- Friday, 29 August 2014

How a Trip to a Vineyard Made Me Rethink Our Consumption Behaviour

Swaying greens of sugar-cane fields all around, interspersed with herds of sheep, goats and cows grazing on grassy patches, village men in neat quintessential Maharashtrian attire of all white neat dhoti-kurta-topi - this is how I was welcomed in this part of rural Maharashtra. While the sun played hide-n-seek amidst low hung clouds on a humid August afternoon, I realised that it was, in a way, my first exploration in the rural Maharashtra.

I was headed to Fratelli Vineyards in Motewadi, near town of Akluj (190 km from Pune). I had always thought of exploring vineyards of Maharashtra in Nashik but somehow never got to doing it. Then one fine day, I got this opportunity to visit the vineyards of Fratelli and I grabbed it. 

Me and my partner, like any average Indian, are not wine connoisseurs nor do we take wine with our meals every now and then. But we have been to quite a few vineyards and know what it takes in a good one. I have explored quite a few in New Zealand and my partner in S. Africa, Australia and Europe. So, together we went with high expectations and I have to admit, we were pleasantly surprised. The vineyards and the wines- both pretty much met our expectations. But as always, I was looking deeper into the story.

Fratelli Vineyard

Fratelli is co-owned by five partners including two Italians and run under expertise and guidance of renowned winemaker from Tuscany- Piero Masi. I am told that grape plants have been grafted using original French varieties and hence the good quality. What makes Fratelli stand out is also the fact that they own all the vineyards themselves which gives them strict quality control over the grape harvest and production. After all, 80% of the wine is prepared while grapes are on the fields. 

The guesthouse and winery is located at Motewadi- one of the three vineyards owned by Fratelli (other two being Garwad and Nimgaon). With an uninterrupted views of vineyards and green farms on all sides, home-like boutique accommodation feel, simple casual staff from local villages, common dining-cum-kitchen space and no lock & key tradition- I immediately fell in love with the place. The place was very well done with modern furniture and all amenities, but without the formal air of an upscale hotel. My review of the accommodation can be found here.

Common Dining-Kitchen-Hall

We all know wine industry is new to India, traditionally we are not a wine drinking society and therefore it came as no surprise when most of the executive staff we interacted with had no previous knowledge of wine-making. Most of them had picked up the required skills and know-how on the job. On the contrary- it was also good to see young people exploring opportunities in new fields- our assistant winemaker was a girl of modest background from Pune with a Master Degree in Science of Wine Technology, our viticulture expert in Garwad was again a young man with degree in Agricultural Science. But it was best interacting with the staff from local villages- mainly assigned to jobs in the winery or kitchen and housekeeping. 

I was curious to know the impact of such lavish and markedly elite business proposition in an area which is largely rural, relies heavily on agriculture and often marred by drought. This curiosity grew manifolds after noticing a massive book-cum-album placed neatly in our room and common areas about the 'development' work done in Akluj region. The young staff from local villages seemed happy to be working in the winery albeit owning farmlands themselves (as much as 80 acres ! - claimed by one). They preferred working as kitchen or housekeeping staff over toiling in their own farm lands- pretty much the same story everywhere I travel in rural India. Its so ironical, on one hand there are city folks craving for couple of feet of space in their balcony or rooftop to grow their own vegetables, on the other hand is the youth from villages totally dis-interested in farming and ready to quit their traditional inherited work. 

Vast Open Landscape of Surrounding Villages

My vineyard trip also included a guided tour through the winery and the cellar, a wine tasting session, ATV ride in Motewadi, lunch at gorgeous straw gazebo built atop a hill in Garwad with 360ยบ views of Fratelli's largest vineyard and generous helpings of wine with unpretentious tasty Indian food. 

The Winery

The Cellar

Pre-Lunch Wine at Garwad Gazebo

It was during my drive to Garwad (10 km from Motewadi) that I noticed several women and children carrying water in several aluminium pots down the hill. It was obvious, they did not have a water supply in their humble homes- they had to carry water on their shoulders every single day. We were also passed by several nomadic groups- moving alongside their horses carrying pretty much all their worldly possession. We were told that villages nearby have been helped immensely with establishment of Fratelli- they're able to get water easily now. Fratelli has built its own small dam and water storage facilities, which not only helps its own vineyards but the local population too. 

The Garwad Vineyards

Nomads of Maharashtra. Photo By- Pari Ali

But my question is to our government and ourselves- how is it possible to arrange water for the business of winemaking meant largely to quench thirst of elite few and not be able to supply simple drinking water to homes of hardworking local farmer who is producing our next bread and butter? Aren't we silently killing our own food producers ? Why is it that younger generation in farming villages do not want to work on fields any more ? When did we become so lost in our consumerism that we lost track of where our food, clothes, shoes came from ? Why are we bombarded with choices in everything we consume- from juices to type of sugar, while the very producers of this food have no access to basic amenities? Have we really forgotten them ?

This is what travel does to me- make me think. 

I drifted towards anti-consumerist way of living couple of years back- buying only stuff that I 'need' not 'want'. My phone is over 4 years old and laptop 5 and I am very happy with them. This trip gave me yet another push in this direction. I am definitely going to give a thought to origin of things I consume and try make fair choices. 

Note: This trip was sponsored by Fratelli Wines Pvt. Ltd.

[P.S.- Since long, I had been intending to switch to glass water bottles from plastic ones. I finally got the push when visiting Fratelli. Apparently they threw away all the consumed wine bottles and upon my request happily gave me 8-9 of the ones with screw caps. So now I've finally made the switch.]

1 comment:

  1. I have been to a wineyard in Thailand. It was a nice experience