Visitors from home and abroad were treated to a heady cocktail at a day-long wine festival in Shillong on Sunday with homemade wines from exotic fruits flying off the shelves in no time.
"I was amazed to find wines brewed from such fruits as banana, mulberry, strawberry, litchi, pineapple, plum, jackfruit, cashew nuts, and blackberry. I don't know if wines made from other fruits were also there at the festival venue," Anand Joshi, a visitor from Bangalore, said.
Dozens of tribal Khasi winemakers did brisk business at the fest, organised by a local group called the Forever Young Club of Shillong. The festival is in its fourth year.
Wine connoisseurs from across the country too had come over with their produce. One of them, who had come for the second time to this fest, was Pankaj Awasthi, an alcohol technologist. He had come with wines that he made at his home from banana, pineapple and grapes.
Ionis, a Swedish tourist, came to the fair after hearing from a friend in Vietnam and was delighted by what he tasted.
The organisers of the festival hope that the annual event could help generate a wine culture in the region and help locals take to winemaking on a commercial scale.
"There is no law that prevents winemaking at home. But to sell it, one requires a licence and we expect the government to consider the possibility of legalising selling of fruit wines as it has tremendous business prospects," one of the festival's patrons said.
Winemakers demanded that the state government promote the trade and declare wine-making a cottage industry. They also said the government should waive the mandatory excise duty on locally made wines to promote the growing business.
Shillong is also referred to as the 'Scotland of the East' due to its striking similarity with the Scottish highlands and like in the West some families' serve homemade fruit wines at dinners and family gatherings.
Brewing wine from locally available fruits and preparing rice beers have been a passion for almost all tribal communities in the northeast -- drinking homemade brew is a tradition in the region.
Unlike professionals, most of the locals here make the drink in ordinary vessels rather than using the preferred winemaking kit comprising of oak barrels, glass jars, airlocks, and wine corks.