The first mention of wine in the Indian context can be traced back to 1500-500 BCE. The Indo-Aryans indulged in intoxicating drinks, and the Vedas, too, speak of an alcoholic beverage, called Sura, a rice wine fermented with honey. Interestingly, it was Chanakya who made the first mention of grape-based wines in his writings: in his chronicles of the Emperor Chandragupta Maurya’s court, Chanakya condemns the frequent consumption of a grape wine called madhu.
Centuries later, the Kshatriyas (a social order of the Hindu society) claimed wine to be their preferred drink while the lower classes would usually drink alcohol made from wheat, barley and millet. Under the Mughal rule, however, alcohol was completely banned due to religious restrictions.
Portuguese colonists arrived in the 16th century and introduced Port to India, while the British rulers also encouraged winemaking to cater to their own needs. And soon, vineyards were developed in Baramati (Maharashtra), Kashmir and Surat.
The state of Maharashtra has been dubbed the wine capital of India. With a favourable climate and relatively simple government regulations, wine producers are flocking to Maharashtra and setting up wineries. These factors have also made it one of the largest wine producing regions in the country. Vineyards in the state are found in the Deccan Plateau region and around Baramati, Nashik, Pune, Solapur and Sangli.
Some of the more well-known wineries in the state are Sula, Fratelli Wines, York Winery, Chateau d’Ori, Grover Zampa and Vallonne. Nashik, in particular, with its warm days and cool nights provides an ideal setting for the cultivation of grapes. This sort of climate ensures the grapes retain their acidity and develop a distinct flavour.
Wine tourism is becoming increasingly popular as is evident by the growing number of wineries that organize tasting sessions and festivals with a focus on the spirit. Gorgeous locales, luxurious retreats and a unique holiday experience, all attract draw people to wineries. The famed Sula Vineyards, hosts an annual festival called Sulafest in February, which features music performances. Grover Zampa vineyards organizes The Great Grover Stomp, and as is apparent from the name, this festival encourages attendees to stomp grapes for fun.
Given the wine appeal the state holds for most travellers, sometimes, some of the best tipples from all over the world are available at iconic stores and shops. At Pune's Dorabjee departmental store, for instance, you just can't miss the impressive selection of international wines and chocolates on offer.
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Drinking an occasional glass of wine is known to have health benefits such as a decreased risk of a heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Indians are apparently paying attention, since the wine consumption in the country is escalating. In fact, according to industry reports wine consumption in India is growing at a steady rate of 20-25 per cent. Wine is a booming economic sector that is finally being ‘tapped’.
Where to Go Wine-Tasting in Maharashtra
Nashik is home to some of the leading wine makers in India. There are approximately 50 wineries around Nashik and the most famous ones are located near Gangapur Dam (10km from the city). Sula, Fratelli and York are amongst the popular wineries here. They even have tasting rooms and offer tours to visitors.
Sula Vineyards, Nashik
It pioneered wine production in the Nashik region and, subsequently, revolutionised the Indian wine industry. Today, it is not only a market leader, but an estate worth the visit. In February, head down for the famous Sulafest music extravaganza. Otherwise, enjoy a luxurious stay in one of their Sky Villas, while indulging in tours and tasting sessions. sulawines.com
Soma Vine Village
Calling it a ‘vine village’ is a bit modest. After all, Soma boasts a resort with attractions such as an adventure park, a spa, numerous dining options, entertainment rooms and some classy pool villas. Don't forget to taste their Sauvignon Blanc Dessert and stay at their 'Barrel House'. Tours and tastings take place seven days a week. somavinevillage.com
Vallone Vineyards, Nashik
At this very picturesque estate in Nashik, you can sip your wine while dining at a lake-facing restaurant by the well-regarded Malaka Spice. After that, you may retire to your room, which promises a breathtaking view. vallonnevineyards.com
The Fratelli vineyard is located approximately 170km from Pune, the nearest airport. Most major airlines fly into Pune. The drive from the airport to the vineyard takes 3-4 hours depending on the road conditions. The vineyard offers pick-up and drop facilities. However, book in advance. Mumbai is approximately 330km from the vineyard. The drive takes anywhere between 6 to 7 hours.
Read about our selection of the best of wine holidays across India.