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The Grape Escapade

Life, wine and style 

So you thought the Grape Escapade is a wine festival, help like they have in France? Wrong! It’s actually a “Goan lifestyle” festival, with wines just a part of the action.

“It’s basically to promote the Goa lifestyle and the cuisine that goes with it,” says Nikhil Desai, managing director of Goa Tourism Development Corporation which organizes the annual festival. The four-day ‘Grape Escapade 2014 – A Tribute to Taste’ started in Panjim on Thursday evening. This year the festival is being billed as ‘Goa’s Premier Food and Lifestyle Festival’.

Over 50,000 people are expected to visit the festival at Campal in Panjim.

“It started off some years ago as a wine festival, but today it’s not just about wines,” says Nikhil. “Goa’s a fun place to be and a good lifestyle destination. This year we also have displays of high-end cars at the festival. Yes, the wines are also there because over a period of time it is considered one of India’s biggest wine festivals,” he says, “and we also have Goan food stalls, entertainment, fashion.”


Fine dining at Rara Avis, A french restaurant at Baga


Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar also says it’s not just a wine festival. “As you know in Goa we have so many festivals, like Sunburn, Supersonic and other music festivals, Carnival, which attract tourists. Like this we are also organizing the Grape Escapade festival, besides other festivals throughout the year to promote tourism,” Parulekar says.

Wine enthusiasts need not worry, though: there are going to be a lot of wineries and vineyards showcasing their wines, besides wine tasting sessions by celebrated sommelier Nikhil Agarwal. Participating wineries include Nine Hills, Jacob’s Creek, Reveilo Vintage Wines, Sula, Fratelli, Big Banyan, Aryaa, Four Seasons, Indus Wines, Pheonix Alcobe Brews & Spirits, Pause Wines, Tonia Wines, Vallonne Vineyards, Zampa, Rio Wines, Nirvana, Kingfisher Bohemia, etc.

But there will be no Goan port wine makers present. “We tried getting them to participate. We had invited them, but they have not responded,” says Nikhil Desai.


Nikhil Agarwal, one of the leading wine experts in the country, is director of All Things Nice, a knowledge platform for wine, luxury spirits and gourmet food. He promises a unique experience for participants at Grape Escapade’s wine tasting sessions. “We will have a number of activities to showcase different wines, how to taste wines, and the different qualities of wines,” he says. He uses a tool known as ‘Le nez du vin’, the key to the aromas. It’s actually a wine kit with bottles of different fruit aromas.

“Most participants don’t know how to describe the taste or aromas of wines, so we educate them with the help of the wine kit,” says Nikhil. “I may say there’s a hint of vanilla and the participant may have never known the smell of vanilla. So we take out the bottle of vanilla and give them a taste of the aroma. It’s an expensive kit and we’re the only wine tasting company to have it in India. With wine tasting sessions done using the wine kit, participants become equipped in their minds to enjoy the experience of drinking wines,” he says.

Everything is changing in India, he says. “More and more people are drinking wine, and along with that the food they eat and cook is also changing. We also guide them on how to go about pairing food with wines,” he says.


sipping some red wine at shanti morada


If Agarwal is to be believed, India could soon be one of the biggest wine consuming countries in the world, because of one simple reason – our huge population. It already is the fastest growing wine market, growing over 30% every year.

“Some observers tend to look at the percentage of the total population which drinks wine, which in India’s case, with our 1.2 billion population, comes to a very low percentage of wine drinking population. But when you look at the numbers involved, it’s millions of people who are now drinking wines in India.

“To say that only one or two per cent of India’s population now drinks wine can be misleading, because even one per cent is more than 12 million people drinking wine,” he said. “Even if we get only 5 % of India’s population to drink wine, it’s going to be phenomenal.”

India is the 10th largest growth nation for wine consumption, in value and volume terms, according to a 2010 study by Vinexpo, an international wine & spirits exhibition for the Asia-Pacific region. The study said than 70% of all wines consumed in India were red wines. India’s commerce ministry estimates the country’s wine exports will touch US $50 million by 2015. That’s up from $500,000 when Indian wine exports began in 2004-5.


Goa is one of the key markets for Indian vineyards, and in numbers, is only behind the three leading metros of Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. But it’s a tough market, with lots of competition compared to other places. That may help explain why the vineyards are there in strength at the Grape Escapade 2014.

Besides the wineries, around 15 restaurants and catering companies will be offering “gourmet food classics, including barbecues, pasta, oriental cuisine and other delicacies. Vegetarian options, chicken, and meat dishes will also be available, as will a bevy of luscious sweet treats,” according to GTDC.

Some prominent restaurants from the coastal tourism belt will be putting up stalls. Participants include Hungry Hatz, Tin Tin Bar and Restaurant, Viva Delhi, Vasquito’s Kitchen, Republic of Chicken, Kudos, Chocolate Man’s Productions, Janet and John’s, Marc Brown, Simply Goan, Frugurt, Tibetan Kitchen, The Crown, Ruchik and Goa Hospitality College.

And Mercedes Benz will be showing their latest high-end car models.

No festival in Goa is complete without music, and the Grape Escapade will have a variety of musicians and entertainers lined up on the four days. The first day will feature a dance performance by Sunder and Group, followed by Andre Juke Box and two of Goa’s biggest bands, Brothers in Arms and Alcatraz rounding up the night.

On Day 2, Friday, February 7, the opening act is Sigmund and Troupe, followed by the popular African Acrobats, and two live bands, Evergreens and Crimson Tide.

Saturday’s highlight will be the grape stomping session, like they have at the vineyards. Participants get to crush grapes with their feet, but unlike at the vineyards, these will be ordinary grapes, and not wine grapes.

Saturday also features Joe Solo, a Bollywood dance performance by Impressions, a fashion show by upcoming designer Siobhan D’Silva and the band, Carlos and Friends. The last day will have performances by the winners of the Kingfisher Voice of Goa contest, an acrobatic performance by Canon Bros, the Grape Escapade Queen contest and Syndicate, one of Goa’s most popular bands.

While all that is good fun, Goan NGO’s like Bailancho Saad, have been objecting to the festival being held because they say it promotes alcoholism, which is one of the reasons why the GTDC is playing coy with calling it a wine festival.

According to Sabina Martins of Bailancho Saad, “The Directive Principle of the Constitution clearly states that ‘the State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purpose of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.’

Wine connoisseurs know that you don’t have to drink a lot of wine to enjoy it. Maybe that’s why it’s called wine ‘sipping,’ not wine guzzling! At the end of the day, it’s not about getting drunk, but luxuriating in one of life’s finer pleasures.

And if wine is not your cup of joy, there will be plenty of other attractions at Grape Escapade!