In about a year or two, you’ll be uncorking a chilled bottle of tangy, golden-green kiwi wine, at least if things go according to 27-year-old Tage Rita Takhe’s plans. That’s right, kiwi wine – two things you never would have thought to combine, together at last.
Takhe is the founder of Naara-Aaba, India’s first (and only) kiwi wine factory, situated in tiny Hong Village in eastern India. She founded the company both to avoid the grind of big-city life, and to combat a societal epidemic wreaking havoc across the country – namely, tens of thousands of farmer suicides.
India imports up to 60,000 tons of kiwi fruit each year from countries like New Zealand, Italy and Chile, despite the fact that for generations, entire orchards of the fruit have rotted on vine in the country’s Arunachal Pradesh state along the western border.
Perplexingly, these imports continually occur, despite the fact that kiwi grown in the country’s Ziro Valley is considered the very best in the world. So why is it happening? Well, a modern preference of young Indians for imported foods and products over homegrown staples has cemented in recent decades. These new buying habits, coupled with a generational exodus of young people moving away from their rural hometowns to vibrant megacities like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, mean that entire regions of farmland throughout India have been left to wither and die.
Understaffed farms, and a heady combination of drought and poor harvests sometimes exacerbated by climate change, have led to an enormous epidemic of farmers – unable to pay their debts – committing suicide. More than 60,000 of these suicides in recent years have been attributed to the societal shifts prompted by climate change. A study by the University of California, Berkeley found that for every degree increasing in temperature during India’s growing season, 67 people commit suicide per day.
Faced with these staggering figures, and a region rich with fruit vines, Takhe opened her kiwi wine factory. In just a year of operation, Naara-Aaba has scaled to 25 employees in the winemaking facility itself, with countless farmers now also hard at work harvesting kiwi from the mountains, to sell to her company.
@Longonya_Wine is a unique brand of fruit-based wines launched in 2015 by the brother @Marvet_mb Mbani, a #Congolese from INSEEC & EM-LYON Business Schools. He makes wine from Mangoes & Kiwis. Hard work pays, now the brand is taking great momentum in the wine circuit in France 🙌 Always great to see your people win! #KiwiWine #MangoWine #LongonyaWine #Chameleon
So what does it taste like? Well, kind of like kiwi. The wine is tart, crisp, fruity, and quite acidic, not unlike a dry Riesling. But unlike Riesling, and grape-derived wines in general, kiwi wine is unique in its ability to preserve its nutritional content through the winemaking and fermenting process, all the way through to the finished product.
Kiwi wine is therefore explosively rich in vitamin C, as a single kiwi contains five times as much as an orange. Vitamins A, K, E and B are also in abundance, along with potassium, folate, iron and copper. Kiwi is quite literally the most nutrient-rich of the top 26 fruits grown at scale in the entire world. Often called a superfruit, at least kiwi has the chops to back up the dubious moniker. Rich in vitamins and minerals, kiwi wine might even be a preemptive hangover cure.
But here’s the bad news: whether you’d like to contribute some of your hard-earned cash to someone doing big things to help their community, or you simply want to sip a glass of tangy, golden goodness poolside this summer, getting your paws on a bottle of Naara-Aaba kiwi wine is going to be a bit of a challenge, at least for now. The remote, mountainous state of Arunachal Pradesh currently lacks an airport, and drivers are reluctant to navigate delivery trucks through its rocky terrain prone to landslides, meaning for now, Indian kiwi wine is only available for sale in just two of the country’s states.
Still, look at just how much Takhe has accomplished in only a year of winemaking. It isn’t difficult to imagine a not-too-distant future where kiwi wine is the must-have summertime drink. Cheers to that.