Meghalaya's unique wine festival begins

As many as 11 home-brewers from all over Meghalaya descended in this hill city to give wine enthusiasts an opportunity to raise a toast to the ensuing chill in a wine festival held for the 11th consecutive time in the state capital.

Ginger, mulberry fruit, strawberry, passion fruit, blackberry, plum, banana, jackfruit, Roselle, sticky rice or cashew apple, name it and they have been fermented to produce a sensual variety of wine.

The only-of-its kind festival has already seen people, including foreign tourists, thronging the place in hordes.

"The ginger wine we make is soothing to a soar throat and is appropriate for the cold climate of Shillong," said Angel Marbaniang, who has been fermenting wine in the backyard of her house in the city.

"The wine we make is only for family and friends, not for commercial purpose," she said.

Most brewers make wine as a hobby and not for commercial purpose.

"We have been making wine from the local indigenous fruit 'Sohiong' for years now. People from all over the country, specially those in the medical profession, take our wine for its medicinal properties," said Bryan D Kharpran.

Kharpran, who sells his wine under the brand - Dally's wine said, "There should be legal outlets for local brews."

"This festival will create awareness not only about the art of wine making, but also its commercial potential as an industry, which will encourage the farming community to grow more fruit trees thereby realising the full horticultural potential of our state," Michael Syiem, president of Meghalaya Association of Wine Makers, told PTI.

"Wine making is still to be legalised by the Meghalaya government despite many attempts by winemakers, who want to provide opportunities to educated unemployed youths in the brewing industry and also promote tourism," he rued.

The state government should follow what has been done in a dry state like Mizoram where the Act prohibiting home wine making was amended by allowing grapes and other fruits for brewing purposes, Syiem said, adding after a decade of organising the event, the packaging has improved and the clarity of home-brewed wines has also advanced.