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Published on: July 13, 2020, 8 a.m.
Samant’s SulaFest
  • Merry mood at SulaFest 2020

By Swapna Vora

India’s SulaFest, year after year, is one really entertaining, happy event: nourishing in every sense! Set amidst vineyards and with a great amphitheatre, the Fest brings music, talks, boutique businesses and, of course, much wine tasting. Everything is organised for fun, joy, imbibing and dancing under the stars. The February weather is cool, the air brimming with good talk, food and music. Visitors arrive from everywhere to listen, dance and imbibe Sula and other liquor.

The music begins after lunch and listeners dance on the amphitheatre steps, sometimes with whoever is around and willing to boogie. A young girl sighed, ‘My husband will not dance, will you?’ and two women happily swirled and dipped. Such events create joy, profit local businesses, e.g. small ones like those who stick glitter on faces, (gorgeous!), or big ones selling expensive glassware. Young folk, (the really young are aged 2), and many veterans from the Woodstock era or Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel lovers congregate and listen, sing, clap, dance and thrill to the light effects while green and red lit drones hover.

After studying at Stanford University and working at Oracle, Rajeev Samant returned to India. He began Sula Vineyards (‘Sula’ is named after his mother, Sulabha) in 1998 in the Nashik region, with 30 acres of family owned land. After launching its first wines (2000), Samant’s Sula grew to 1,800 acres and used grape varietals such as Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Zinfandel, etc. Sula has two wineries at Nashik and Dindori, Maharashtra, and three crush facilities in Nashik and Karnataka.

India's Napa Valley

For over a decade, Samant has worked at increasing the quality and quantity of his wine and by 2013 Sula represented 70 per cent of India’s wine industry. Growing any food is tricky as it depends on the vagaries of weather, terroir, workers, and consumers, and certainly needs devotion and knowledge. Now, after Samant’s efforts, the Nashik region is called India’s Napa Valley and many can enjoy a glass of wine with their meals. Like with almost any good product in India, the local market for wine is increasing yearly.

While India’s nascent wine making produces a tiny percentage of the world’s wines, it has won an amazing number of coveted international awards, year after year. The Sula Dindori Reserve Shiraz, along with wine derived from Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, has been well received and acclaimed. While Sula uses their own grapes, they also buy from contract farmers. Sula educates them on best practices and works at supporting them through difficult weather conditions. One hopes they (and Sula), will go 100 per cent organic since that is essential to save our world and food.

The harvest and crush season is from January to March and tours and tastings are conducted daily. Nearby at The Source’s front office, Ratul Gupta offers really good, knowledgeable service. Little Italy and Soma serve food, while gift shops and a Tasting Room overlook the vineyards and water. Karan Vasvani spoke of the Prosecco process for making sparkling wine.

One pleasure at the Fest is meeting Daisy and Kerry Damskey, a master winemaker. Yes, there is much tasting, sniffing and swirling along with discussions of charmat, the secondary fermentation in large tanks, and of liqueur de tirage, (yeast mixed with sugar), added to still wine to generate the gentle, loved bubbles.

SulaFest is India’s biggest vineyard music festival with new, interesting music from across the globe, delectable wines, gourmet food and good merchandise. It takes place in Nashik, India’s wine capital, against grey green hills and the calm Gangapur waters, at Sula Vineyards, Govardhan Village, Maharashtra.

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