Nipha Winery -a fledgeling in the Nashik Valley
So what do you do if you’re a microbiologist in the Antarctic and need something to do in the off-season? Start a winery of course and in India no less!
To be fair, Ashok Surwade is Indian and from the Nashik Valley so it might not be such a huge leap of faith but still – he was an Antarctic researcher before chucking the study of intestinal parasites in penguins and skuas to start his own winery. The Antarctic’s loss is the wine world’s gain.
Ashok, and his wife Jyotsna, who herself was a psychologist before joining her husband at the vineyard, decided to take the family land and make wine. They started out with cash crops but have since converted the land over to grape growing and currently make about 12,000 litres a year.
They have also taken over the family homestead and converted it into the winery. When you walk into their house, you’re also walking into their tiny but perfectly equipped winery. They have tanks where the living room used to be and, I think, the kitchen is now the lab. As everything is on a shoestring, they have even made their own basket press, I was quite impressed. The press sits right outside the front door, they really do take their work home with them every night!
Ashok believes that wine making is a combination of art and science so what better vocation for someone like him, who has an interest in both. They concentrate on the quality of the wine and before they started, they visited and consulted with many of the other wineries in the region. Ashok is entirely self taught, studying up on winemaking when he’s not busy filling out the endless documentation that is required, to even breathe it seems, in India.
At the moment, they grow Chardonnay and Muscat and the wines are only avaiable at the cellar door. When I visited, they had just sold out of their last bottles but I was able to taste this year’s tank samples. The Chardonnay had been picked in January. It was fresh and very crisp with good acidity and loads of green apple flavours, it was definitely showing potential.
The Muscat had that familiar honeysuckle aroma with a round mouthfeel and semi dry, they are aiming to make an off dry wine from this vintage. A pity there was no finished wine but next time!
Besides grape wine, they are also experimenting with fruit wines and by Dec 2017 hope to have a creamery launched to make their own cheeses to pair with their wines.
All in all, an exciting project and both Ashok and Jyotsna are brimming with enthusiasm and ideas. I hope they’ll have some wine for me to taste the next time I visit!