Nashik vineyards recreating Napa Valley experience in India—with ‘bhakri-wine’ tours

Article printed on ThePrint on 1st January 2023

Move over wine and cheese, and Napa valley tours: Maharashtra’s vineyard tourism has a new hit combo. It’s ‘bhakri’ and wine.

Fresh bhakris—flatbread typically made from jowar (white millet), bajra (pearl millet) or rice flour—are flipped over a cooking stove. On another side, ‘pithla’, a quintessential Maharashtrian dish made from gram flour, is simmering in a pot.

Manoj Jagtap, who goes by the moniker ‘wine friend,’ specialises in wine tourism. He makes his patrons sit down with their plates in front of them in a neat line—the traditional Maharashtrian ‘pangat’—and savour the local fare, each course paired carefully with a glass of wine from one of Nashik’s local vineyards.

India has neither the unending lush vineyards of Napa Valley, Tuscany or Bordeaux, nor a culture where wine has been a staple for centuries. But, over the last two decades, North Maharashtra’s Nashik has seen the growth of a robust wine industry that can offer at least a fraction of their charm and experience.

We first start by telling most of our visitors that medically, more than 100-110 ml of wine per day is not recommended,” an employee at the Grover Zampa vineyard in Nashik said.

The Grover Zampa Vineyard in Nashik | Manasi Phadke, ThePrint

As per data from the Maharashtra tourism department, Nashik has 29 operating wineries, most spread across areas such as Dindori, Niphad, and Igatpuri. The beverage is gradually gaining acceptance in the local culture and shedding its tag in India as an elitist drink.

A cultural shift in the works 

It is a lazy Wednesday afternoon, and the winter has set in just enough to blunt the harshness of the sun. A young mother poses with her infant on a bright yellow bicycle created as a photo spot with Sula’s logo in the background. A few feet away on a deck overlooking vineyards, a couple converses deeply over a bottle of Rosè. A few tables away, a large family spanning three generations munches on pakoras as a white wine chills in an ice bucket next to them.

On the other side of the property, 22-year-old Supriya Atewar is strolling with her father and her Golden Retriever, Rover. “I had come for a tour of the vineyard when I was in college. My parents and I were on our way back home to Panvel [near Mumbai] from a visit to Hatgad [a fort town north of Nashik], and I thought they might really enjoy seeing a vineyard.”

Sula Vineyards’ Dhavale said wine has got social acceptance over time. More women are taking to wine, and drinking it as a family-time activity is not uncommon any more. He added that, on average, about 30 per cent of Sula’s visitors opt for a wine-tasting package.

The Nashik district has traditionally been a pilgrimage destination and an industrial hub. But, Dhavale said this rarely clashes with its emerging identity as a wine country. If anything, this image only feeds Nashik’s booming wine empire.

“There are many tourists who come to Nashik, visit a pilgrimage site on one day and a vineyard the next,” said Dhavale. Similarly, many foreign company executives visiting Nashik’s industrial areas also end up seeing the wineries.

“When people come to us and do tastings, we try to explain the basics of wine to them. The best way to spread awareness about wine is education, and that can only happen at wineries,” said Gawand.

This visible shift, however, is primarily urban. Representatives from multiple wineries said their visitors mainly come from Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Goa and Ahmedabad. From among Tier 2 cities, only patrons from Nashik partake in wine tourism.

“The global wine tourist destinations have been built on decades of wine being a part of their cultural, economic and social life. We will reach there someday, but it will take at least two more generations,” said Jagtap.

Since 2009, Jagtap, who is also a coordinator at the All India Wine Producers Association, has organised vineyard tours for over 3,500 international and double the number of domestic tourists. He has tasted wine from almost every vineyard in Nashik but faces drinking restrictions in his own house.

“The unfortunate truth is that I teach the whole world about wine, but I have been unable to teach my wife about it,” he said.


Nashik vineyards recreating Napa Valley experience in India—with ‘bhakri-wine’ tours

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