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Details for Fratelli, Classic Chenin


CountryIndia
Region
Grape
Sauvignon Blanc
(click to find out more)
Year2016
Producer
Fratelli Wines
(click to find out more)
ABV12%


Maharashtra

More than 80% of Indian wine comes from this western state, with most of the remainder hailing from neighbouring Karnataka to the south.  This has as much to do with politics as geography.  As far as trade is concerned, India’s states are effectively separate countries, with labyrinthine regulations and high tariffs on many kinds of cross-border goods.
 
This applies in spades to alcohol, whose prohibition was a goal enshrined in India’s constitution thanks to the efforts of teetotal Mahatma Gandhi.  Only Gandhi’s home state of Gujarat completely bans booze, but all impose complex restrictions and punitive taxation, especially on imports from outside the state.  It’s easier and cheaper for Indian wineries to export to Britain than to the state next door.
 
Maharashtra has the most wine-friendly (or perhaps least unfriendly) legislation, and is usefully home to the vast market of Mumbai, where much of India’s wine gets consumed.  There are two main wine regions, both on the Deccan Plateau more than 100 km inland from Mumbai, and both were successfully growing table grapes decades before making any wine.
 
The older one is around Pune, south-east of Mumbai, where pioneering Chateau Indage stated producing a remarkably decent sparkling wine in the Eighties.  Called Omar Khayyam, it was made from an unlikely blend of Chardonnay, Ugni Blanc and Thompson Seedless (the latter being what was already planted for eating).  In the Nineties and Noughties it seemed that most curry houses in Britain stocked it, and it was a reliably good buy.  Sadly the company went on an international expansion spree just as global financial markets were about to crash, causing them to go bust in 2010.
 
The more northerly Nashik valley, on the border with dry Gujarat, is now the centre of wine production with 29 wineries in operation.  Another pioneering sparkling wine producer, Pimpane Co-operative, produced the first wine here in 1987 in collaboration with champagne house A. Charbaut et Fils.  However, they ceased production in 2003.
 
The current crop of Nashik wineries was spearheaded by Rajeev Samant who, having acquired a taste for wine while studying and working in California, began to plant wine varieties on his family’s land in 1996, founding Sula Vineyards.  Their first wine was released in 2000, and the state’s adoption of more wine-friendly legislation the following year encouraged other startups to follow suit.
 
Maharashtra’s vineyards lie at altitudes between 400 and 700 metres, giving them warm days (around 28°C) and cool nights (around 10°C), at least during the dry season from late October to April.  However, this is very much the tropics, and the summer sees 40°C days and monsoon rains.  Accordingly the vines are pruned hard at the beginning of summer to drive them into dormancy, and then again more carefully at its end to encourage budbreak and flowering.  The grapes develop through the winter, which is so dry that irrigation is essential, and are harvested in the spring.


Fratelli Wines

Fratelli is Italian for ‘brothers’, and the company is a collaboration between three pairs of brothers, two Indian and one Italian.  Kapil and Guarav Sekhri met Italians Andrea and Alessio Secci in the Nineties when expanding their Delhi-based footwear business into the European market.  While Kapil was holidaying with the Seccis in 2006, they introduced him to famed consultant winemaker and family friend Piero Masi.  Together they conceived the idea of making Tuscan-inspired, international-quality wine in India.
 
Back home the Sekhris teamed up with Maharashtra landowners Arjun and Ranjit Mohite-Patil, founding Fratelli Vineyards on some of their land near Akluj and building a state of the art winery.  Piero is chief winemaker and the seventh partner.
 
Unusually for an Indian producer, Fratelli own all their vineyards and don’t buy in any grapes.  Piero insisted on control over the viticulture as well as the winemaking.  Akluj is also a long way south-east of Maharashtra’s main wine districts (though still on the Deccan plateau) so there were no locals growing wine grapes.  All the vineyards were planted from scratch, in three major blocks encompassing 97 hectares: Motewadi (the first, around the winery), Garwad (the largest, a few kilometres southwest) and Nimgaon (a similar distance southeast and the smallest, planted with red varieties only).
 
The most-planted red grape is Sangiovese, reflecting the Italian connection, but there are lots of others: Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Marselan and Petit Verdot.  Whites, and several bottle-fermented fizzes, come from Chenin and Sauvignon Blancs, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Müller-Thurgau.
 
The winery has gone from strength to strength, with their flagship Sette, a SuperTuscan-style Sangiovese/Cab Sauv blend, now widely regarded as India’s best red.

about this wine About this wine


Classic Chenin was deliberately created for the UK market with the input of Steve Daniels, once head buyer for Oddbins and now at Fratelli’s UK importer Hallgarten.
 
The grapes come from plots D and E of the Motewadi vineyard, which surrounds the Fratelli winery and was first planted in 2007.  Originally these plots were devoted to Pinot Noir, but that didn’t perform well and was replaced after a few years with Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc.  The soil here is sandy and alkaline (limestone-based) at an altitude of 550 metres.  The vines are planted in rows running north-south so that their leafy canopies can shield the grapes from the noonday sun.
 
Once desired ripeness was achieved (not too ripe, to preserve good acidity), the grapes were carefully hand-picked in the cool of the early morning.  The two varieties fermented separately in stainless steel at 18–20°C for between 10 and 15 days, before being blended together and aged for almost a year in more temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks.


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