Sun kissed vineyards tucked away at the base of the Sahyadri hills in Maharashtra seem to slowly wake up to a flurry of revelry for three days every year. When the soft-spoken Rajeev Samant, who quit his job at Oracle Corporation after his education at Stanford University to set up Sula Vineyards in 1998, conceived Sulafest 10 years ago, he would not have envisioned tens and thousands of people descending upon his vineyards. Or maybe he did. A decade after its inception, the festival is quite easily one of the most, no wait, the most fun wine and music festival in India. The vibe is vibrant, the mood languid, the feel hedonistic.
Sulafest means different things to different people. For music lovers, three stages are set up for artists from across the globe to jam, experiment and raise the adrenalin of thousands of rock, jazz and EDM fans. This year’s stellar lineup included performances by the Raghu Dixit Project, Infected Mushroom, Ska Vengers, and Afro Celt Sound System, to name a few. To get into the groove, you could pick up a hat, a scarf, a feather earring, a pair of sunglasses or even a new dress from the bazaar set up on the side by the likes of Kanvas Kloset, Fast Track, Bewakoof, and Opium Sunglasses. And when hunger strikes, food stalls set up by top names like Little Italy, Mainland China, Maroosh, Bombay Food Truck, and Busago dish out pizza, risotto, biryani, burgers, noodles, ice-creams, cakes, savouries, you name it. And then there is the wine. In the restaurants, the stalls, and the tasting room. And if you’re serious about it, here are ten tips on what you just cannot miss when you are at Sula Vineyards next.
1) Before you order your favourite wine, go walk the vineyard and recognise the kind of grapes crushed for your wine. There are separate plots for separate grapes, like chardonnay, riesling, Chenin blanc, zinfandel, etc.
2) Take a tour of the winery. The process used for crushing, distilling, fermenting, and bottling is quite fascinating. And if you are lucky, you might get Karan Vasani, their chief red wine maker, to reveal a few secrets.
3) Take a tasting session in the Sula Cellar. Their wine makers and masters make it fun, and you even pick up little nuggets about your wine.
4) If you like sparkling, do not miss out on picking up a bottle of Brut Chardonnay 2015. The wine is fermented with yeast for five months in barrels to get its unique flavour. There is a limited edition of just 36 cases, and it is available only at Sula Vineyards.
5) Their new 100% Chardonnay is another winner. The grape is grown on a small dedicated plot, with only 200 cases being produced yet. Fermented in 550 litre French oak barrels and then kept on lees for 18 months, this sparkling wine is fresh and flavourful.
6) Sula is the only vineyard in India that grows the Alsatian Clone, making them the pioneers of Reisling in India. Their 100% Reisling is citrus-y and the tangy taste lingers on the palette, perfect for pairing with mild spicy foods, like the tandoori and other pan Indian dishes on offer at Soma, the restaurant at Sula.
7) Another not-to-be-missed wine is their Raasa Shiraz 2007. Celebrating its tenth year, just like the Fest, Raasa Shiraz is stored in French oak barrels to deepen the flavour and body. If you are lucky, you’ll get a bottle out of the only 500 cases ever produced.
8) If you are celebrating a special occasion, you could pick Seco Rose, a special sparkling Brut Rose for Valentine’s Day.
9) Did you think Sula Vineyards only had Sula Wines? Rajeev Samant’s wisdom says no, and you shall be thankful for that once you taste the Mud House Sauvignon Blanc from their imported portfolio of ‘Sula Selections’. From New Zealand, this wine comes with the flavours of snow peas, cut grass, guava, pineapple, and a lingering grapefruit acidity. It is a must taste for those who love tropical wines. Zaheen, the wine master at Sula, will tell you a lovely story about how the founders fell in love with Marlborough, planted the vines, and made a house from the local mud, which then became their brand.
10) For red wine lovers, Trapiche Oak Cask Malbec Mendoza from Argentina is another winner. With plum and black cherry notes with a touch of black pepper, this wine offers a ripe and full taste.
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