Earlier this year, Sophia Longhi took a trip out to India, visiting the country’s wine capital Nashik. Sophia recalls her adventure around five wineries that would give any wine loving holidaymaker a perfect highlight reel for Indian wines. Explore her tried and tested recommendations below.
Wine might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of India, but there’s a growing interest for winemaking and wine drinking in this vast and vibrant country. A trip to Nashik, the country’s main wine region, is doable by car from Mumbai and, even though it’s a four hour drive, it’s a fascinating journey.
Just getting out of Mumbai is entertaining enough with rickshaws, trucks and cows jostling for space on the roads, but once out of the city, the chaos subsides and you’re in the countryside, passing farms, forests and rural villages. Hiring a driver is pretty easy, if you don’t fancy braving Indian roads by yourself (just ask a local taxi company), and – anyway – taxi drivers know the best service stations. There’s some great food to be had on an Indian road trip!
The incredible view and vines at Vallonné.
Once in the vicinity of the city of Nashik, there are loads of wineries to choose to visit, but if you’d like some tried and tested recommendations, then strap in. I’ve written them in the order of visiting during a two day trip, but if you’re there for a shorter or longer amount of time, get your Google Maps out and see what works for you.
Start your Nashik adventure in Grover Zampa’s Sanjegaon vineyards. Grover is the second largest wine producer in India (after Sula) and has been key in shaping the country’s wine history.
Grover’s Signet wines.
Grover Zampa has strong links to France – it all started for Grover in the late 1970s with a friendship with George Vesselle and, since 1995, Michel Rolland has been their consultant. As such, the wines are very classic in style. Recently, however, Grover has become much more innovative and the Signet range experiments with different fermentation vessels, including amphorae.
Guided tours start at 10:30am, which will take approximately one and a half to two hours.
Vallonné is a picturesque boutique winery overlooking the Mukane Reservoir and the Sahyadri Mountains. Even though the lines of palm trees planted by founder Shailendra Pai give this estate tropical vibes, the climate experiences a high diurnal temperature range, which means Vallonné can successfully grow a wide selection of grape varieties.
Sophia visits Vallonné Vineyards.
Sommeliers rave about their quality-over-quantity approach and the wines have gained an excellent reputation in top restaurants in Mumbai. Definitely stay for lunch at the onsite restaurant Malaka Spice for some of the tastiest South East Asian food you will experience in India!
Although Soma still calls itself a boutique family-run winery, it seems like a very accomplished operation and takes the crown as India’s first “vineyard resort”, with accommodation, two restaurants and a spa.
Soma makes 24 different wines and though many of them are quite sweet for our dry British palates, it’s probably the only place you can taste “Chenin Blanc Kashmir Honey”, “Shiraz Jamun Honey” and Anarkali Pomegranate Wine. I’d pop in on the way to Sula and try the Brut Reserve, a Traditional Method wine made from Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir.
On this itinerary, you’ll probably arrive at Sula in time for drinks and dinner. Book a room at The Source (a treehouse if you can!) and do the winery tour in the morning after breakfast (maybe take a bike and ride around the vineyards at sunrise first).
One of the treehouses at The Source.
Sula is the biggest producer of wine in India and it’s the Indian wine brand that most countries know about. With all of that fame, it has the estate to match: big, bright and lots of fun! The giant wine bottles and sculptures are an Instagrammer’s dream.
There are loads of wines to taste at Sula and you’ll speed taste through a bunch of them during the compact (and quite intense) guided tour, but I’d recommend tasting a few at your leisure over lunch.
Sula Brut Tropicale with our lunch.
Sula Brut Tropicale is a fun and tasty bubbly, but for something more serious, check out the Rāsā range and The Source selection.
Before heading back to Mumbai or onwards to Delhi, why not drive an hour north to the Chandon India vineyards to see Moët Hennessy’s first venture into Traditional Method winemaking in India. The sleek, manicured winery will certainly be a contrast to bright and colourful Sula!
Set up in 2014, Moët Hennessy decided that Nashik was a worthy location to produce their premium sparkling wine and, although they buy their grapes in from local farmers, there is a big focus on sustainability at Chandon, from insisting organic fertilisers are used, to recycling water and using solar power.
Moet’s Chandon Brut from India.
The Chandon Brut won a silver medal at the Decanter World Wine Awards in 2021, so these sparklers are definitely worth a try. If you fancy a visit, speak to Amrut at the winery to arrange one!
Photos by Sophia Longhi.
Have you tasted Indian wine? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.