India’s local spirits have always been a favorite among the wine aficionados and connoisseurs alike. The locally brewed flavors are a hit which typically sets them apart from the drinks available at local bars. A look at some of these will give a glimpse into the varied cultural influences which added to taste of wine over a period of time.
Mizoram has the unique distinction of being the largest raw material producer for wineries across the country. Hnahlan village, near the Indo-Myanmar border, noted for its extensive grape cultivation, is now striving to become the largest grape producing village in India. Around 80 per cent of the villagers were engaged in grape-cultivation. The enthusiasm of the grape farmers had been fuelled by the amendment of the Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition (MLTP) Act which had earlier prevented them from large-scale commercialization of their products and wine-making from grapes.
‘Zawlaidi’ is one of the most popular wine which got its name from a magic love potion, which is believed to possess the power to enable anyone who used it to make another person fall in love with him/her.
Apong is a rice beer which is traditionally prepared by some tribes of North-East India and is considered a cultural heritage of these indigenous tribes of North East. Apong has become an integral part of the life of the Mising (or Mishing) people of Assam. It is brewed in every Mising household. Adi people of Arunachal Pradesh are also known to be preparing Apong. The Mishing Apong comes in two types – Nogin Apong and Poro Apong. The Nogin Apong is whitish in colour, while Poro Apong has a dark greenish colour. Folklores say that the people of the ‘Mising’ tribe came together to drink the ceremonial beer to put an end to all their communal conflicts and restore peace and harmony.
This popular local beer is an integral part of the social and cultural life of the ‘Pnar’ tribe of Jaintia hills district. Meghalaya’s own take on the traditional beer contains 70% of alcohol and is triple-distilled. It is served in tall bamboo tumblers with a charcoal piece at the bottom to preserve its tart. It was introduced around 1800’s as a medicinal remedy for cuts and wounds. Even till now, it is given to newborns for them to grow in strength.
Zutho is a fermented drink obtained from rice. It is a drink of the Angami Nagas and is commonly consumed by all Naga tribes in the rural regions of Nagaland. The Nagas are so secretive of their recipe that no one outside the tribe knows the process of brewing this rice wine. People who have tasted it called it a rural version of the Japanese Sake (a Japanese rice wine)
It is made of fermented rice and a mix of rare species of herbs. Xaj is the drink of the ‘Ahoms’. It is told in the folktales that a newborn is dipped in this beer to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck to the child. The guests are often welcomed with Xaj served cold in copper vessels.
– For TNT