SulaFest is the landmark rock music festival that has been held at Sula Vineyards outside Nashik every February since 2008. This year, some 10,000 people thronged the venue during the two-day festival.
The event generates an estimated revenue of more than Rs 7 crore (about Rs 6,000 per head), which includes tickets, sale of food, wine and memorabilia, transport and accommodation. Of course, only a fraction of that actually comes to Sula - they probably end up just breaking even - but the image generated for their brands is immeasurable.
There are now two stages for performances. The main stage, at the base of an amphitheatre, is for music - the amphitheatre holds 3,000 to 4,000 people. The other stage nearby has an open space for those who just want to dance to a DJ's beat. In between are stalls for food, knick-knacks and beverages of all kinds: drinks partners included Asahi, Cointreau, Jagermeister, Stolichnaya, Jack Daniel's, and what-have-you. Of course, there is a newly expanded wine-tasting deck and tasting centre that remained packed to its 500-people capacity on both days.
And then there's the music. The 2016 festival featured 12 acclaimed Indian and international bands, including the headliners "The Cat Empire" (Australia) and "Kailasa" (India), led by Sufi singer Kailash Kher. The music event was professionally organised to international standards - of course, the number of people attending SulaFest stands nowhere in comparison to the Sunburn music festival, a four-day jamboree held in Goa in December every year, which in 2015 was attended by more than 100,000 people.
But who attends such a niche event? One could argue that the number of people who like both wine and music would be very small. But that's missing the point entirely: you get 10,000 SEC A people in the age group 25-45 who are willing to shell out upwards of Rs 6,000 to attend something like this voluntarily. Each will network through social media with another 300 friends, some of whom, in turn, would forward the posts to their own friends, and you have a potential reach of more than five million consumers and decision makers.
Apart from a discerning and very upmarket audience, SulaFest 2016 attracted its share of celebrities: Prahlad Kakkar, Kim Sharma, Malavika Sangghvi, Mona Juneja and Yash Birla, to name a few.
Sula's founder and managing director, Rajeev Samant, is himself a very "chilled-out" person. When I caught up with him at SulaFest 2016, he had substituted his trademark blue jeans with a pair of ochre-yellow Bermuda shorts and was sipping the recently launched Sula Brut Tropicale, a Blanc de Noir, along with Margo, his very pretty fiance from Moscow.
While readers may have missed out SulaFest 2016, I strongly recommend you mark you calendars for the 10th edition next year - which is sure to be a blockbuster.
Wines I've been drinking:
Visiting journalists were given a tasting of four of Sula's leading wines at the French restaurant Soleil by La Plage, curated by winemaker Ajoy Shaw. My favourite was the Sula Rasa Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (Rs 1,750, only in Mumbai), of which only some 7,000 bottles were produced. The wine was produced from low-yielding blocks in their Dindori vineyards near Nashik, and then matured in French oak casks for 12 months. While still young for a reserve, the wine is very aromatic (red fruit, berries and oak), with a full-bodied and complex taste that presages that this will age well for at least another three to five years.
Alok Chandra is a Bengaluru-based wine consultant