Sun, Dec 23, 2012 - Page 14 News List

India’s ‘Napa Valley’ fueling fledgling wine culture

An increasing number of Indians are swapping their traditional beer for Cabernet as the country’s first vineyard resort attracts a broad spectrum of people eager to learn about wine

By Rachel O’Brien  /  AFP, NASHIK, India

Hambir Phadtare set up Mountain View winery in 2004 amid optimism over the Indian wine scene, but he sold off almost half of his land after the economic slowdown hit.

“When the hype was created, a lot of people jumped into the act without necessarily studying the whole thing,” he said.

Many struggled to distribute their bottles and to master tropical wine-making — still an experimental process, with limited grape varieties flourishing in warmer climes.

Yet confidence in Indian wine is slowly growing and Phadtare believes a key to success lies in wine tourists.

He is restructuring his business into a smaller “boutique” winery, with a tasting room and a restaurant on the roof.

“People still know very little about what wine is all about, but there’s increasing interest,” he said, mentioning executives who want to know their Malbec from their Merlot when on business trips abroad.

Faith in the Indian market has also come from foreign brands: There are now two Indo-Italian wineries in western India, while Moet Hennessy has bought land in Nashik and plans to produce an Indian sparkling wine.

“It’s a growing market, a lot of potential is there. Wine has a great future,” Moet Hennessy estate manager Rajesh Dixit said.

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