A tour of the Sula Winery

Nashik has become the home of Indian wine, and Sula is its most famous and high-end brand. It’s intrigued me since I first tasted a glass of unexpectedly bone dry Sula Sauvignon last year that it is produced so near to the marital home of my (now late) Aunt. When my cousin Winky asked to come and visit India and my mum, that she is so immersed in the world of wine through her vintner husband (I’m sorry. That makes her sound like a chicken casserole) seemed like an opportunity to embrace.

Today, then, we visited the Sula winery for a tour and tasting. Set up by an Indian graduate of Stanford University, it’s run along Californian winery lines.

You’ve got to admire the long term planning and marketing strategy and tactics of the Sula brand:

  • Take advantage of the rising numbers of possibly overseas-educated, well-travelled, middle class young people with relatively high incomes and increasingly cosmopolitan and international focus.
  • Build a trendy brand image for a product almost unknown in India.
  • Capitalise the taboo around alcohol, especially for women drinkers, and exploit the latent, yet hugely controlled, aspirational rebellion of these young people with high disposable incomes. You’re selling them a lifestyle product of which their parents disapprove with the help of modern, fresh branding.
  • Run gigs for rising music artists that attract said rich, rebellious young people.
  • Import a French chef and expose these people to modern European food in both a full restaurant setting and a wine bar on a balcony overlooking a vineyard. Here you can have cheese on toast with an Asian twist or properly-cooked European food.
  • Set your price point at an aspirational premium level, yet make it (just about) affordable for those who want to buy into this premium lifestyle.
  • Build boutique accommodation that can be accessed only by the select few. (It’s booked for months, years to come.)
  • Provide a boutique health spa for beauty treatments using by-products of said winery such as its grapeseed oil in your pampering products.
  • Educate the market on the health benefits of wine…
  • Sell witty, branded merchandise only available from the winery.
  • Gradually educate the Indian palate away from sugary, syrupy wines and towards a more sophisticated and mature Western wine palate.
  • Export your Western-style wines to Europe. Enter competitions and win favourable mentions in the western wine press that you can use for your promotion in the home market.
  • Then, when the Indian palate matures to accept dryer wines, and you’re the leading aspirational provider, clean up.


Well thought through.

You can already buy Sula Sauvignon in Marks and Spencer in the UK. I think it’s reassuringly expensive and not promoted as a cheap New World wine. It’s probably not the best white wine you’ve ever tasted but, for India, it’s nothing short of miraculous.

How to use up a surfeit of beetroot

I am very, very pleased to have reinstated my Abel & Cole organic boxes but one has to be organised and often I’m not. This often results in a surfeit of fruit or veg. This week I managed to cancel the fruit before the deadline so I ended up with loads of beetroots to add to the loads of beetroots and good intentions already in my fridge.

The remedy for excess veg is always soup of course, but I’ve never made beetroot soup so I appealed to Twitter for help and who responded immediately to my appeal but the great @SteveDoherty1, who instructed me to make not soup but cake and directed me to this website. for a recipe.

I’ve never made a vegetable cake before so I was a little cautious at first but my first step was to cook the beetroot in my steam oven this morning. Mopping up can be a little messy:


No-one was hurt in the making of this cake.

A judicious whizz in the Magimix later and I came up with this mixture that resembled a berry smoothie:

NB Food styling and photography by MsDD

NB Food styling and photography by MsDD. (Those are elongated beetroots, before you ask. not poos)

Then 50 minutes at 180C on the Intensive Bake programme and voici:


Yes, it will crack on top but it’s a very light and delicate cake.


And a quick dusting of icing sugar completes the picture.

What can I say? The cake is rich but light and I’ll use the rest of the cooked beetroot in salmon en croute. Fabulous.

Petts Wood view

Nope. No idea what to write about tonight. Full marks for honesty,  I’d say. Though, to be completely honest, there are a couple of things I’d like to write about but they can wait until tomorrow when I’m feeling more coherent and less sleepy.

So here is a picture taken in Petts Wood this afternoon, just before Raffles did yet another disappearing act. Gone he was, poouff, in a second. Luckily, someone found him on his own and called me and, just as luckily, knew exactly where I was waiting so not too much harm was done.


Lovely, isn’t it?

Before I had a dog, I always used to think of autumn as a time of death and hopelessness. These days I consider it at times unspeakably beautiful. This is an old National Trust woodland, and many of the trees are chestnuts. It’s funny to see how Raffles minces along so cautiously to avoid stepping on the prickly seed cases. He can run like the wind when it suits him, though.

An afternoon in the kitchen

It is my turn to provide refreshments for the Youth Band this Friday. I have a busy to-ing and fro-ing type week planned so I decided to start the mega-bake today.

Out of its packing box, then, came my 16 year old Kitchenaid mixer. It has yet to find its permanent home in our pantry but I hope that will be finally finished next week.

I had never baked cookies before and always imagined them to be rather difficult. They’re not at all and, armed with Nigella’s Kitchen book, I whipped up a few chocolate chip cookies this afternoon, all the while thinking that Hillary Clinton would not be doing this. The new Labour party leader was making a speech at the same time so I was able to listen to it. I’ve never had a TV in the kitchen before, let alone watched in the middle of the day. Scandalous!

I’m still getting to grips with all the many and varied functions of my Desirable kitchen Gadgets but I’ve read enough to be able to use them properly and this week has seen the return of my Abel and Cole fruit and veg boxes. I now have fruit coming out of my ears so one solution was to make a fruit pudding. MsDD dislikes cooked fruit and the OH is ensconced in Paris so I had the crumble all to myself this evening.

I’m also revelling in the final touch to the kitchen proper: the cornflower blue glass splashback that seems to tie the colour scheme together. Bon appetit!


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