The biggest winery in the country expects to crush over 12000 tonnes of grapes this year
Nashik vineyards have started entering a pre-harvest stage with ‘veraison’ arriving in Sula’s vineyards at Gangapur. Basically, ‘Veraison’ is one of the most important moments in a grapevine’s annual lifecycle; it’s the onset of ripening, when the grapes turn from green to red and naturally begin to sweeten. Signalling that the harvest is near wine grape growers across the district are reporting that their fruit has begun to change colours, a seasonal rite that signals the region’s 10 lakh metric tonnegrape crop is quickly ripening and harvest is approaching. This French term also occurs in white grapes, but without the colour changes–white grapes simply become more translucent.
In Nashik, the regular grape harvest is expected to be a bumper one after a sort of slack observed last year. Wineries too are excited and Sula, the biggest winery in India based out of Nashik is planning to crush 15 to 20% more after the harvest this year. “To meet these targets, we have increased our cultivation by 400 acres from 2017 to 2018. A lot of existing farmers with Sula have expanded their cultivation and many more farmers have joined in,” explains Karan Vasani, Senior Vice-President for wine-making and production operations at Sula Vineyards.
Sanjeev Paithankar, Senior Vice-president of Public Affairs at Sula Vineyards says, “Since Sula controls almost 65 to 70% of the Indian wine market, what it does impacts the entire wine scenario of the country. We have a very clear domestic focus and about 500 grape growers are working with us today. This year we are hoping to crush 12,000 to 13,000 tonnes of grapes and cross our record-breaking sales figures of 2018 as well.”
In the year ending July 31, 2018 Sula Vineyards crossed the 1-million case sales mark. This is the first time that an Indian wine producer has achieved this important milestone. “We are planning to sell almost 1.2 million cases in 2019,” adds Paithankar.
Like the last two years, Sula is again expecting an early harvest while the full-fledged harvest process will begin from end of December. Sula has been taking considerate steps to adapt well to climatic changes and since 2016 has been pruning the vines earlier than usual which has resulted in an early harvest. 2016 saw the earliest grape harvest ever witnessed by the country and the same time-frame was continued in 2017 and now in 2018.
Wine grape-growers too are elated this year. Laxman Jadhav, a wine grape grower from Pimpalgoan informed that the size of the grape bunch is smaller this time which in fact is a good thing. “Unlike table grapes, the quality of wine grapes is defined by smaller grape bunches. The yield is also expected to be bumper. Sula not only gives farmers an assured income but it also handholds us throughout the process. I was growing vegetables before 2003 which was an unprofitable business, but since I joined the Sula contract farming circle, I have been able to live a better life,” said Jadhav.
Similarly, Sula’s efforts to educate the country about wine and propel wine tourism to where it is today is also bearing fruits. The number of visitors to Nashik’s vineyards has been increasing steadily. “We have seen a growth of 15% in the number visitors to our vineyards. Most of them are curious about wine-making and enjoy spending time with their family and friends in these lush locales. We get maximum visitors from Mumbai, Pune, Surat and Ahmedabad,” said Monit Dhavale, Senior Vice-president of Hospitality, Sula Vineyards.