An Indian friend of mine told me that the town he’s from, Nashik, is India’s most prolific wine-producing region. How cool is that. Knowing nothing about the region prompted me to do some research. Here’s what I learned. Thanks to Out in India, Thrillophilia and CNN for their help with this article.
What Is the Story of Nashik?
Nashik is located 135 kilometers (85 miles) northeast of Mumbai in the state of Maharashtra.
Located on the banks of the holy Godavari River, Nashik (or Nasik) gets its name from the episode in the Ramayana where Lakshmana, Rama’s brother, hacked off the nasika (nose) of Ravana’s sister.
Why Did Nashik Become the Wine Capital of India?
Numbers along might be enough to warrant this title. Half of India’s vineyards and wineries are located here, where the climate is favorable for grape growing. The Nashik valley wine’s quality is due to the high altitude (700 meters above sea level) at which the grapes are grown. The wines have high acidity and a good acid-sugar balance. Nashik has an ideal temperature variation, particularly in winters, that helps grapes retain acidity and optimal sugar levels.
What Else Is Nashik Known For?
Nashik is known for being one of the Hindu pilgrimage sites of the Kumbh Mela, which is held every 12 years. It’s also the country’s onion capital, and it’s blessed with natural beauty, cultural heritage, and rich history. In addition to the nearly 40 wineries, the valley offers beautiful waterfalls, temples, caves, holy baths and forts. Definitely a place worth visit, especially between October and March.
What Was the Real Force Behind the Region’s Wine Growth?
Two words: Sula Vineyards, which is Nashik’s first winery. Who started the winery? Rajeev Samant, an Indian who went to Stanford and worked for Oracle. When Samant moved back to India in the early 1990s, he realized that India didn’t make a lot of wine. So, he spent three months at a small winery in California that belonged to his friend and mentor. He then started Sula Vineyards in 1999 and hired Kerry Damskey to be the winery’s Master Winemaker.
Sula Vineyards’s Wines
Sula’s flagship wine is a 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon that’s bursting with notes of dark fruit, spices and tobacco. The company also produces popular white wines, including sauvignon blancs, chenin blanc and riesling. Currently, Sula exports wines to about 25 countries around the world, which also helps to increase awareness of Indian wines.
Wine Is Still in Its Infancy in India
Sula Vineyards has been around for just 20 years. In the wine world, that means wine in Nashik is still in its infancy. And wine in India is even younger. According to CNN, even today, there are only 2 million to 3 million wine consumers in a country of 1.34 billion. Lots of upside opportunity for Sula and the other 40 or so Nashik wineries.
The good news is that the region’s wines are really coming in to their own, making a trip or a taste well worth it.
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