If wines tell stories, then Hinwa definitely embodies that of Nepal. The fusion of wild berries with an improvised Nepali distillation process, and the collaboration of local communities with one savvy entrepreneur, make this a unique Nepali creation.
Fifteen years ago, Aish Narayan Shrestha started making wines, using the wild berries that grow above 8,000 feet in the eastern hilly region of Nepal. He organised villagers in Sankhuwasabha to collect aiselu and chutro in the forests, then sell it to his factory. Here the berries were mixed with sugar and left to ferment in plastic drums for a month. "Hinwa is entirely dependent on a natural process," says Sujan Shrestha, the son of the founder. "We have not yet adopted modern distillery technology."
Shrestha's Hinwa winery produces white and red wines, although the red is closer to rosť. About 12,000 bottles of Hinwa are sold every year. Some of it is also exported abroad. "We targeted the European market but could not meet its demands because of a lack of production," explains Sujan.
Production was severely hit when the Maoists destroyed their factory in 2001 for producing alcohol. But Hinwa pulled itself together and has quietly gained popularity among wine drinkers in Nepal. With production limited to a certain season a year, don't be surprised if your local store runs out fairly quickly. But don't worry; there will always be another year.
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