It was the most peaceful Diwali ever. Last year, I decided against the ritual of returning to my hometown on the festival and instead chose to opt for a quiet weekend getaway to Nashik, and a sincere quest to discover what all the buzz around Sula Vineyards was about.
I have never been able to appreciate wine. In fact, I can never get myself to buy the idea of cultivating a taste. The taste is either there in the first go or not there at all. The only time I have relished wine is when it is served as part of sangria. But as they say, wine betters with age. Allow me to add — tea is timeless.
Before you jump to conclusions, I am not a communist. But tea has always been a conversation starter, a lone companion on a cold night and the first friend that visits me every morning. Wine, on the other hand seems like the distant cousin I never knew I had. She keeps getting beautiful day by day, or so they say, but I can never get myself to talk to her.
We, a couple of friends and I, commence our four-hour long journey from Mumbai to Nashik with an early morning tea at my place. Having ‘discovered my taste’ for the tea sourced from Munnar, I prepared myself for rather below average doses of tea in the next couple of days. That is why I sipped on to the farewell tea at a rather leisurely place, almost forgetting my wallet in the haste of departing on time.
After reaching Nashik, as we approached our home for the next two days — a secluded farmhouse — we were welcomed by a wide spread of bright yellow wild cosmos in full bloom. Having been deprived of flowers in our last trip to the Kaas Plateau, we perceived the warm welcome as a good sign of things to come.
As we looked around the tastefully done farmhouse, with minimalistic treatment, it dawned on us how fortunate we were to spend Diwali in the nature’s lap. After we requested the host for a cuppa tea to complement our soothing experience, she suggested we take lunch first and then rush to Sula, otherwise we will risk getting herded by the tour organisers there.
Sula Vineyards, about 10 km from the place we had put up at, was merely a commercial extension of our refuge. An open cafe (such a rarity in Mumbai) overlooked the vineyards that were spread across acres. Soft music played in the background, providing a rhythmic base to the frequent clinking of wine glasses.
As we embarked on the vineyard tour, our guide informed us that we will not get to enjoy grape stomping as the harvest season will arrive only three months later in February. I heaved a sigh of relief. Though the stomping would have been fun, I doubt if I would enjoy the wine as much a few minutes later.
During the factory tour, we were told that the wine is stored in two kinds of barrels. While the one made of American wood lends it a pungent taste and texture, the French wood makes it smoother and more drinkable. It is to this extent that the container affects the wine’s properties. Being the hopeless tea aficionado I am, I immediately drew a parallel to how the tea served in a kulhad (mud glass) borrows its taste from its earthy container.
The wine tasting encompassed the appreciation of five wines, from the Rose to the dessert wine. It was difficult to fathom the large quantity of sugar that goes into making a good wine, in order to counter the pungent or sour taste of the fermented grapes. As I gulped down the reds and the whites, I felt like I had started to develop a taste for the drink. As soon as that realisation began sinking in, my style of holding the glass changed and the nod after the first sip became more prominent.
What remained the same, however, was the taste. How can someone call it ‘bottled poetry’ if one cannot even read between the lines, dive deep into the recesses of the creator’s psyche and allow it to fall on one’s ears as gently as a leaf falls on earth from a tree giving way to new life. I could not help but not romanticise with wine till I devoured a red wine pasta and a white wine pizza. But I attribute the contentment to the chef, not to the vintner.
As we approached our farmhouse late in the night, we fervently hoped if we would be welcomed with some piping hot tea. Much to our disappointment, the place was dead silent. The silence began getting on my nerves. Yes, the same silence that I had enjoyed all day. Our host suddenly dropped in and informed us that she had saved a flask full of tea for us in the restaurant. Phew!
The next day, we introduced our hosts — who had kept themselves blissfully alienated from the ways of the social media — to the crucial role the internet plays in journalism today. “The internet abbreviations are a thing now. Even if I have to say ‘I love you,’ I’ll just say ILY,” my friend said, as the host poured in another serving of tea. After my friend confessed she had already gulped down a few cups of tea, the host responded, “Didn’t you just say ILY to me? This is my way of showing love.”
Till date, we fondly look back at those times with the vineyards over a few cups of tea. For tea was the wine we always had.
All images by Devansh Sharma.