One can hope it's only a matter of time before some enterprising visionary opens up a wine bar in Nashik to showcase Indian juice, but, alas, the city isn't quite there yet. Hotel bars abound throughout town, but this is wine country – hire a car and driver and get tasting!
Feature: Grapes of Nashik
From wimpy raisins to full-bodied wines, the grapes of Nashik have come a long way. The surrounding region had been producing table grapes since ancient times; however, it was only in the early 1990s that a couple of entrepreneurs realised that Nashik, with its fertile soils and temperate climate, boasted good conditions for wine cultivation. In 1997 industry pioneer Sula Vineyards fearlessly invested in a crop of Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc and the first batch of domestic wines hit the shelves in 2000. Nashik hasn’t looked back.
These days the wine list in most of Nashik’s wineries has stretched to include Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet, Semillon and Zinfandel as well as a few sparkling wines; and bars and restaurants in India's bigger cities have finally cottoned on to domestic wines. Even the pairings have evolved: ever tried a nice Indian Chenin Blanc alongside Keralan seafood? Or an Indian Chardonnay with butter chicken?
It's well-worth sampling these drops firsthand by visiting one of the region's beautiful estates. Oenophiles should enlist Wine Friend, the only experienced guide doing wine speciality tours around Nashik's vineyards (₹6000 plus tasting fees). If you're just looking for a designated driver, cars can be hired on Ola for eight hours at ₹1450; or try the friendly and English-speaking Sanil at SCK Rent-A-Car for a horn-free ride.
Sula Vineyards, located 15km west of Nashik, offers a professional tour (around 45 minutes) of its impressive estate and high-tech facilities. This is rounded off with themed six wine-tasting sessions like Beat the Heat (₹400; all whites and sparkling) and Best of Sula (₹400; features its best drops, including two from its top-end Rasa line). The tasting patio here has commanding views of the countryside.
York Winery A further kilometre from Sula Vineyards, family-owned York Winery offers tours and wine-tasting sessions (five/seven wines ₹150/250) in a top-floor room that has scenic views of the lake and surrounding hills. Four reds, including its flagship barrel-aged Cab Shiraz, three whites, a rosé and two sparklings are produced. There’s a large garden where Western snacks (olives, cheeses) are offered.
Soma Vine Village One of Nashik's newer wineries, Soma Vine Village, 17km west of the city centre on the same road as Sula and York, offers 45-minute tours that end in a sampling plucked from its 11-wine portfolio (five wines ₹350), including its award-winning Chenin Blanc Gold and its new rosé dessert wine, both excellent.
Chandon Nashik's newest winery is a world-class facility on meticulously manicured grounds that easily rank as Nashik's most peaceful and beautiful. Tastings (₹500, recoupable with purchase) feature India's leading sparkling wines, Chandon Brut (Chenin Blanc/Chardonnay/Pinot Noir) and Brut Rosé (Shiraz/Pinot Noir). Sip your bubbly in the upscale contemporary lounge, wine gallery or on the tremendously picturesque terrace. It's 26km north of Nashik.
Grover Zampa It first produced juice with imported French vines at its Karnataka estate in 1992. Today, it's India's oldest surviving winery and easily its most most lauded (74 international awards between 2014 and 2016 alone). Tours and tastings at its Nashik estate, 53km southwest of the city, take place in its cinematic cave (five/seven wines ₹500/650). The Soireé Brut Rosé and the top-end Chêne Grand Réserve Tempranillo-Shiraz are fantastic. If you come out this way, do dine at nearby Malaka Spice, Nashik's best and most scenic wine country restaurant, and crash overnight at Valloné Vineyards.