Recently, UNESCO named the historic vineyards and wine cellars of France’s Champagne and Burgundy in their list of world heritage sites. Even though India’s wineries and vineyards might not be as old as their French counterparts, their importance as both producers of wine and a source of wine education, has become conspicuous over the years. As wine tourism, which is often referred to as Enotourism, witnesses a rise in demand among oenophiles and cub tasters alike, we speak to experts about what triggered this trend.
“Indian travellers are continuously evolving, and the rate is faster than ever. They now have a keen desire to indulge in not just local cuisines, but also in wine. Looking at the trend, Indian vineyards are upgrading their technology significantly and are collaborating with European wine experts to produce more and better wines. A spinoff is the growth of wine tourism,” says Manmeet Ahluwalia, marketing head of travel and booking website Expedia India, adding that the wine travel market in India is growing at 25% annually.Curiosity sake On the other hand, Dr Neeraj Agarwal, executive vice president — operations, Sula Vineyards, says that unlike other beverages, wine is a more complex drink. This entices people to know more about different kinds of wines. "Over the past few years, we have seen a steady growth in the number of keen wine tourists coming to our vineyards. We now see more than 2,00,000 people every year," he says.
In the country, this type of tourism is mainly concentrated in parts of Maharashtra (primarily in Nashik and Pune), and Karnataka (mainly in Bengaluru). "In Maharashtra, wine grapes can be grown easily in Nashik, which is 600m above sea level. Also, the Maharashtra government has rolled out a conducive policy to simplify regulations, and make it easy for producers to focus on quality winemaking," says Ajay Shetty, managing director, Myra Vineyards. He adds that in Karnataka, there is a similar, if not greater potential. "The state’s pleasant climate through the year helps. Currently, over a dozen vineyards dot the landscape, making the region a perfect getaway for wine buffs. Nandi Hills, Kaveri Valley and Krishna Valley are just a few key wine-producing regions that are making producers and tourists take note of Karnataka," says Shetty.
Activities galoreWine tourism basically involves a guided tour of the vineyards with an explanation about grape varieties and the basics of viticulture practices employed. This is usually followed by a guided tour of the winery, where an expert tells people about the winemaking process involving different types of wines, including white, red and rosé. It is followed by tastings, which provide details of wine characteristics. Some places also have the provision of grape stomping, and overnight staying options.
“We also educate and encourage people to undertake sustainable practices in their day-to-day lives by showing them recycling practices undertaken by our vineyards, and the changes that we have incorporated to conserve energy, reduce wastage, and more,” says Agarwal. While people of different age groups indulge in wine tourism, it is more popular amongst youngsters, Double-Income-No-Kids (DINK) couples and groups of friends. As far as its cost is concerned, a wine tour is not an expensive proposition. It starts anywhere from R250 (for a group tour) to R750 at most vineyards, unless you decide to stay at one of their retreats.
Out-of-the-box approach Priyanka Deshpande, 27, who celebrated her second wedding anniversary at a vineyard resort in Nashik, feels it’s a great way to learn and relax. “My husband and I are fond of wines, so instead of going to a beach or to the mountains, we decided to go for a wine tasting tour. It was an amazing experience. As a result, when we got back home, we could flaunt our knowledge about different kinds of wines, in front of our friends and colleagues,” she says.
With inputs from Thomas Cook India and Grover Zampa Vineyards