Although the event may be small, the reach would be wider since crushing would be held until March and wine tourists are expected to visit vineyards during this period.
Despite a longer than usual monsoon this year, the quality of Maharashtra’s wine grapes have not been affected to a great extent, senior industry experts have said. Wine merchants in Nashik, country’s wine capital, expect the harvest of this year to be an exceptionally good one and plan to reach out to consumers with a symbolic start from January 17.
Jagdish Holkar, former chairman, India Grape Processing Board ( IGPB), who is also the chairman at Flamingo Wines and India Grape Harvest, is coordinating the event Vintage 2020 under the auspices of India Grape Harvest. Holkar said that unlike in the past when a wine festival was held in Nashik to mark the crushing season, the focus this year would be on holding independent crushing events to mark the commencement of the crushing season.
“The monsoon lasted for over 5 months and the winter is likely to be delayed by 15-20 days and yet the grape quality has been good and therefore the focus would be on projecting the Vintage of 2020 to the consumers. Instead of crying about negative issues, we have decided to focus on projecting a positive image before the consumer,” he said. Holkar expects 20,000 tonne of grapes to be crushed this season to produce around 1.3 to 1.4 crore litres of wine while another wine body, All India Wine Producers Association ,says that wine production could drop by 15-20%.
Accordng to Holkar, the plan is to invite celebrities to vineyards and hold crushing fests on a smaller scale. Although the event may be small, the reach would be wider since crushing would be held until March and wine tourists are expected to visit vineyards during this period. He said that awareness among consumers about wine is on the rise and therefore focus would be on the positives of the industry and the ‘feel good’ factor among wineries with the new government in power.
Former Union Agriculture minister and Nationalist Congress Party ( NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, who had encouraged the start of the industry in Maharashtra over a decade ago, is expected to attend the event. Most major wineries, including Chandon, Flamingo, Renaissance Wines, Sula Vineyards, Rajdheer Wines, Grover Zampa, Sahayadri, Good Drop Winery are expected to be part of the India Grape Harvest. Holkar said that they would seek the formation of Maharashtra Grape Processing Board on the lines of the India Grape Processing Board (IGPB) to resolve industry issues.
Meanwhile, Yatin Patil, president, All India Wine Producers Association (not part of the event) said that grape production has been affected due to the long monsoon and therefore nearly 12,000 to 15,000 tonne of grapes would be crushed to produce some 1 crore litres of wine. This season, the production of wine will be lower due to less availability of grapes, he said. He added that sales have also been affected because of the overall recession in the economy. Wine sales have remained flat for big players while the rest of the industry has reported 30-40% decline year-on-year for the first three quarters of this financial year mainly due to the economic slowdown.
Crushing has already begun in a couple of wineries, Patil said, adding that usually sales pick up during the third quarter but this time there has been no season at all. As per market reports, Sula Vineyards reported no growth in overall sales for the first three quarters of the current fiscal.
Wine tourism, however, is on the upside and over 55,000 tourists from across the country visited the wineries in Nashik during the last 10 days of the year. Sula Vineyards, the country’s largest winery, recorded footfall of around 35,000 tourists between December 21 and 31.
According to officials of the All India Wine Producers Assocation, over 2,000 tourists have been visiting vineyards on a daily basis in the second half of December. Patil said that the interest from foreign tourists has been heartening and despite travel advisories issued by their countries, visitors have been keen to visit wineries. Apart from Sula, other wineries like Soma Vineyards, Grover Zampa, Soma, Renaissance, Good Drops are the major wineries where tourists visit at large.