It’s not a case of sour grapes, but the Konkan’s favoured kokum fruit is being seriously explored as a potential wine that could impress sommeliers. Sitting in the Goa University’s botany department, is a glass garafao with 50 litres of wine made of the fruit locally known as kokum (bindam, or Garcina indica). It is waiting out a further three months to maturity. “People have apple cider, so why not kokum wine? Style seekers with lifestyle ailments can sip kokum wine and do their bodies some good as well,” says Miguel Dr Braganca of the Kokum Foundation that’s backing the university project.
The red fleshy kokum rind juice, consumed fresh, dried or bottled is the region’s household coolant, and follows every meal in the form of a digestive known locally as ‘solkadi’.
Agriculturists and scientists believe the fruit — with its wonder chemical hydroxy citric acid or garcinia acid — has medicinal properties to resist fat accumulation, with benefits for obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure problems.
Although fermented to produce wine in some households in the state, botanists Kumud Phadte and Dr Nandkumar Kamat set out to standardise and perfect what traditionally has been an essentially cottage production.
While traditional home wine-makers use bakers’ yeast as a poor substitute for the specialised and costly imported wine yeast, Phadte wanted to first isolate a natural yeast from the fruit itself, coming up with eleven strains.
With the natural fruit yeast, preliminary smaller trial quantities produced a clearer wine with improved bouquet, says Phadte.
Dr Kamat is hopeful the current trial will pave the way for commercial production of kokum wine, though some who have tasted it say further improvements on bouquet and taste would necessarily have to precede mass production.
Home and cottage wine-making in the state have used an array of tropical fruits from jambul (the java plum), karondas to beetroot and other juicy fruit and vegetables. Agriculturists like Braganca insist that the jambul wine with medical benefits for diabetics, among others have unexplored commercial potential, if traditional methods are perfected to improve taste, clarity and bouquet.
Homemade cashew wine already sells for Rs 150 a bottle locally, for those who prefer it to more fiery cashew alcohols — uraq and feni — the better known Goan brews.