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Isabella brings joy to Mizoram’s grape farmers

MLA Dr Z R Thiamsanga unveils grape festival at Hnahlan on Saturday

Aizawl: Following the recent signing of a significant Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Hnahlan Grape Farming & Processing Co-Op Society Ltd and RR Sales, Delhi, for the distribution and sales of locally crafted wine from the lush Hnahlan grape farms, an exuberant grape festival illuminated the Mizoram-Myanmar border grape-growing village in the Champhai district today.

The curtain was raised on this celebration as Dr. Z.R. Thiamsanga, the MLA from Champhai North, inaugurated the “Grape Escape” festival, evoking a spirit of hope for the farmers.

Stepping onto the stage at the enchanting Hnahlan Winery, the accomplished winemaker Catherine Rosangzuali recounted the compelling journey of the winery’s establishment in 2007. Through collaboration with the diligent villagers of Hnahlan and its surrounding hamlets, the winery’s vineyards flourished with the distinguished “Bangalore Blue” variety of grape (Vitis labrusca).

While the initial ambition revolved around fortified wines, Rosangzuali unveiled the contemporary masterpiece – “Isabella,” a meticulously fermented wine, gracefully born from the heart of the winery.

The Hnahlan Grape Farming & Processing Coop Society (HGFPCS) Ltd showcased its resolute commitment by procuring substantial grape harvests year after year. Rosangzuali detailed their achievements, including the acquisition of 480 quintals in 2019 and 630 quintals in 2020. The momentum continued with remarkable purchases of 500 quintals, 1,500 quintals, and 989 quintals in 2021, 2022, and 2023 respectively.

The Hnahlan Winery, a testament to innovative craftsmanship, boasts an impressive array of 22 fermentation tanks, each housing 11,000 liters of potential. Collectively, these tanks amount to a staggering capacity of 242,000 liters, complemented by a cold storage sanctuary, where 200 quintals of grapes are preserved.

This jubilant grape festival resonated with an array of sensory delights – live melodies, the rhythmic pulse of grape stomping, immersive vineyard tours, culturally enriched programs, spirited marathons, and an array of captivating activities.

The grape growers of Hnahlan and its surrounding alcoves, as well as the neighbouring Champhai town, have wrestled with the turbulence of ever-changing prohibition laws imposed by the state government. This adversity was compounded by the influence of a potent church, which intermittently swayed the government’s stance on alcohol content within the locally crafted wines.

Grappling with policy oscillations, these resilient grape cultivators faced market uncertainty on several occasions, despite the state government’s initial support through the Horticulture Technology Mission, backed by central funds.

While the church advocates for lower alcohol content in wines for cultural reasons, industry experts underline the potential repercussions on wine quality and preservation due to such alterations. Historical shifts in wine policies even led to government raids on wine vendors by the state Excise and Narcotics department officials, resulting in considerable losses.

The turning point materialised when the Mizoram government ushered in the grape wine rules on September 7, 2022. These progressive regulations authorized the production, sale, and export of grape wines derived from locally nurtured grapes.

A stark departure from the previous prohibition under the Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition) Act, which took effect in the state (excluding three Autonomous District Council areas) in May 2019, these rules emerged following public outcry prompted by the confiscation of substantial quantities of bottled grape wines from Aizawl shops in May last year.

With the seal of approval on the Isabella wine, Mizoram’s homegrown gem now transcends its borders, embarking on a journey to delight palates far beyond its origins.

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Zoram Chronicle