The Reason Winemakers In India Harvest Their Grapes In Winter

When you wander the aisles of a bottle barn or wine and spirits shop, you'll see wines carrying labels from around the world. From the Americas, you'll come across any number of varieties from California, Oregon, Washington, and upstate New York. And you can find global vintages hailing from the heart of France, the islands of Greece, and the valleys of Chile. Wine is a spectacularly diverse agricultural product that's celebrated everywhere for its remarkable flavors, colors, and ability to get better with age. However, when most of us go out to purchase a few bottles for dinner with friends, we don't necessarily anticipate seeing wine from India gracing the shelves.

India's climate and terroir might seem more suitable for growing spice crops, coffee, sugar, and tropical fruits like guavas and papayas, but the South Asian country is enormous and has quite a substantial amount of agricultural diversity. According to the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, wine has been produced within the borders of what we today consider India since the 13th century B.C. That means that even though many might not see India as a formidable wine region, it is certainly one of the oldest wine-making countries in the world. However, the modern Indian wine industry didn't have the opportunity to kick off until the 1980s. Since then, it has been expanding within the country and is notable for growing and harvesting its fruit during the cold season.

The winter wine grape harvest in India

The five main wine-producing regions in India include: Nashik, Pune, Bangalore, Hampi Hills, and Bijapur and Northern Karnataka (via London Wine Competition). According to Wine Tea Coffee, almost 123 hectares of wine grapes are grown in India annually, but the country is far from being one of the world's top grape producers. The varieties that do grow there have to be thick-skinned, such as the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Gulabi Muscat, because India's wine grapes are generally harvested during the country's winter. The grapes are harvested between February and April, per Sommelier India. For context, wine grapes grown in the northern hemisphere are typically picked between September and October. Another way viniculture in India is different is that the vines are pruned not once a year but twice: in September, after the monsoon season, and then again after the harvest.

This double-pruning is necessary because the vines grow all year round in India due to the considerably warm climate; whereas in more northern countries, the cold season forces the vines into a dormant resting period until spring (via Business Standard). The grapes would not fare well in India's summer months, so wine growers clip them back, meaning the intended harvest takes place during the more temperate winter months.