Wine and religion, two unlikely comrades, have fraternised to form Nashik's newfound, unorthodox charm. Taking a detour from the typical "exotic mysticism" that most of India offers, Nashik, known for its Kumbh Melas, has transformed itself into the unlikely, yet celebrated, wine capital of India.
Thanks to the Sula Vineyards, the York Winery, and a few other ventures, this new wave of wine tourism has hit what was predominantly a temple town. Interestingly, Maharashtra is right next door to Gujarat - a state that seems to pride itself on its puritanistic laws that prohibits the sale of liquor; and a part of a nation that includes Kerala - a state that recently introduced a much talked about ban on alcohol.
So, once the tourists have had their fill of the cultural explosion that is the Kumbh, they can then choose to retreat to the quaint and elegant wineries that dot Nashik. Interestingly, since Nashik is a part of the sugarcane belt, the local farmers once only cultivated sugarcane. The shift from cane to grapes was the result of a water shortage. It was probably fate, because this shift changed Nashik in countless ways, only for the better.
Wine tourism is the new buzzword here - almost 50 wineries have established themselves in and around Nashik - and excitingly for wine connoisseurs, many vineyards now have open tasting rooms. The new wave of the wine culture has made the elegance of wine more accessible to the public, which doesn't just comprise of those on a weekend break, but also foreign tourists and sommeliers from the world over.
Despite being in its infancy, the wine industry in Nashik has already been decorated with several international honours - Sula's Sauvignon Blanc and Vallone's Malbec have received accolades at the Decanter World Wine Awards.
And why wouldn't they be applauded? After all, wine consumption (in limited quantities, of course!) has been shown to benefit health. It's no urban myth that wine is great for your skin. And, your heart. And, your bones! Wine also supposedly slashes your chances of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, as well as certain types of cancer.
India's wine industry deserves to be celebrated. Here's the tale of how Nashik, the humble Maharashtrian town, revamped itself to become India's wine capital.
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