Vineyard tours are catching on

Friday, 28 June 2013 08:04 Written by  

There’s no better way to spend a lazy Sunday in Bangalore than to go wine-tasting, discovers Sheila Kumar.


Some days are so typical of our city, Bangalore should take out a patent on them. This Sunday is one such. The sun is playing peek-aboo with the clouds, there’s a small breeze lifting the brims of our sun hats and the air is redolent with the fragrance of ripening grape. I’m standing before a huge bunch of green grapes which hold steady to the vine. And I’m wondering if I should strike a pose from that vineyard movie A Walk in the Clouds. Actually, Bangalore has already witnessed and experienced the first flush of vineyard hysteria.

The soil hereabouts being excellent for growing grapes, the next step—of turning grapes into wine—was but inevitable, though it did take some time. But once the business came to the city’s outskirts via a handful of wine makers, there was no looking back. And, even as a splendid selection of reds, whites, roses and 
sparkling wines were making their debut, Bangaloreans were making it a wholly pleasurable, interactive process. A few years ago, tours of vineyards, wine-tasting trips, a morning spent stomping grapes in a 
barrel, wine fairs, wine education courses, all were nouvelle entertainment for city denizens and one experience they embraced most happily.
Locally made wines flooded
 five-star restaurants 
and the shelves of
 upmarket departmental
 stores, and people were
 glugging it down like it
 was cola. Le vin, it 
had arrived. What’s 
more, wine proved 
that it was in for 
the long term. Even 
as immediate interest 
in vineyards faded, 
even as public attention moved onto the next big thing (in-house breweries, in this 
case), wine has sustained steady sales in Bangalore. Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernets, sparkling
 table wines, rose, all continue to find enthusiastic drinkers and records for just the last one
 year show that 4,05,000 litres have been quaffed in Bangalore. Apparently, red wines 
score big (55 per cent of sales) followed closely behind by white wines at 40 per cent. A
 mature approach by the state government in granting wine licenses is another boost
 factor. What has further helped sales of wine is that this drink goes well when paired
 with Indian food, despite purists scoffing at the very notion. People have started to cook
 with wine, join wine clubs, effortlessly make it part of their everyday lives, divesting
 it of any myth or mystery.

Heritage Wines set themselves up in 2004 and have been steadily making their presence
 felt in and around Bangalore since then. Here at the Heritage vineyard in 
Channapatna, there are eight acres of land given over to vineyards, the rest 
comprising the winery and restaurant. The winery is a large barn-like room 
where the grapes are sorted, pulped, fermented. The free run wine is pumped 
into huge tanks; the last steps in the process involve filtration and bottling. 
People go about their tasks quietly and efficiently, and the bottling, labeling
 and sealing conveyor belt gleams silver in the soft light coming through the 
open doors. Back at the wine parlour, we watch a short film on the setting up
 of the Heritage vineyard and the making of the brand’s wines.

Heritage, with a line-up of six wines—Cabernet red wine, Shiraz red wine, 
Chenin Blanc white wine, Twist bubbly wine, Heritage 2000 premium wine,
 Heritage sweet red wine—claims to have cornered 75 per cent of 
Bangalore’s wine market. The wine tasting that follows makes for much 
fun, given that we become instant poseurs with the wine glasses, studying
 the glow of colour intently, swirling, sniffing, gargling just a wee bit and in 
as genteel fashion as possible, tasting but refusing to spit, pinkie held out
 stiffly all the while. Me, I’ve always been a Philistine (how I asked for 
dessert wines all over the Napa Valley is a story for another day) so 
I took quite a shine to the fruit-flavoured Twist and Chenin Blanc 
rather than the other undoubtedly excellent Heritage dry whites and reds.

These are not top-draw wines but if you are looking for light table wines 
with enough body, then these wines are excellent. The best part of the tour is
 yet to come. We troop out to the in-house restaurant Epulo for lunch and
 sit outside partaking of more wine (but of course) as the dishes come to 
the table one by one. ‘Epulo’ is feast in Latin and at the end of the meal,
 I had to agree. The menu lists Continental as well as desi dishes
 (even a dum biriyani) all cooked to perfection with none of the sauces
 overwhelming the dish itself. The dessert menu isn’t the most varied 
but we did have some amazing ice cream. And of course, when we leave
 the place, it is with cartons of the good stuff they make here at
 the Heritage Winery. Luckily for aficionados and unpretentious wine
 drinkers, Heritage wines aren’t too expensive a proposition at all. All in
 all, a day well spent.

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