Far beyond the glamorous vineyards of Nasik, within the dustbowls of Solapur district, stands a lone winery that has been quietly making waves for its outstanding offerings.
Fratelli Wines — a collaboration between Italy’s Secci brothers, Alessio and Andrea, New Delhi-based Sekhri brothers, Kapil and Gaurav, and Mohite-Patil Ranjitsinh and Arjunsinh from Solapur—has an exciting portfolio of wines, developed by Italian winemaker Piero Masi, from their signature Sangiovese to a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Kapil Sekhri, co-founder of Fratelli Wines, with Jean-Charles Boisset.
But the one that’s got even the international market talking is their new launch, J’NOON (inspired by the Urdu word ‘junoon’), a partnership between Fratelli and Boisset Collection that operates 24 wineries across the world, besides several wine bars and wine-related experientials.
The 2,400 limited edition bottles of each blend of sparkling JCB No. 47 (to honour India’s independence year), J’NOON White, and J’NOON Red were launched in India last month, and will make a high-profile Napa Valley debut in June.
This is Boisset’s third international collaboration, and the first with an Indian winemaker, which makes it a rather significant launch for the Indian wine industry.
Kapil Sekhri, the 42-year-old CEO of Fratelli Wines, says, J’NOON is the result of three years of conversations and research.
“I was talking to wine journalist Steven Spurrier about pushing the Fratelli portfolio to another level, when he mentioned that we should do something with Jean-Charles (Boisset), who possesses a spirit of adventure. I met him at the JCB vineyards in Napa valley, and I can’t think of a better way to describe Jean-Charles than an artist who creates wines. He visited Fratelli vineyards to understand our wines and processes, and the collaboration was a natural fall-out,” says Sekhri.
While Boisset brings its tremendous expertise and centuries of winemaking, Fratelli’s strength is its local knowledge about how to tend to vineyards in Indian climatic conditions.
J’NOON is, perhaps, India’s first limited edition wine meant for the global market. “It's all from the estate, it is an Indian terroir. It's from grapes grown by us,” says Sekhri. “J’NOON makes a statement about India’s ability to make a global quality wine in a region where no one has ever set-up a vineyard.”
This ultra-premium wine will be sold in limited number of stores, fine dine restaurants, and luxury hotels. “We hope that the world’s best wine collectors will be interested in it,” says Jean-Charles Boisset. “Internationally, we will be creating J'NOON experiences across restaurants, wine bars, and vineyards that come under the Boisset Collection.”
It is rather interesting that J’NOON comes from Fratelli, which is set on a one-time barren land in a village that has never seen a vineyard. You get there after a long drive from Mumbai, through sugarcane fields.
It was Masi’s choice to head to Akluj to set-up for Fratelli. “The soil is unadulterated, and the beauty of grapes is that they can grow in almost any kind of organic soil,” believes Sekhri. “India has the youngest soil in terms of what the world has to offer. The ph levels are high, which adds a nice acidic taste to the wines.”
From importing its first chardonnay several years ago that they sold at Rs 800, Fratelli launched its own Sette, the first vintage wine coming out of the Indian soil, for Rs. 1,800, to now the luxury launch J’NOON, Fratelli has moved several notches up.
Unfortunately, global collaborations are rare for the Indian wine industry. “The Indian government seems confused about policies related to the wine industry,” says Sekhri. “While for the central government, wines are slotted under the food processing industry, at state levels, it is still controlled by the excise department.”
Add the baggage created by a lack of economy of scale that would allow even luxury wines to be sold at affordable, or at least premium prices, the lack of quality, and technology that hasn’t yet caught up with the rest of the world, and you have all the reasons why Indian wines haven’t yet broken into the most exquisite global wines, despite decades of research and investment by some of India’s biggest winemakers.
Deepali Nandwani is a journalist who writes on luxury.