A wine story loses its sparkle

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In the year 2008, Nashik, a district in northwestern Maharashtra known to produce quality grapes, earned a sobriquet — that of the 'wine capital of India'. None could contest that as of the total 79 wineries in the country, Nashik alone had 34. Its contribution, along with that of neighbouring Pune and Solapur, made Maharashtra produce 95 per cent of the country's wine in its 72 wineries.

Observers said whatever was happening in Maharashtra, especially Nashik, was nothing short of revolution and the wine movement in the state will catch more sparkle with the passage of time.

But today, in 2011 — barely three years later — the phenomenal wine story has gone sour with more than 40 per cent of the wineries shutting shop.

"As of now, about 28-30 wineries of the total 72 have stalled production completely. Around 20 are functioning at 70 per cent of their crushing capacity and a dozen at 20-30 per cent of the crushing capacity," informs Secretary, All India Wine Growers' Association, Rajesh Jadhav.

Consequently, the wine grapes that were produced on over 9,000 acres in 2008, now cover only 5,000 acres of land in Maharashtra.

Most of the farmers who had switched to wine grape farming, have returned to growing table grapes.

"It's unlikely that anybody from our village would grow wine grapes in the near future. For the first two-three years we made good money but things went awry soon. No winery owner was ready to buy the grapes. We had to junk a lot of them," said Amit Patil, from, Dindori in Nashik District.

Jadhav, who has stalled crushing at his winery in Nashik, wants growers to be cautious. "We have told them that they should plant wine grapes only after a winery asks them — in writing — to do so," he says.

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