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Wine from Dahanu-Gholvad chikoos introduced under Fruzzante brand name
Wednesday, 20 September, 2017, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Our Bureau, Mumbai
Fruzzante, a family-owned brand of fruit wines, has launched its flagship product, hand-crafted cider-style wine made from chikoos from Dahanu-Gholwad, a hub for the fruit in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.

Started by Nagesh Pai and his wife Priyanka Save, it is the latest fruit wine entrant in town andalready has a first to its name - it is the first chikoo wine in the world.

It is available at leading retail stores in Mumbai and is priced at Rs 255 per 330ml bottle.

“The aim was to give chikoo the much-needed glam quotient to revamp its place in the fruit industry,” said Save.

She was raised in the chikoo orchards of Dahanu-Gholvad, which now has a geographical indication (GI)tag for the fruit.

Save always wanted to explore the potential of her farm-grown fruits and give them their due recognition.

She completed her masters in science (MS) in mechanical engineering in the United States and worked for a bit, before her drive to take chikoo to the world brought her back to India.

They were available in plenty all year round, but sadly most of the dried chikoo products failed to attract customers.

And because their juice was also so difficult to package, it became increasingly difficult to commercially process her beloved fruits.

That was when, Pai, who hails from Dahanu and was also a mechanical engineer by qualification, hit upon the idea of chikoo wines, and lo, the first seeds for Fruzzante were sown.

Setting up a chikoo winery helped him to pursue both his passions - chikoo and engineering. Unfortunately, the high potential of hydrogen (pH) and the unreasonably fast perishing timeof the fruit proved quite a challenge in the early days.

Pai realised that the chikoo winery he designed would have to be built to address these problems.

“Despite being a mechanical engineer, with years of experience in building structures with pipes and ducts, it was still remarkably difficult to come up with a plan that adequately fit our unique requirements,” he stated.

Refusing to be discouraged, Pai and Save relentlessly pursued various avenues, till their search led them to Dominic Rivard, award-winning winemaker in Nova Scotia, Canada.

He is involved in wine production throughout the world, specialising in cider, fruit wine, ice wine and dessert wines.

Rivard brought to Fruzzante his 20 years of wine-making expertise, cracking the science to chikoo wine-making.

But despite having the success formula, it was important to get in the Indian consumer’s perspective for the drink profile and taste, and that is how they roped in Ajit Balgi of The Happy High, a wine and spirit consulting company.

He is a leading beverage expert in India, who educates consumers and professionals on the finer points of wine and whiskey degustation.He will now evangelise fruit wines, besides serving as Fruzzante’s official brand ambassador.

“I have been approached by some other fruit wine companies in the past to help them in their tastings, but their products didn’t make the cut for me,” Balgi said.

“I am glad I found Fruzzante and look forward to unleash some Indian flavours into the practically non-existent fruit wine industry,” he added.

The Dhanu-Gholvad chikoo has indeed come a long way. And that is possible only because of the tireless effort the Fruzzante team put behind it – from conception to trials, and finally, commercialisation.

“It was not easy, I applied for a license in 2011 and got it in 2016, the wait tested our patience,” said Save.

“But for my father’s constant support and motivation, I doubt it would have been possible,” she added.

Not only had her father, Shrikant Save, made space for the winery at the Hill Zill Resort, running in Dahanu since 1991, but he was also a constant pillar of strength till it became a reality. The 33-room resort now has a winery in its premises, which is open to visitors.

Rivard said, “Fruit wine is made in the orchards.”The chikoos brought in by the farmers at Hill Zill Resorts are not only of a high quality, but are also key to its flavour.

Resident wine-maker Vikas Pujariselects the best chikoos, by a variety of stringent quality checks, to ensure the superior flavour and standard of Fruzzante.

His thorough wine tour at Hill Zill resorts lets visitors explore the fascinating history behind chikoo wines, gives them a close-up view of the process behind it and culminates in a very informative wine-tasting session.

More importantly, it shows them that Fruzzante has successfully commercialised chikoos, the pride of Dahanu, which were slowly being forgotten by civilisation. It could very well be the spark that ignites the dwindling rural economy in chikoo farms.

Born from tradition, rooted in passionand perfected by science, Fruzzante has a history that is as unique as its flavour.
 
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