If you can overlook the divot in the red jumper I like the subject matter of this photo.
I hadn’t walked the dogs for nearly a week so had cabin fever this morning and was raring to go. We had to deliver some overlooked presents to my cousin-in-law in Greenwich (it seems such a long way away but it’s only next door to Lewisham: a scant 20 minutes by car) and we walked the dogs in Greenwich Park which, if you’re not familiar, consists of a pretty steep hill surrounding the (former) Royal Observatory, with Blackheath at the top of the hill and Greenwich and the river at the bottom.
The Greenwich Maritime Museum is the building with the colonnades (is that what they’re called?) over my right shoulder and beyond that you can see the former Royal Naval College, now Trinity Laban, where I did my singing exam a couple of weeks ago.
But look beyond it to the new(er) buildings of Canary Wharf and, to the left of them, St. Paul’s Cathedral. It’s a good juxtaposition of old and new, I think.
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.
I woke up in the middle of the night panicking about my singing diploma and its proximity in the middle of the night. Dan, if you’re reading this please get in touch on the number I gave you. Also that, having set up Winky’s blog for her, I was the sole Administrator and she could not access it. Having spent the morning driving here to Nashik, we spent the afternoon remedying that and redoing her WordPress blog several times because of the intermittent wifi and the limitations of the app on an iPad. It made me thankful for my laptop.
Interesting facts about Nashik:
- Nashik is the 16th fastest growing city in the world with a population of about 1.5million.
- The sex ratio for children is 865 girls per 1,000 boys.
- On the Godavari River, Nashik is one of four cities that hosts the great gathering of Kumbh Mela every 12 years. If you’ve read Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, you’ll recognise this from there. Wikipedia goes on to say that visitor numbers for the Kumbh Mela are estimated at around 100 million but I find this figure rather dubious.
- Famous people born in Nashik include revolutionaries, freedom fighters and creative icons. Here, you can read all about Nashik yourself.
Why are we here? Mainly because it is the home of the Sula Vineyard, which makes eminently drinkable wines. I was taken by suprise by a Sula Sauvignon last year and was keen to find out more about wine growing in Maharashtra. My cousin’s husband is an eminent vintner so she’s most curious too. Sula is home to a boutique spa hotel which is, unfortunately, permanently booked and therefore unavailable to the likes of us.
We went for a wine tasting tour this evening to be told that we’d just missed the last tasting. We’ll go again tomorrow but in the meantime sampled a glass of rather desultory fizz that didn’t. Perhaps it had been open a while. We had dinner in a deserted restaurant. My exquisite prawn ravioli in curry jus starter was followed by an overly large and therefore guilt-inducingly unfinishable risotto, which spoiled the effect a little.
Sula is a hip place, hosting regular cool music happenings including the annual SulaFest . Its distinct clientele tribe of rich, middle class trendies stands out completely from the rest of India and would probably be unrecognisable to most Indians outside the big cities.
We’re also here because we have rellies just up the road though, at this juncture, it looks like we’re going to find it difficult to hook up in the time we have allocated to us before going off to see my mum tomorrow.
And so came it to pass that, in the bar of Mumbai’s Leela hotel, daily journal in hand and maps at the ready, Winky became a blogger.
So came it also to pass that a shopping expedition in Fabindia was duly ventured upon, kurtas and tunics verily were they purchased and also therewith a beautiful evening dress in the finest of brocades from the mystic Orient.
And yea did continue the search for a long, long-sleeved black gown without pomp or ornamentation in this domain that tradeth alas in precisely the opposite.
And MsAlliance did the day survey and thus did declare: “‘Tis good.”