What is a sustainable vineyard? This homegrown winery is acing conscious, low-waste sipping
Most desi wine aficionados have a bottle of Sula's oak-aged Dindori Reserve or their The Source Grenache Rose chilling in their pantries at all times, but they may know how consciously their favourite reds, whites or greens are produced. Sula has not only pioneered wine tourism in the country but it is also one of the most sustainable wineries as it sources with more than half its energy from solar power. From 99% recyclable packaging to providing clean drinking water to people in the community, sustainability reflects in all of Sula's day-to-day operations.
We caught up with Grégoire Verdin, Global Brand Ambassador and Associate Vice President, Tastings and Marketing, Sula Vineyards, to learn how the label approaches sustainability and also about the season's newest sipping trends.
Tell us a little about your approach to sustainable winemaking. What are the primary aspects you're focusing on?
Our founder and CEO, Mr. Rajeev Samant is absolutely dedicated to sustainability and makes it a priority in the entire company. It goes from big solar panel projects to carefully paying attention to the amount of paper being printed in our offices (which is really, really little now!).
All these actions make us really proud to be working with all our passionate and dedicated people.
Sustainability is a guiding principle of life and business for us. We strive to be responsible stewards of our land, not just because it is the right thing to do but also because it’s the best way to make authentic, distinctive wines. Our commitment to producing fine wines through sustainable winemaking and viticulture operations goes beyond protecting our natural environment. We strive to enhance our land and positively impact the lives of the communities where we operate.
Our primary areas of focus are solar power (round 60% of our energy requirements are met through solar power and we are aiming at 75% by FY 23), water (we use effluent water treatment plants to recycle wastewater and use it to irrigate green spaces and in auxiliary processes like flushing, etc), Recyclable Packaging (99% of our packaging is recyclable), Vermicomposting (Pomace obtained from the winemaking process is used for vermicomposting. The nutrient-rich compost is used as fertilizer in our vineyards), biogas plant (all food waste from our restaurant kitchens is fed in a biogas plant. The gas produced is used in our restaurant for cooking.
The system can generate biogas worth 300 LPG cylinders), 100% organic campus (We use natural replacements instead of chemical floor cleaners, pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers), natural weedicide (we allow sheep to graze in our farms which greatly helps in controlling weeds in the most sustainable way), E-Vehicles (We use battery operated E-vehicles that are charged during the daytime from the renewable energy produced from solar panels. All forklift vehicles used are also E-Forklifts), Rainwater Harvesting (We have developed artificial ponds and check dams in the vineyards to maximize benefits from the rainwater we receive), Drip Irrigation (One of the first things that Sula has done was to install drip irrigation in all our vineyards which has helped us reduce water consumption in irrigation by approx 40% as compared to flood irrigation)
Tell us a little about the Dia Sparkler. How did you come up with the country's first wine in a can?
Wine in a can is a trend that is doing well internationally, and Sula’s innovative spirit has pushed us to go ahead with it. It’s an easy and light drink with just 8% of ABV. The low alcohol space is growing exponentially. We also sensed this trend, and Dia in a can was born! Our cans are also extremely sustainable, which meets our love for our planet and its environment. It’s also really convenient. This sweet, bubbly and refreshing drink needs no mixers, corkscrews, or swirling to be enjoyed. Easy to carry, perfect for our “grab and go lives”.
It’s also made to be consumed super chilled straight from the can and is such an amazing experience. People are enjoying it and we get a lot of positive feedback. It is also a really nice introduction to wine for first-time drinkers. We are focusing on the cool millennials who are looking for convenient and sustainable products.
Has the slowdown/pandemic affected people's taste in wines? Have you noticed a growing trend or a pattern among younger consumers especially?
The pandemic has encouraged a switch to at-home consumption of wine. People are spending more time at home and choosing quality over quantity and this will both be a medium and a long-term trend which we can foresee in the coming years. One of the big impacts of the pandemic is that lots of people have tried new Indian wines or tried again the ones they thought they knew. And many have had good surprises. Indian winemaking has gained in experience and lots of consumers have realised that India has so much to offer when it comes to wine.
Which curation is set to be the summer's biggest trend?
Summers is synonymous with fun and frolic. Rosé wines are truly on the rise, and we are sure that The Source Grenache Rosé is going to be a favorite, again, this summer. It’s luxuriant, fresh, it shouts summer. We also feel that people are re-discovering Indian Chardonnay, especially with Dindori Reserve Chardonnay; we have noticed more and more people talking about it and enjoying it. It has this nice freshness, this beautiful texture, it’s lemony and smooth. And with the kind of food we want to have during summer, it is just perfect.
How do you feel about the future of Indian winemaking?
The potential for the wine industry in India is huge. I personally have seen in just the last 4 years of being in the country that more and more people are trying wine and enjoying it!. There’s a shift from the traditional beer/whisky/vodka to wine. There’s a growing curiosity and a willingness to try different varieties.
There are a huge number of people from the F&B industry and outside (as a hobby or interest) as well taking the WSET courses with us. Wine is fun, easy and delicious; I am truly happy to see more and more people becoming aware of this. We also got tremendous results at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2020 and got superb notations as Wine Enthusiast; it truly shows that India stands strong on the world wine map and has a bright future.
Can you share anything about your plans for 2021?
Dia is really important for us as we were caught in the pandemic just when we launched it in February 2020. It has done well despite the situation, so we want to make sure that most people can enjoy it. We also are lucky enough to have winemakers who are truly passionate about their job, and always work hard to offer new wines, and to constantly improve the existing ones. Right now, we are fully focusing on supporting our employees and stakeholders through the pandemic and helping the community at large.
Tell us about the merger with York Winery
We always shared a really good relationship with our neighbour York Winery, and this merger comes at a time where the pandemic has been a challenging time for the industry. It is a win for Sula, York and the consumers, since York’s distribution will be even wider while keeping the winemaking tradition of the Gurnani Family with Mr. Kailash Gurnani, Winemaker and Brand Ambassador.