards among the top Indian vineyards and wineries. Collectively, they control 90% of the market and their products are perceived as “value for money”.

I have witnessed tremendous growth of the Indian wine market over the last decade. Not just in volume but also in variety, quality and consumer base. People now have a growing preference for popular types like Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. We are now seeing grapes like Viognier, Riesling, Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Nero d’Avola and more.

Techniques of making wine have evolved too, allowing winemakers to make both simplistic wines for newcomers and complex ones for the more experienced drinkers.

Another wine trend that gained traction this year is the sparkling wine trend. It has grown across categories from method champenoise style to proseccos types and simple frizzante.

The tourism industry has also seen a change in how people wine and dine. Indians have always paired their food with lager. But with the involvement of gastronomy experts, influencers and upmarket restaurants across the country, perceptions have begun to change about the suitability of Indian cuisine with wine. However, with a wide range of variety and diversity of the cuisines in India, pairing wine with food can get a little complex. There is a need to communicate that there’s an exhaustive list of wines that will pair beautifully with Indian food. But one’s tryst with wine needs to be continuous and experimental, and one should allow their palate to guide them as regards the taste of wine.

The wine industry in India is in the developing stage, and it requires people with commitment and passion to take it to the next level. It needs time to get better, for the grapes to mature with time and attain the right flavours. So tourism industry needs to educate itself.

We have so many homegrown winemakers in India. We should focus on developing them and provide them with the best facilities at wineries and not factories. We also need consistency the storage conditions of the distributors need to improve. If these things are taken care of, then the quality of wines in terms of range will not be limited.

To conclude, wine tourism is a massive business not only for local wineries, but also for the region as a whole.

People are beginning to understand the concept of wine tourism, but it is important that the industry receives repeat visitors so that we can gain customer loyalty and help in providing better experiences.

In the recent years wine tourism has grown in leaps and bounds and is continuing to grow. Further growth can be achieved through purposeful event planning at wineries in terms of scheduling fun and educational activities.


We specialize in taking you to Wine from the Vine

Beyond The Vine Wine Tours are full day, Middle Indiana Wine excursions, designed to offer you and your friends a stress free day of wine tasting and history or information about each winery you will stop at. We do the work for you! Your day will be planned and navigated, while you sit back and enjoy the wine and the ride in our clean and comfortable shuttle.

We are here for you 12 months a year! Company Christmas parties or Valentines with your sweetie are all reasons to go Beyond The Vine!

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Nashik

Nashik is often referred as India's very own Napa Valley. Under an azure blue sky and surrounded by picturesque Western Ghat mountains, Nashik is the home of some of the finest Indian wines. Warmer days and cooler nights, gentle slope, fertile landscape - all these make a perfect setting of a great wine country. Nashik is India's wine capital. Lavish vineyards and well-developed winery infrastructure make Nashik the perfect wine tour destination. If you want to experience first hand the Indian wine growth story and taste some of the finest Indian labels, your quest would certainly bring you to Nashik. Whether you are a true wine enthusiast or a common nature loving tourist, Nashik would fascinate you for sure. Our Wine Guru would help you unravel the mysteries surrounding wine and wine making he /she would take you through the vineyards and will give you interesting inputs about wine tasting and you could see for yourself the intricate process of winemaking. Know More

Bangalore

Located in the breathtakingly beautiful southern peninsula of India, Karnataka produces some of India's world-class wines. One of India's oldest and internationally acclaimed wine labels is produced in this region. Nandi hills and Kaveri valleys are the key wine producing regions around Bangalore, which also happens to be one of the world's major IT hubs. Undoubtedly the region is a perfect getaway for the wine buffs. The Wine Club - Vineyard Discovery programme would let you unwind in this tranquil natural setting and help you experience Karnataka's finest wines paired with some great warmth and hospitality. (To join our latest tour please CLICK HERE)

Akluj & Baramati

About 175 km southeast of Pune, Akluj is a part of the Deccan plateau. Nestled in the heart of Maharashtra's sugar belt, this magical place boasts of the Largest Winery Estate of India - Fratelli. The view from the hilltop of Fratelli vineyards provides a breathtaking experience that can easily be compared to many celebrated European wine destinations. The state-of-the-art winery and the tasting room of Fratelli can certainly win the hearts of many. including the hard-to-satisfy wine critics. Some of India's best wines are produced here without a doubt.

Baramati (about 100 km from Pune) has recently become another wine destination with the opening of the spectacular estate and hospitality facility by Four Seasons Wines (USL). Many international award winning wines are produced at this facility. Without visiting this larger-than-life facility the Indian wine story would never be completed. Both Baramati and Akluj are easily accessible from Mumbai/ Pune/Goa & Hyderabad. (This trail is currently available on request)

World

Explore the wine routes across the world with us. Enjoy the breathtaking scenery packaged with magnificent landscape, towering sea cliffs, sparkling streams, ever-changing colours of majestic mountains, rivers and most important of all, vineyards stretched across miles. (Coming Soon)

What makes these journeys more special are the friendly interactions by The Wine Club's Wine Gurus who would explain the intricacies of wine tasting in a simple and uncomplicated manner. Join us in these magical mystery tours and treasure finer experiences of a lifetime.


Top 12 Spectacular Vineyards In India

During your visit to these vineyards in India, you can do a lot more than merely taste some wines but instead indulge in a whole host of fun activities. Plus, some vineyards also let you stay in and complete the experience by staying there. So, yay!

Here are 12 vineyards in India that need your attention even if you are not an ardent fan of wine!

1. Sula Vineyard- Nashik, Maharashtra

We all know this one! One of the most popular and first wine brands in India, Sula was established in the year 1999. The Sula vineyard extends over a whopping 3,000 acres of land in Gangapur, Nashik.

They occupy about an 80% share of the Indian wine market, owing to their fine taste and no-frills prices.

With a perfect backdrop of the hills, you can enjoy their extensive gamut of wines ranging from red wines like Dia Red, Satori Merlot, and Cabernet Shiraz, sparkling wines such as Brut Tropicale and Seco, to Chenin Blanc, Riesling, and Zinfandel Rosé.

The vineyard houses luxurious rooms, a gym, spa, restaurant, infinity pool, and games room to make your experience all the more extraordinary.

The most anticipated event is their Sula Fest music festival organized in February each year, which is known to be India’s biggest vineyard music festival.

Best Time To Visit: November – March.

For wine enthusiasts who wish to enjoy wine stomping, visit between January-March. For hugely popular SulaFest, visit the vineyard in February.

2. KRSMA Vineyards- Hampi, Karnataka

A Karnataka-based vineyard has made it to the 50 World’s Best Vineyard 2020. Situated at the World’s Heritage Site of Hampi, the KRSMA Vineyards is another popular destination for wine tourism.

It is situated on the slopes of Hampi Hills and is known to produce the most unique and premium quality wines each year.

Their unique style is that it is the only vineyard in the country that does not follow a specific recipe or type of wine. Instead, they let grapes decide the final taste of the wine without controlling it from the outside.

KRSMA’s flagship wine is the Cabernet Sauvignon that has gained rave reviews from people across both India and worldwide.

Best Time To Visit: November to February.

3. Charosa Vineyards- Nashik, Maharashtra

The Charosa Vineyards located in the Charosa region in Dindori, Nashik is one of the most scenic estates with widespread 230 acres of vine trails. The vineyard overlooks splendid green hills and tranquil valley waters, beautifully mimicking Tuscan vineyards.

The Charosa vineyard offers a delicious range of premium and semi-premium wines. The same includes Charosa Reserve Tempranillo, Charosa Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, and Charosa Selections.

Best Time To Visit: January to March.

4. Four Seasons Vineyards- Pune, Maharashtra

Situated amidst the picturesque Western Ghats in Baramati, Pune, the Four Seasons Vineyards offer an exquisite wine and food pairing tour experience.

This palatial property is spread over 55 acres of land and produces wines using the grapes from the Sahyadri Valley in Maharashtra. Whether it is red, rosé or white, their wines are a must-try for wine enthusiasts. These wines include Zinzi, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot.

Also, their property houses luxurious rooms with spectacular views, a swimming pool, spa, party deck, and restaurant, creating a sublime experience for visitors.

Best Time To Visit: January to April.

5. Vallonné Vineyards- Pune, Maharashtra

Image source: Vallonne Vineyards

The Vallonné Vineyards are a boutique winery in Baramati, Pune, which is surrounded by the mighty Sahyadri range and the calm waters of Mukhne Lake.

The vineyard was established in the year 2009 and is known for producing premium French-style wines. Their Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Rosé, Malbec as well as their dessert wine called Vin De Passerillage are a definite must-try.

The lake-facing resistant offers impeccable south-east Asian cuisine that pairs up nicely with the Vallonné wines.

Best Time To Visit: January to April.

6. Chateau Indage Estate Vineyards- Narayangaon, Maharashtra

Producer of some of the best wines in India, the Chateau Indage Estate Vineyards are situated in a quaint location near Sahyadri Valley and are surrounded by lush landscapes. They also have two other facilities, one each, in Nashik and Himachal Pradesh.

Whether you are a beginner enthusiast or a sophisticated wine connoisseur, there are 32 different types of wine for every palate.

To discover the vineyard and explore the winemaking process, they organize weekend wine tours of about 2 hours. The same is followed by a wine tasting session at their Ivy Café and Bar.

If you wish to stay longer for a vacation, they also have cottages facing the wine trails.

Best Time To Visit: January to April.

7. Fratelli Wines- Solapur, Maharashtra

Fratelli Wines is an Indo-Italian vineyard that was founded in the year 2007.

It is a producer of premium Indian wines, the Fratelli Sette Reserve Red being the most popular among both national and international wine lovers. Other wines include dry Chenin Blanc, Sette, Chardonnay, late-harvest dessert wine as well as Sangiovese Bianco. These wines are made to suit every taste, right from a novice to a dedicated wine aficionado.

Apart from their regular wine tour, they also offer a package of 3 days and 2 nights that come with 4 complimentary bottles including their Sauvignon Blanc, Sangiovese, award-winning Fratelli Chenin Blanc along with any other wine of your choice.

While, Solapur houses their main vineyard, the Garwar and Motewadi region house two of their other vineyards, which are all blessed with exquisite and thriving landscapes.

Best Time To Visit: January – April.

8. Soma Vineyards, Karnataka

It is one of the scenic vineyards of India. Bordered by Makali Hill and Gudamagere Lake, it is one of the unique vineyards where plantations like coconut palms, other fruit trees coexist with grape wines.

One can spend hours hill-gazing or even soak at 360-degree views from several vantage points at this boutique winery.

The vineyard offers a comprehensive four-hour tour where you get to taste some exclusive wines produced by this vineyard. Their speciality includes Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz.

They offer wine with unique barbeque lunch and moreover, the chef on a request also curates dishes for vegans (yum!).

Apart from Karnataka, they also have a popular vineyard (Soma Vine Village) in Nashik for you to explore.

9. Grover Zampa Vineyards- Nandi Hills, Karnataka

Image source: Orientrail journeys

Snuggled up in the foothills of the breathtaking Nandi Hills in Karnataka, the Grover and Zampa vineyards are slowly gaining the number one spot as India’s top wine producers.

They were also the first to grow French grape varieties in India. Grover offers 2 slots of wine tours all days of the week along with a buffet lunch, while the Zampa offers 3 slots of guided wine tours where you can also enjoy grape stomping with other tourers.

Their most popular premium wines include Chardonnay, Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon among others. The lush green hills, hiking trails, and a naturally abundant forest area spread across miles, make it a glorious spot to visit any time of the year.

Apart from Nandi Hills, they also have a vineyard in Nashik for you to explore.

Best Time To Visit: November to February.

10. York Winery- Nashik, Maharashtra

Spread across six acres of land, the York Winery in Gangapur, Nashik is a must-visit vineyard. It offers evergreen view of the hills and lake.

York-Winery is known to produce award-winning, premium quality wines. Their collection includes their Reserve Chiraz, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc. Thanks to the naturally abundant red soil in the area!

They offer a range of packages throughout the week that is concluded with wine tasting and finger foods in their York Tasting Room overlooking the picturesque landscapes. You can also pair up the delectable York wines with local Maharashtrian and North Indian cuisines served in their Cellar Door Restaurant.

The York Live wine festival has gained quite the traction in the past few years for its exotic wines. They have live music performances, grape stomping activities, carnival games, and a variety of cuisines.

Best Time To Visit: November to March.

11. Heritage Vineyards (Now Domaine Sula), Karnataka

Known for its exquisite vineyard and best-quality wines, this winery is quite famous for the choices it offers.

Nuzzled away in a rustic town, it offers one of the best wine tours where you can learn the art of winemaking, taste some authentic wine and enjoy lunch at their in-house restaurant amidst a sprawling landscape.

Do shop their Kadu range, produced exclusively with grapes from Karnataka.

12. Chateau d’Ori- Nashik, Maharashtra

L ast, but, definitely not the least is the Bordeaux-inspired dome-shaped Chateau d’Ori. The vineyard spread across 200 acres of land encircles three artificial lakes in the area of Dindori, Nashik.

This modern winery is an immediate attraction amongst tourers for its conventional French feel, providing them with an experience to remember.

This winery houses the largest Merlot plantations in the country along with their exquisite wine selection of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Chenin Blanc, and Chardonnay.

You can take a vineyard tour and savour their wines, while also having the option to extend your stay at their farmhouse.

Best Time To Visit: November to March.

As Ernest Hemingway once said, “My only regret in life is that I did not drink more wine.”

So, why not visit one of these amazing vineyards in India and check out their exquisite wines tours for real bottoms up experience with your friends and family!


India's whiskey-drinking elite make room for wine

GUNDAMAKERE, India — They used to grow millet in the lap of these gentle hills, and mulberry trees to eke out silkworms. Today, the land is home to Kapil Grover's shiraz vines.

Grover's father, Kanwal, fueled by a stubborn passion, began growing wine grapes here in southern India as early as 1989, several years before the Indian economy shed its socialist garb and the moneyed classes multiplied. Last year, the winery produced 1.25 million bottles, easily double the production of two years ago.

Today, Grover watches the bittersweet fruits of globalization ripen.

Luckily for him, the tiny Indian wine market is poised to grow by leaps as the country's erstwhile whiskey-drinking elite cultivates a taste for wine. At the same time, stiff competition looms: Prompted by complaints filed by the European Union and United States at the World Trade Organization, India reduced tariffs on imported liquor in July, potentially making a shiraz from Coonawarra, Australia, for instance, as affordable as Grover's offering from Gundamakere. Tariffs must be capped at 150 percent now, from rates that were as high as 550 percent.

While more than a third of all Indians live on less than $1 a day, the country's nose for wine, an outgrowth of new wealth and world travel among India's swelling ranks of the rich, can be discerned in the wine clubs sprouting across India's new-money citadels, the wine tours of the young Indian vineyards and the wider variety of wines now available at upmarket restaurants.

"Lately, it's a style statement," said Aslam Gafoor, a hospitality industry executive, at a wine tasting in Bangalore, a three-hour drive from these fields. Several Australian varietals were offered that evening at the host restaurant, Olive Beach, with a ratings card for the tasters. The table had been loaded with Parma ham and cheddar, Kalamata olives and figs.

Wine is hardly a cheap thrill here. Olive Beach offers a 2003 Sassicaia for about $400 (and occasionally sells it). A 2005 Cakebread Cellars sauvignon blanc from Napa Valley goes for $100 at the Park Hotel, not far away.

Indian supermarkets, themselves a new phenomenon, are preparing to devote shelves to wine right now, buying wine means jostling with the drinking masses at state-owned liquor shops. New Indian wineries are being established, including one by Seagram, the first foreign liquor company to start producing wine here. Sula Vineyards has opened a tasting room on its estate in western Maharashtra State. And almost everyone, it seems, is homing in on the first-time Indian wine drinker with inexpensive and easy-on-the-palate offerings.

Grover, for instance, has a line of slightly sweeter wine that he calls Sante. "An easy name to pronounce," he says, for his target audience of the pub-going younger set.

This year, Vijay Mallya, the baron of Kingfisher beer, will introduce something called Zinzi, in two no-fuss varietals — red and white. The goal, company officials say, is to lure — not intimidate — young Indian professionals. "You talk about cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc, they don't understand the language," said Abhay Kewadkar, the winemaker for Mallya's Bangalore-based United Breweries. "They are exposed to this Western lifestyle. They want to be stylish. Wine fits that bill."

United Breweries clearly aims to play both ends of desire. It is not only producing wine in India, but also bringing in foreign wines — including its own. The company bought a Loire Valley winery in France last year and, Kewadkar said, is shopping for others in California and South Africa. "Today," he says brashly, "there's a market for everything."

Grover hopes Indian lawmakers will raise state liquor taxes. Some already have, making sure that foreign wines remain substantially costlier than local ones. It helps that local politicians have a stake in some vineyards.

Aman Dhall, director of Brindco, an importer of wine who owns a stake in Grover, says he hopes Indian wineries will mature and improve, so they can compete. "Indian wine producers will have to drive up quality," he said.

In India, the wine market has grown at an enviable 30 to 40 percent over the last year, though it remains small, with sales of 600,000 to 800,000 cases last year, depending on whether wine made from table grapes is counted, according to wine producers and importers who track the numbers.

Put another way, Dhall cautions, what India consumes year-round is what Britain drinks during the Christmas season.

At a Sunday evening dinner at the Hyatt Regency held by the Delhi Wine Club, tandoori shrimp was paired with a 2001 Pommard. After a palate cleanser of melon and mint sorbet, a Santa Rosa cabernet accompanied baked paneer, or cheese, for the vegetarians, tandoori lamb chops for the rest. The Chilean ambassador was the guest of honor. He has been known to recommend Viognier with the classic Punjabi dish — butter chicken.

Vijay Kumar Ahuja, a maker of printing materials, said he was drawn to wine when a friend, who happened to be sitting across the table this evening, served it at his daughter's wedding eight years ago. The next year, Ahuja served it at his own sons' weddings. Recently, he took a chance and presented a bottle of Barolo to a business client. He got a call from the client's wife two days later, thanking him. Ahuja took that as a sign of changing times. Before he would never think to offer anything but stronger stuff.

"What whiskey are you serving, that's what mattered," Ahuja recalled.

"If you serve wine at a business dinner you feel you rate, you're different from the others," said Rakesh Bagai, a friend across the table who also deals in printing materials. "Very few do it," he said.

"A certain set," Bindu Talwar piped in from the next chair, as she dug into her lamb. "The well heeled, the well traveled." She found the cabernet too warm. Room temperature, she said, does not mean room temperature in Delhi in the monsoon.

No matter the buzz about wine, Indian taste buds are notoriously hard to change, and Subhash Arora, the founder of the wine club, said he had given up trying to convert the "hard-core whiskey drinker."

"At the end of the day, they want the 'nasha,' " he rued. Nasha is Hindi for intoxication.


All wineries are offering CARRYOUT & CURBSIDE orders!

The Indiana Wine Trail is a group of five family-owned wineries located in the beautiful southeast Indiana area. From quaint country farm settings to historic wine cellars, you will experience our rich history and a variety of wine styles. Open year-round, you can enjoy daily wine tastings and participate in five trail events featuring wine and food pairings. Traditionally each event took place at all of the wineries, but in 2020 the Trail decided to have each of the annual events at one or two host wineries. Souper Saturday , the last Saturday of February will be hosted by Holtkamp Winery Spring into the Valley , the third weekend of April will be hosted by Ertel Cellars Winery Indiana Artisan Weekend , the last weekend of July, will be hosted by Stream Cliff Farm Winery and The Ridge Winery and Fall Haul , the first weekend of November, will be hosted by ALL wineries , and Corks & Cookies , four back to back weekends starting Thanksgiving weekend, will be hosted by Lanthier Winery . Hours of operation vary for each winery. Southeast Indiana is known as the birthplace of the American wine industry. While the Indiana Wine Trail is a newer attraction for southeast Indiana, the history of wineries and wine-making go back hundreds of years in the region. You can learn more about the region's Swiss wine heritage and the immigrants who shaped it by clicking the History tab at the top.

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GPS Tour App will assist you from one Winery to the Next. DOWNLOAD before you take to the Trail!


India’s wine country: A charming work in progress

One of India’s oldest and best wineries looked more like a construction site that had been abandoned mid-project: An open-sided building was surrounded by concrete slabs, poles and lumber.

My wife spotted a pair of six-foot-tall wine bottles and stacks of empty boxes — promising signs of an active winery — but there were no people other than a security guard.

Finally, Sushant Soni, Grover’s hospitality manager, appeared. He apologized for the delay, and for the mess. The building in the center was destined to be a new restaurant, he said, and the winery was renovating everything, including the tasting room. For now, though, tastings were being held in a conference room — don’t trip over the beams on the ground, please!

Like India’s wines themselves, the tourist experience in the country’s winemaking capital is a work in progress. No one would mistake Nashik for California’s Napa Valley, with its Michelin-starred restaurants and pricey mud baths. Nor is it anything like Italy’s Tuscany, where medieval towns, farmhouse inns and family wineries are scattered across the region. Yet Nashik’s lack of a tourist-industrial complex is part of its charm. During our three-day excursion, we tasted wines with the people who made them, explored caves full of ancient Buddhist carvings and ate a lovely lunch while gazing across grapevines to a sun-dappled lake. We even found some delightful wines.

Another bonus: There were hardly any other tourists. Even among Indians, the Nashik area is best known for its onions and table grapes, farmer activism,and its many temples, including Trimbakeshwar, where a major Hindu festival, the Kumbh Mela, is held once every 12 years.

Nobody even produces a decent map of the Nashik’s three dozen wineries, forcing visitors to rely on word-of-mouth or well-phrased Google searches. The tourism body of Maharashtra, the state where Nashik is located, is so apathetic that it erroneously refers to the wineries as “breweries” in a brief mention on its website. The biggest hotel in the area, the Gateway, is owned by the luxury Taj chain but has all the charm of a roadside Holiday Inn.

“India is very good at hospitality,” said Sonal Holland, a Mumbai wine entrepreneur and educator who runs India’s premier tasting event, the India Wine Awards. “It’s a real shame that the industry has failed to take advantage of this massive opportunity that wine tourism can unlock.”

My wife and I had been itching to check out Nashik ever since we moved to Mumbai from the San Francisco Bay Area in 2017. We both love wine, and it has been part of some of the most important moments in our lives: I proposed to her during a birthday trip to Napa, and we were married at a winery in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Mumbai, India’s business hub, has many fine restaurants, but taxes on imported wines push prices to triple or quadruple what they would be in their home countries. In any case, Indians mostly drink whiskey and beer, with wine accounting for a tiny portion of their alcohol consumption.

Tired of the high prices and the limited Indian wine choices in local stores, we decided to spend last Thanksgiving seeing what we could find at Indian wineries themselves.

After a three-hour drive from Mumbai, we began, appropriately, at The Source, a hotel run by Sula Vineyards. Sula, India’s biggest winemaker, has done more than any other organization to promote Indian wine and the wine-tasting experience. In addition to The Source, it operates another hotel nearby, hosts a music festival every February and exports its wines widely (I first picked up a Sula chenin blanc at a Brooklyn wine shop a decade ago).

Our preschooler was famished, so we headed to the property’s Italian restaurant, where the attentive wait staff helped us match Sula’s wines with minestrone soup, insalata mista, pizza and spaghetti aglio e olio. The food was fine, but the wines were disappointing. We found the Chardonnays, both still and sparkling, to be thin, with no finish. And the zinfandel had none of the rich jammy notes you typically find in even the cheapest California zins.

Taking the winery tour, which excluded the actual grapevines growing outside, we heard how Sula’s founder, Rajeev Samant, had returned to the family farm from a stint at Stanford and Oracle in Silicon Valley in the 1990s and decided to make wine.

Today, Sula sells 34 different wines from 14 different grape varietals, thriving despite the immense challenges of running a profitable wine business in India. Although the high taxes on imports give Indian producers a leg up, the wines must also survive long truck rides in the country’s searing heat, warehouses without proper climate control and retailers that inadvertently cook the wine by leaving the bottles in the sun. Several states ban liquor entirely, and the others each have their own licensing rigmarole, making it difficult for producers to build a nationwide following.

And then you have to teach potential customers about the product.

Many of Sula’s visitors have little experience with wine. At the tasting room, our guide instructed, “Never sip a wine like a vodka or a tequila. Do not gulp.” Bottles of different Sula wines were mounted on one wall, each described by a single word like “intense” or “easy” or “happy.”

Unfortunately, we found no happiness in any of the Sula wines. The 2018 Rasa syrah, one of Sula’s premium offerings, had a long rubbery finish. The late-harvest chenin blanc, which our guide said was very popular, was like sipping sugar-sweetened honey.

However, Sula is not targeting seasoned wine drinkers like us.

“One thing about Sula: they have never said they are trying to make wines for connoisseurs,” Ms. Holland said. “They say, we are trying to give consumers what they want: fruit-forward wines edging on sweetness. And that has worked.”

After the tasting, I chatted with Alex Thomas, a novice wine-drinker.

“We have wines in Kerala, but they are not proper wines,” said Mr. Thomas, 27, an electrical engineer who was visiting Nashik on business. In his southwestern state, he said, people commonly drink toddy, an alcoholic beverage made from the fermented sap of coconut palms.

“This is the first time I’ve had wines like this,” he said. So what did he think? “I prefer rum or brandy.”

Still, Sula has grasped the essence of wine country tourism: It’s more about the experience than the wine itself. Mr. Thomas stood in the shade, a refuge from the dry midday heat, and looked out at vineyards as far as the eye could see. He was even thinking about buying a couple of bottles of wine.

The Sula property abounds with selfie points, and we couldn’t resist one of them: Our daughter hopped onto a bright-yellow bicycle, fixed upright, for a photo with the grape vines in the background.

In the afternoon, my wife worked out in the small gym while my daughter and I frolicked in the pool and watched the frogs hopping around it. Later, I nearly fell asleep during a grapeseed-oil massage. Other guests sat in the garden sipping wine and eating snacks.

Sula has established itself as the gravitational center of Nashik’s wine country, and other businesses have sprung up nearby, including York Winery. Although we didn’t visit the tasting room, we enjoyed an al fresco dinner at its restaurant and found the sauvignon blanc went nicely with the pungent chicken jalfrezi.

Soma Vine Village, a bit further down the road, was utterly forgettable, with inattentive servers at the restaurant during lunch and flat, uninspiring wines at the tasting room.

After two nights at Sula, we headed out, stopping first at the Shanti-Krishna Museum of Money and History — popularly known as the Coin Museum. The well-organized exhibits trace the history of money in India from stones to paper bank notes. The museum also contains a fine collection of handmade Ganjifa playing cards used by nobles and royalty during the Mughal era. Who knew that playing cards used to contain eight or more suits?

After lunch, we headed north to Chandon India, a four-year-old outpost of LVMH’s Moët & Chandon, which has been making Champagne in France since 1743.

Bubbly wines have enthralled me ever since I visited Moët’s home caves in Épernay as a teenager. And I first learned about the magic of pairing foods with specific wines at a dinner at Domaine Chandon, the company’s property in Napa Valley.

Unlike those busy locations, Chandon India gets only the most dedicated visitors. Located in Dindori, on the far edge of the region, Chandon is isolated and does little to attract visitors. There is no restaurant, tastings are by appointment only, and a sign on the premises warns visitors about poisonous snakes on the lush lawn and 21-acre grounds.

The reward for those who persevere is a personalized, V.I.P. experience: After a tour of the state-of-the-art production facilities, we tasted the winery’s offerings with the guidance of a Chandon winemaker, Kaushal Khairnar.

Chandon makes three wines in India, all from local grapes: a brut, a brut rosé and a sweet sparkler it calls Délice. None of them have been runaway hits, and the winery is still tinkering with its blends to find a way to appeal to more Indian palates.

“In India, wine is a foreign thing,” said Mr. Khairnar, who has also spent time making wine in Portugal, New Zealand and Brazil. “And sparkling wine is another level.”

Even the restaurants are often ignorant of what they are serving, said Peter Csizmadia-Honigh, the author of the e-book “The Wines of India,” the most comprehensive attempt to chronicle the industry.

“I have had experiences where I have ordered a cabernet sauvignon, they bring out a sauvignon blanc, and they insist that is what I ordered,” he said. “The wine guys are recognizing the massive amount of work that needs to be done.”

After we left Chandon, we drove to the city of Nashik and checked into the Gateway Hotel Ambad Nashik, the biggest hotel in the area. Although recently renovated, the property has none of the history and elegance of its pricier cousins in the Taj chain. After rejecting our first room with its “city view” of the traffic-choked highway, we ended up in a giant “wine-themed” suite, where we searched in vain for anything related to wine.

The next morning, we set off for Grover, which makes a dry shiraz rosé that goes well with both spicy Indian food and Western cuisine.

After we found Mr. Soni, the Grover hospitality manager, amid all the construction, he took us out back, to the vineyards. What a contrast from the construction jumble out front. Vines stretched far up the hillside, and you could imagine the marvelous view of the valley you would have from the guest villas that Grover hopes to build at the top.

Later, when we walked through the packing room, he pulled out a bottle of Auriga sparkling wine. Floating inside were flakes of 24-karat gold. It was gimmicky, but also very Indian: the country’s sweets are often topped with a thin layer of gold or silver foil.

Grover, founded more than 30 years with help from a French winemaker, consistently wins awards in India for its winemaking.

The first wine that Mr. Soni offered in our tasting, the 2016 Art Collection viognier, had notes of peach and gulab jamun, the sugar-soaked balls of dough that my mother once made for my elementary school class. The 2017 sauvignon blanc, while smacking a bit too much of bell pepper and asparagus for us, had a long finish uncharacteristic of most Indian wines we had tried. The 2016 cabernet-shiraz blend was soft and tannic.

The last winery of the trip turned out to be our favorite: Vallonné Vineyards, a short drive from Grover.

Its on-site Southeast Asian restaurant, Malaka Spice, was a peaceful place for lunch. As we feasted on roti canale, curry and nasi goreng, we could see the nearby lake from its elevated terrace.

Afterward, the winemaker, Sanket Gawand, took us on a tour, explaining how Vallonné is different: It ages its wines longer than most Indian winemakers, both in the barrel and in the bottle, before selling them.

That makes for better wine. The 2019 riesling was floral, with hints of pear and a rich minerality. The 2017 viognier was slightly oaky and overflowing with lychee. The 2015 merlot, aged 15 months in the barrel, was spicy and plummy, and the 2014 Anokhee syrah, one of the winery’s most expensive wines at $32 a bottle, reminded me of some of the best syrahs I had tried in Paso Robles, an up-and-coming wine region about three hours’ drive south of San Francisco.

But the aging is also costly, tying up capital. After 11 years, Mr. Gawand said, “now we have reached the break-even point.” Vallonné still loses money on the winemaking, he said, but the restaurant and a few guest rooms have helped stem the red ink.

To really make wine work as a business, Ms. Holland said, the industry needs to focus more on the tourist experience, just like in other countries that market their wine country destinations.

“The population is really hungry for unique experiences,” she said. “Imagine if there were better facilities. We would just take off.”

Before we left Nashik, we made one more stop, at the Pandavleni caves.

After climbing several hundred steps, which our energetic daughter (mostly) handled on her own two feet, we reached a large ledge. Caves gaped from the surrounding rock face, and 24 of them had Buddhist statues and carvings inside, some dating back to 250 B.C.

As we joined dozens of people clambering and posing for photographs, it struck me that in the millennial sweep of Indian history, the wine industry is just a footnote.

“How much knowledge is there in India about winemaking?” Mr. Csizmadia-Honigh said. “In California or Bordeaux, it took years or centuries.”


Wednesday, March 3, 2021

VEGETARIAN RICE DISHES FOR LENT

SOME VEGETARIAN RICE DISHES FOR THOSE FRIDAYS IN LENT AND OTHER TIMES AS WELL
Some easy recipes for one pot rice dishes which could be eaten for lunch with a vegetable side dish or just a salad and some pickle
All these recipes are featured in my Cookery Book VEGETARIAN DELICACIES
1. A SIMPLE MIXED VEGETABLE PALAO
Serves 6 Time Required: 45 minutes
Ingredients
2 cups basmati rice or any other raw rice
3 onions sliced finely,
1 cup ground coconut / coconut paste
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste
½ cup oil or ghee
2 green chilies chopped
2 teaspoons chillie powder
1 teaspoon garam masala powder / all spice powder
2 cups assorted vegetables such as carrots, beans, peas, cauliflower etc cut into medium size bits
2 tablespoons chopped mint
Salt to taste
Heat oil in a suitable pan or vessel and fry the onions till brown.
Add the ginger garlic paste and green chilies and sauté for a few minutes.
Add the chopped vegetables, mint, chillie powder, turmeric powder, garam masala powder and salt and stir-fry for a few minutes.
Add the coconut and fry till the oil separates from the mixture.
Add 4 cups of water and bring to boil.
Add the rice and mix well.
Cook on medium heat till the rice is cooked and each grain is separate.
Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

2. MASOOR DHAL PALAO (RED LENTIL PALAO)
Serves 6 Time Required: 1 hour
Ingredients
2 cups raw rice wash and keep aside
½ cup masoor dhal (Red Lentils) wash and keep aside
3 cardamoms, 3 cloves, 2 pieces cinnamon, 1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste
2 teaspoons chillie powder
Salt to taste
4 tablespoons oil or ghee
2 tomatoes chopped finely
2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves
2 tablespoons mint leaves
3 boiled eggs shelled
Heat oil in a suitable pan or vessel and fry the whole spices and Bay leaves for 2 minutes.
Add the ginger garlic paste, chopped tomato and chillie powder and sauté for a few minutes.
Add the washed raw rice and dhal and stir-fry for a few minutes.
Now add the coriander leaves, mint, salt and 4 cups of water and cook till done.
Garnish with the boiled eggs on top
Serve with curds or any curry and pickle.

3. PEAS PALAO
Serves 6 Time Required: 1 hour
Ingredients
2 cups basmati rice or any raw rice – wash and keep aside
½ cup green peas,
3 tablespoons ghee or oil
1 onion sliced finely
2 tomatoes chopped
2 cloves, 2 cardamoms, 2 pieces cinnamon, 2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon garam masala powder / spice powder,
4 green chillies slit lengthwise
½ cup coriander leaves
Salt to taste
Heat oil or ghee in a vessel and fry the spices, bay leaves and onions till golden brown.
Add the chopped tomatoes, green chillies, garam masala powder, cumin powder and cook till the tomatoes turn to pulp.
Add the rice, green peas, salt and chopped coriander leaves and mix well.
Add 4 cups of water and cook on medium heat till the rice is cooked and all the water dries up.
Serve with salad and any curry.

4. TOMATO PALAO
Serves 6 Time Required: 1 hour
Ingredients

4 large tomatoes chopped finely
3 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves
2 large onions sliced finely
2 cups basmati rice
Salt to taste
2 teaspoons chillie powder
2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste
2 cloves, 3 cardamoms, 3 pieces of cinnamon, 1 bay leaf
4 or 5 tablespoons oil or ghee
2 teaspoons chopped mint leaves
2 green chillies chopped

Heat oil in a pan or a rice cooker and sauté the spices, bay leaves, onions and green chillies till the onions turn golden brown.
Add the tomatoes, ginger garlic paste and chillie powder and fry for a few minutes till the tomatoes turn pulpy.
Add the rice, salt, mint leaves and coriander leaves and fry for a few minutes.
Add 4 cups of water and cook on medium heat till the rice is done.
Simmer on low heat for a few minutes then turn of the heat.
Serve with salad and any curry of your choice.

5. CARROT AND ROASTED PEANUTS RICE
Serves 6 Time Required: 1 hour
Ingredients
2 cups cooked rice
2 onions chopped finely
1 cup of finely cut carrot
2 tablespoons oil
2 small pieces of cinnamon, 2 cloves
4 or 5 whole pepper corns
1 bay leaf, 2 cardamoms
Salt to taste
½ teaspoon ground pepper / pepper powder
2 tablespoons roasted and crushed ground nuts
2 teaspoons chopped coriander leaves
Heat oil in a pan and add the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, bay leaf, pepper corns and onions and sauté till the onions turn light brown.
Add the carrots and stir fry till the carrots are cooked but still crunchy.
Add the cooked rice, salt and pepper and mix well.
Simmer on low heat for a few minutes then remove from heat.
Garnish with the crushed groundnuts and fried onions
Serve with any sauce.

6. CORIANDER LEAVES PALAU (GREEN MASALA PALAO)
Serves 6 Time Required: 1 hour
Ingredients
2 cups rice wash and keep aside
½ cup cashew nuts fried in ghee,
4 tablespoons ghee or oil
1 onion sliced finely
2 tomatoes chopped
2 tablespoons grated coconut
2 cloves, 2 cardamoms, 2 pieces cinnamon, 2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons ginger and garlic paste,
1 teaspoon chillie powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
2 green chillies
1 cup chopped coriander leaves
Salt to taste
Grind the Green chillies, coriander leaves and coconut together to a paste
Heat the oil or ghee in a vessel and fry the cloves, cardamoms, cinnamon, bay leaves and onions till golden brown.
Add the ground paste, ginger and garlic paste, chopped tomatoes, chillie powder and cumin powder and stir fry for about 2 or 3 minutes
Add the rice and salt and mix well.
Add 4 cups of water and cook on medium heat then on low heat till the rice is done and all the water dries up.
Garnish with a little chopped coriander leaves and fried cashew nuts.
Serve with any curry or raita.


GANGES DAWN BY BOAT

Begin the day on the Ganges with a boat ride along the entire length of the holy city and its 88 Ghats. We will see several temples on the banks of the river, one of which is partially submerged into the river. People taking a dip in the river to purify their souls, rituals being performed on the banks, yoga practitioners and cremation of dead bodies are the most common sights while exploring Varanasi in a boat. Breakfast on streets, because why not do it as the locals do? Lunch at Bati Chokha Restaurant- Widely known for its Bati Chokha- a meal of roasted wheat balls served with vegetable curry, is a special delicacy exclusive to Varanasi. In the traditional ambience we will savour the flavors in the most traditional way possible. Evening at leisure Return to New Delhi by flight/train.