Monday, January 30, 2023

(Failing) to visit the wineries of India

I have not written a blog post like this before, on any of the blogs that I have maintained. So, please excuse me this time, if this is not the sort of thing you expect to read here. I normally write about the wine industry, but I do also drink wine, and visit wineries. This post is about the latter.

You see, my wife and I have spent the past few weeks in southern India (avoiding the Swedish winter). We thought that in the final couple of days we might visit a couple of wineries, near Bangalore, since India is not well-known as a wine-producing nation, and thus might be interesting (6 vineyards in India every wine lover must visit). Here, I report on our experiences.


Grover Zampa Vineyards

The first one we chose was Grover Zampa Vineyards, which was recommended in our guide book. It was a Monday, and their web page indicated that they had guided tours / tastings at 10:30am, 12:00pm and 2:00pm on weekdays. We tried to confirm this by phone, but all we (eventually) got at the listed phone number was a very excitable woman, who passed us on to a man who had no information.

So, we turned up at 11:00am. The man at the gate asked us to sign in (common in India, a very security-conscious country), but he said nothing about whether the winery was actually open that day. We got to the reception area, and were finally told that there were no tastings or tours that day. Apparently, they were “cleaning” something. We expressed our disappointment, both for the outcome and for the fact that there had been no way to find this out without a 1.5 hour drive.

My wife attempted to use their toilet facilities, but merely encountered the excitable woman, who seemed rather angry at my wife’s presence. After some yelling from the nearby males, my wife found some passable facilities, and used them. We then left, after being told that we could buy some wine if we wanted to. We declined!

I have visited wineries in many countries, on several continents, including Australia (many regions), Sweden, the USA, the UK, France (several regions), Italy (several regions), Spain, Portugal, and Germany. Never have I encountered this situation elsewhere. Maybe this makes me fortunate? Anyway, all other visited wineries of my experience score 4.5 or 5 out of 5 but, in my annoyance, I am tempted to give Grover Zampa a score of 0.


Domaine Sula

The next day, we tried India’s best-known wine company (Sula Vineyards), which has one of its wineries, Domaine Sula, near Bangalore. Their web page indicated that they had guided tours / tastings every hour from 10:30am. So, we turned up at 11:30am on the Tuesday.

Sadly, no sooner had my wife paid for our tickets than she doubled over in pain. She struggled back to the car and lay down for a while, during which she started vomiting. To cut a long story (5 hours) short, a year ago she had a kidney stone, and now seemed like a repeat episode. For those of you who have never experienced this, be very very grateful. Waves of severe pain come over you periodically, and it is this that induces the vomiting.

A very good friend organized for us to be received at a nearby hospital (run by his aunt), where my wife got an ultra-sound followed by a CT-scan. These confirmed our preliminary diagnosis. She eventually got some painkillers, and was told that, with some medicine, she would be able to travel back home on our scheduled flight, early the next morning. We did, however, never get near the actual winery. When we asked about getting our money back they declined, but said that we could use the money as credit against the purchase of some wines. We declined!

During this episode, I learned that the expression “heart-breaking” is not just a fantasy of romantic novelists, as I felt it every time my wife (literally) cried out in pain. I also learned that neither is the expression “joyous” just a fantasy of those same novelists, because I certainly felt it when my wife laughed again later in the same day. A quarter-century of marriage has had some effect on me!


Conclusion

India is not a well-known wine-producing region, and there is a reason for this. Not only is the climate wrong, it is apparently not an easy task for international wine lovers to sample the local produce, in situ. You can try to get some of the wine in your local shop, if you want, but do not venture further!



PS. Things only half improved on the flight home, with Emirates. On the second leg, the so-called "entertainment” system did not work for my seat. Should I start to feel that the world is against me, just at the moment?

Well, obviously not. After all, the rest of the holiday was very good for both my wife and I; and we are very grateful to the people who helped to organize it, and who helped run it. Our driver was excellent, as were the people at the hospital. The people we met on our travels were all friendly, both tourists and locals. Indeed, when we were the only obvious foreigners around, we were often asked to appear in many selfies, or photos with family members (or were simply asked by young people where we were from) — now we know how celebrities feel. Our good friend Ajith is to be thanked many times over, both for proposing the holiday and for looking after us. Interestingly, the only part he was not involved in was the visits to the wineries!