It was on a hot summer evening at home in Pune when dad and I had some Strawberry wine while watching the IPL. Baba told me about how he came to procure the wine one evening at a promotion at a Club in Pune. A wine made in Pune and that too made with strawberries, how very interesting…Lucky for me I managed to get in touch with the man behind the business who strives to establish a wine culture in Pune, sink your teeth into the chat we had at his bungalow in the heart of the old part of Pune City, the Peths as they are called.
Mr. Akkalpit Prabhune spared some time from his busy schedule to share his story.
This young entrepreneur who manages a full-time career in IT makes time for channelling his creativity and passion into promoting his fruity wines. He lets is in on how his passion and vision to introduce a culture of wine drinking using local fruits led to the creation of Rhythm Wines.
MJ: What is the difference between fruit wines and regular grape wines, the composition, etc?
AP: Fruit wine is basically wine made from fruits other than grapes. The quality of any wine is determined by the fruit used. Some of the Indian fruits which are suitable for Indian climate and soil which lend a natural aroma & flavor to fruits wines like strawberries, grapes, and kiwis are good candidates to make a fruit wine. Fruit wines are lighter and fruitier as compared to grape wines so consumers new to wines can easily appreciate these wines.
”Wines are palate cleansers. Every Bite is a new bite.’’
MJ: Is the technology for making fruit wines different than that used for grape wines?
AP: There is no difference in the process of making fruit wines and grape wine. So there is not much difference in technology. Generally based on the fruits used the crushing equipment will need to modify but after juicing is done the process is absolutely same as grape wine. The advantage with fruit wines is that they require very less time to mature, within 6 months they can be bottled. This also ensures that the machinery is in use throughout the year.
MJ: Why the name Rhythm Wines? (My personal favourite question!)
AP: Sipping wine listening while listening to music is ideal is it not? It lightens us, sets the mood for a pleasant meal, like a perfect set of musical notes with Rhythm…
MJ: What inspired you to get into this business?
AP: I have travelled a lot and have savoured various amazing wines in the course of my travels and I wanted to create wines using local fruits which would help establish a culture of appreciating fruit wines amongst people used to the local flavours and cuisine. Breaking the elitist view towards wine consumption and expanding the market being part of my mission. After studying the existing scenario of the wine industry and understanding the importance of fruit wines, I started Rhythm winery in Pune City, Maharashtra with My partner, Mr. Gulu Jagtianey, in 2010, and has successfully made wines from pineapple and strawberry. We received a very good response for our wines in many wine festivals and received demands for wines from apples, peaches, and Strawberry. The Strawberry variant has just been launched in Pune and Mumbai markets and received great appreciation.
”Our mission is to offer the best variety of tropical fruit wines suited perfectly to Indian palate and food. We strongly believe that excellent wines are made only from quality fruits which are best suited to local climatic and soil conditions’’
MJ: Where is the bottling plant located?
AP: Rhythm winery is located outskirts of Pune on way to Khadakwasla, Narhe Gaon; It has an existing capacity of about 25000 liters of wine a year. It is proposed to increase this capacity to 50000 liters soon.
MJ: Where are the strawberries you use sourced from?
AP: Strawberry comes from a world-famous region of Panchgani in Maharashtra. Strawberry varieties we use for wine manufacturing, a blend of ‘kamaroza’ and ‘sweet Charlie’.
MJ: How do you ensure uniformity in the quality of fruits used? As most of the grape wineries have their own grape farms.
AP: We also have contract farming for our fruits. We use specific varieties of strawberries and pineapples.
MJ: Who is the master brewer that you work with?
AP: His name is Dominique Revard and he is a Canadian fruit wine expert who lends his years of experience and expertise to our business.
MJ: Grape wines have just managed to find a foothold in India. Do you think the Indian Consumers will give the same preference to fruit wines as with Grape wines? What is the scope these wines have in India?
AP: It’s easier for local flavours to be appreciated by people, hence we believe that consumers will find it easier to appreciate wines made using strawberries and pineapples as they would be able to identify easily with these fruits vis-avis posh varieties of grapes. Besides Indian Cuisine is high on flavour, spices and our light-bodied, fruity wines pair well with Indian food.
MJ: How did you gauge the commercial viability of manufacturing fruit wines?
AP: It is a new concept, hence before manufacturing wines from any fruit, many variants are created and tested at all stages of wines. Rhythm winery has done extensive R&D on different fruits and then ventured into pineapple and strawberry. Generally, fruit wines are not manufactured on a very large scale but wineries with a capacity of 30,000 to 50,000 liters can be viable. A huge amount of marketing efforts are required since the concept is new.
MJ: Which different fruits have the Indian wine producers experimented with for making wine? Mention your take on the usage of Kiwi fruit for producing wine.
AP: Pineapple and Strawberry are currently produced by us at Rhythm winery. Lychee wine is manufactured by Lucca winery in Haryana. Dapoli Krishi Vidyapeeth,(Stateof Maharashtra, India) have worked on Kokum and Mango wines. Apple, Kiwi wines are produced in North and Eastern India.
MJ: How do you deal with competition?
AP: Suprisingly, Fruit wines are not being sold commercially by too many players in the wine market. We welcome competition; it always helps expand the market!
MJ: What is the current installed capacity for fruit wines in the market?
AP: Presently there are very few players in fruit wines. Rhythm winery is definitely the leading player in the Fruit Wine Market. In all, 300,000 to 500,000 liters of fruit wine is made annually.
MJ: How will fruit wines benefit fruit growers/wine producers/consumers?
AP: Presently due to average storage conditions huge amount of fruits are wasted. As per Food ministry, more than 70 % of fruits are wasted! Therefore, for those that grow strawberries, pineapples and kiwi supplying to fruit wine manufacturers like us will open up an excellent avenue for business in the processed foods and drink industry and offer more options than producing only jams, jellies, and preserves. Wine producers can plan production seasonally and can make the best use of their production capacity. Since fruit wines are easier and lighter to drink, introducing new consumers to wines will be easier to achieve.
MJ: How do you promote your fruit wines?
AP: By participating in wine festivals and trade fairs. Directly advertising wines is prohibited by Indian Excise Laws.
MJ: What expansion plans do you have outside of Maharashtra State?
AP: There is a 300 % import duty for goods sold between states in India, the Indian Grape Processing Board – I.G.P.B has also been appealing to reduce these taxes and improve trade opportunities.
MJ: After strawberry and pineapple wines what’s next?
AP: Kiwi Wine is next on the list. In order to support farmers who produce these crops and to aid local entrepreneurs who boost the local economy the government is keen to support ventures like ours. Kiwi is the fruit that we are currently experimenting with and the Himachal Pradesh Government has chosen our company to come up with viable fruit wines, we hope to soon offer them a few samples and finalise on one, they would supply us with the fruit which we will use to create and bottle our new kiwi variant.
MJ: Is there any export potential?
AP: Indian fruit wines if marketed properly will have a great scope in foreign countries, as these wines will have specific characters and fruits with an Indian origin.
MJ: Where else in the world are fruit wines made/consumed/popular?
AP: Apple wines is been made for centuries and very famous in the UK, France, and North America. Canada and Australia are leaders in fruit wines and have successfully marketed their wines internationally. Some states in the USA like Florida, Texas are famous for their local fruit wines. Presently fruit wines have about 3 to 5% of market share in the overall wine market.
MJ: What is the shelf life of fruit wines?
AP: Ideally 2 years from bottling.
MJ: What are Differences in aging process and storage of the fruit wines vis-avis Grape Wines?
AP: Ageing of up to a year is sufficient. Storage principles are similar to other wines.
MJ: What is the advantage of using screw caps vs cork screws?
AP: Cork screws are used to create complex bouquets. Fruit wines can get tainted with poor quality corks.
MJ: What is the advantage of using screw caps vs cork screws?
MJ: If one has to buy your wines in Pune and Mumbai where are they retailing?
In Mumbai, we have just started out and are making our fruit wines available in areas like Bandra, Andheri, and South Mumbai.
MJ: Any benefits linked to the consumption of fruit wines as Red Wine consumption is linked to several health benefits.
AP: Amongst the known Health benefits of pineapple and strawberry wines some are:
- Pineapple contains bromelain and beta–carotene which improves digestion, lowers the risk of macular degeneration, improves the quality of vision.
- Strawberries are packed with Vitamins & Antioxidants which help increases immunity to bad cholesterol and are thus beneficial towards maintaining a healthier heart.
It was early evening by then, the slanting sun rays streaming into the terrace room converted into a study, were playing peek-a-boo with the few dozen mangoes which are lying face down on the floor to ripen.
There was a pause as I sipped on my tea and made doodles on my notepad. My very polite host looked around and handed me a bottle of Pineapple Wine, I politely declined but he was rather persistent. On my way home, making a mental note to stop procrastinating and I promised myself to start doing all the things that I have filed away in the recesses of mind as well ‘’to be done some time, in the future’’. After all, hasn’t this passionate entrepreneur proved that if you have a Dream you must act on it… Yes, dreams really do come true… that bottle in my cloth satchel clinking against my bunch keys was proof.