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SulaFest 2016: Another Memorable Feast for Music and Wine Lovers

Posted: Wednesday, 10 February 2016 17:12

 

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SulaFest 2016: Another Memorable Feast for Music and Wine Lovers

Feb 10: The 9th edition of the ever-growing SulaFest-an annual gourmet world music festival for the wine and food lovers with a penchant for music, was another sell-out event filled with music, gourmet food, wines, a selection of beer and liquor labels and fashion, making it yet another memorable event for 15,000-17,000 people estimated to have attended, writes Subhash Arora who is impressed with the organizational acumen of Team Sula, matched only by the enthusiasm of the visitors pan India and even overseas but feels that the facilities are now bursting at the seams

Click For Large ViewWhen Rajeev Samant, founder CEO of Sula Vineyards, built a Tasting Room and then the open-air Greek Amphitheater around 12 years ago, he said it could be used to organise musical evenings where a couple of thousand people could easily be accommodated. He might have even visualised a mini-woodstock one day but would not have fantasised an overflowing house with 15,000-17,000 people within 10 years of starting a festival he called SulaFest!

Although music with wine was the forte to attract young wine loving crowds from Mumbai, he was savvy enough not to call it a music or even a wine or gourmet fest. He had the vision to make it a separate all-encompassing profit center that could be steered into any direction while promoting the Sula wines and the brand. Initial years saw music evolve but the event had wines exclusively; the complexion has been changing over the years with mega-bands of national and international stellar reputation enthralling the young crowds many of whom have been coming back every year to listen to non-stop world class music with well-known international bands. (2-10 pm on both days). All the products imported by Sula Selections have been addded along with a few stall selling beer and liquor swell. He made sure that people might get high o music and the beverages but kept it squeaky clean of drugs which have been the bane of many such events in India and overseas.

Click For Large ViewThis year 75% artists were international. If the Australian band Cat Empire got the crowd tapping their feet and dancing to their numbers that included ‘Rising with the Sun’ from their soon-to-be-released album, it was the Bollywood Sufi singer Kailash Kher with his band Kailasa, who mesmerized the crowd not only with his thrilling, popular Bollywood numbers but also by involving the crowd in his Act. During the 60-minute Act he even invited a few girls to dance on the stage and kept the audience enthralled with anecdotes like ‘India Shining with Mumbai- Nashik journey took an incredible 2 hours and India wining with Sula wines’. I also enjoyed drinking Sula Tropicale Brut and tapping to the fabulous Indo-Canadian band, Delhi 2 Dublin with an impressive ‘Dholchi’ and a beautiful blond on the violin who gave a lot of width to the music, making the fusion and pop very interesting. The Indian group Reggae Rajahs was also my personal favourite.

The fashion label co-sponsor Vero Moda seems to have given a big fillip to the festival-not only in terms of financial and organisation support but making the young and bindaas women become more fashion conscious. Every year, one seems to look better and more smartly dressed. Though dressed in smart casuals as before, the outfits are really trendy and one wonders if it is not Vera Moda's clothing line selected for the event from their wardrobes. Vero Moda launches one new collection here every year and this time launched their Spring Summer’16 collection at the Fest. Adding to the innovation, there was also an app that made it possible to do online shopping (encouraging impulse buying) at the venue.

In the early days, it was not possible to estimate the full potential of the venue or the Fest with barely 300 people attending the maiden edition in 2008. What has made the event popular is the excellent musical Acts managed professionally by partners in the Fest. As Rajeev explains, ’we have decided that the first day we will have an internationally recognised band while the second evening must have a featured Indian band-like Kailasa this year. He is also savvy enough to defend the Fest, not as a wine fest but an all-encompassing festival that promotes the Sula label and all their imported beverages, while ensuring that the crowds get bigger and bigger every year because of the experience it offers.

Click For Large ViewEntry to the venue isn’t cheap and has increased at a much faster rate than that of wines (I think it was Rs. 800 for one day pass 6 years ago). A two-day pass would set you back by Rs. 3700 (Rs. 2500 for one day) although if you had fast fingers, you could get away with about 10% discount. Whereas you had to be a VIP in the company’s eyes to get a complimentary pass and you had free access to the VIP lounge but now you can buy your VIPdom by shelling out Rs. 6,500 that got you a VIP Tour and Tasting, Access to VIP Dome, 2 free glasses of wines, VIP parking (worth over Rs. 2000  notional value because of the convenience since it lets you park close to the venue) and a Vero Moda gift voucher of 750 Rupees. Since last year the VIP dome was also shifted to a vantage point from where one could see the stage and watch the performances.

As a paying VIP one could say hello to Rajeev Samant while he waited in line to buy his drink with coupons that is the only trading currency at the Fest, showing how professionally the event is managed. One could spot and meet celebrities and more importantly, friends from Mumbai, Nashik and even diffrent parts of India and the world. Ravi Viswanathan, the PE investor from Singapore was missing but Nick Pringle had come again from the UK to showcase Hardys- thus sending signals that Accolades, the parent company of Haryds - had ambitious long-term plans for the Indian market and was supportive of Sula. It,s always refereshing to meet winemakers- Ajoy Shaw, Karan Vasani and Dipali Bhatnager, who debuted as one of the Top Ten Women of Wine in India in delWine in 2015, and discuss with them openly about the styles, quality, problems and various trends. It was a pleasure to see Dr. Neeraj Aggarwal, COO and Deepak Bhatnagar, VP and National Head of Marketing.

Click For Large ViewAnn Marie Battista, the export manager who was in Delhi a few months ago and had launched Mud House (the kiwi brand that has become extremely popular in the shortest period of time) and Kumala entry level wines from South Africa with the Delhi Wine Club, was also present. Chef Morgan of Soleil at La Plage was at his creative best, very enthused about the goat cheese that he has started producing at the restaurant itself. Of course, there were plenty of food choices that reminded me of last year at Soleil and several food stalls when I had taken members from the Delhi Wine Club to the SulaFest. They requested the visit to the Fest next day before leaving for Mumbai so they could eat at some of the stalls the foods they had loved the previous night!

10th year in the offing

I used to be very optimistic about the venue capable of handling 20,000 people, the number expected at the 10th edition, but this year the place was bursting at the seams. It is commendable that no untoward accident occurred with around 15,000-18,000 people (the official figure word was ‘over 10,000’ but the number was definitely more than last year’s estimate by journalists of 15,000). With the current facilities the venue cannot hold any more numbers, without creating stress and anxieties for the organizers- Sula and Vero Moda, no matter how efficient they were and despite a highly commendable job done by the young staff that prided itself of conducting successfully an event that would reverberate for the rest of the year.

Click For Large ViewAlready there have been two stages for music-- and the Atmasphere at the vineyard, primarily for the DJ music. Traffic is a big headache for both the visitors and surely those manning the traffic which is reminiscent of Delhi snarls. It may be prudent to keep it for 3 days-at least next year when SulaFest reaches the 10th year for which the organizers have already announced they have grandiose plans.

Rajeev Samant who had visibly tense moments at times, says, “What incredible vibes! More than 10,000 fest-goers had the time of their life, showing why SulaFest is the country’s most eagerly awaited festival weekend. Next year is the 10th SulaFest and we promise a line-up better than you have ever seen in India.” I’ll buy that! Especially if they make it a long 3-day weekend!

Cecilia Oldne with a new and more easily recognizable tag of VP-Marketing, echoes Rajeev’s statement when she says, ‘this is by far our best SulaFest, breaking all previous records. The artists created magic on stage! The amazing crowd completed the vibe.’

delWine has always maintained that even if you are not overly fond of music but love the good life and wine, at least one visit to SulaFest for a unique experience is highly recommended and what better time to go than for the 10th anniversary event which promises to rock the wine and music- loving gourmets!

For earlier article please visit:

SulaFest-Truly Fashionable Musical Event of 2015

Subhash Arora

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Tags : SulaFest, Sula, Rajeev Samant, Sula Vineyards, Cat Empire, Kailash Kher, Kailasa, Sula Tropicale Brut, Delhi 2 Dublin, Reggae Rajahs, Vero Moda, Nashik , Ravi Viswanathan, Nick Pringle, Hardys, Ann Marie Battista, Mud House, Kumala, Chef Morgan, Soleil, Cecilia Oldne

       

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