At the northern-most tip of the Konkan belt sits the frolicking beach-town of Bordi. Tourists dot the scene for a quick getaway from Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, and Surat. What many don’t know, Bordi is also the home to the world’s first chikoo winery, called Fruzzante!! It’s the brainchild of a local girl who decided to put Bordi on the world map by elevating its hero, mud apples, aka chikoo, that also enjoys the much-regarded Geographical Indication tag, like Assam tea and Mysore silk.
How Did Fruzzante Begin?
A mechanical engineer by study, Priyanka Save had the zeal to turn the fruit that’s filled her childhood memories into something that the world could enjoy. Having their own family-owned farms planted with mangoes and mud apples, she often noticed how these lovely fruits would go waste due to overproduction. When she returned from her studies in the US, she took upon herself to turn this into a tasty boozy opportunity. ‘Waste is not waste till you waste it’, a principle Priyanka took seriously. With ample fruits at hand, Priyanka and her spouse, Nagesh Pai, put on their lab coats and mad scientists’ hats and dove into experimentation and research. Since the laws and science of other drinks were not to apply to these fruits, it led them to create their own equipments, tanks, machines, yeasts, and processes.
And being the first of their kind in the world, there was a complete absence of any previous studies, benchmarks, and protocols to adhere to. Luckily their zeal, patience, and madness reigned over the complexity of the task. They approached Dominic Rivard, amongst the most regarded fruit-winemakers of Canada, for guidance and technical support and he promptly accepted the challenge. With endless hits and misses, a new encyclopaedic learning in the process, and a clear product at hand, finally, Fruzzante’s first label was born and introduced to the world on 31st December, 2016. With the start of the new year, started a new chapter in India’s history, written by the passions of two enthusiastic farmer-family kids and a Canadian genius.
Bravo, Fruzzante Is Here. Struggle Has Just Begun
While they rejoiced the birth of this fantastic product, they knew the journey had only begun. Maharashtra government’s excise policy didn’t have provisions for a fruit-based alco-bev of its kind. Having a brilliantly bubbly product at hand, that amplified the GI tag, supported local farmers, and Bordi’s financial and environmental eco-system, Priyanka knew she had embarked on the right path. After writing numerous letters, making uncountable runs to the Mantralaya in South Mumbai, a year later, a new provision was created. It was an unprecedented event of sorts that Priyanka nearly single-handed created for the country. And not just that, she even got the category exempted from taxation!!
Winning Hearts, Winning Awards
By the mid of 2017 Fruzzante was not only winning hearts in Mumbai, but the world over. Under Dominic’s tutelage, Fruzzante entered the ‘Drink Outside The Grape’ competition in Virginia, USA, in 2017. It allows sibling beverages to grape wine, i.e. fruit wines, meads, cider/perry, and fruit brandies (eaux-de-vie), to be evaluated in their own classes. Fruzzante, wrote another ‘first’ for India by receiving a silver medal at the competition. This accolade was not just a pat on their backs, or confirmation of their concept, but a massive push for them to explore other fruits.
And today, Fruzzante, synonym to fruits with fizz, has drinks made from mangoes, pineapples, starfruit, and strawberry, and soon oranges will join the family. They’re are staunchly against using concentrates and chemicals, and equally enthusiastic about picking fruits from a GI tagged regions. Outside of pineapple and starfruit, all fruits hail from a designated area of origin.
From Farm To Table, How The Magic Happens
Chikoo is the king in the region and has a year-round production. Unlike grapes for wines, fruits for Fruzzante don’t ripen on trees, but in a conditioning chamber at the facility. It flushes in fresh air at controlled temperatures, ensuring the fruit ripens to its optimum and consistently. For fruits outside of Bordi, conditioning is done locally and deliveries are ensured within 24 hours of harvest. That’s another logistical battle won!! Conditioning for every fruit is different and unique, and bear in mind, it isn’t for the fruits to be eaten.
This is followed by thorough washing, sorting, and milling. To ensure natural yeasts, bacterias, tannins, and nutrients are kept intact, skins and stones of none of the fruits are discarded. They add their own texture, mouthfeel, body, and charm to the drinks. A quick crushing at near freezing temperatures provides the nectar, and the pulps are turned into manure, ensuring nothing is wasted.
Fruzzante: Making Its Own Fruity Science
Priyanka jumps in and stresses that the key here is to ripen the fruit at a level where the quality and quantity balance it at its optimum, something they had to define on their own, for ever single fruit!! From here the juices run to the fermentation facility and different yeasts step in. Yet again, unlike wines, Fruzzante’s study of yeast is another chapter in their series of victories. While the yeast for wines is glucose-hungry, given the mix of glucose, fructose, and sucrose in fruits, Fruzzante had to develop their own strains, mostly unique to each fruit. And one who knows about yeasts knows what a gigantic task it could be. Also comes in the cocktail of acids that are imperative to the drink. Priyanka stresses on a deep understanding of the fruit, yeasts, and processes to develop a stringent nutrient strategy to support the juices.
Fruzzante’s Future Is Sweet
With different fruits being harvested throughout the year, the facility remains continuously busy. From being a humble 12,000 litres production to now nearly 5 lac litres, Fruzzante is confidently moving upwards on the graph. At INR175-200 for a pint, Fruzzante is clearly carving its own category in the market, and in 2021, it aims to capture the shelves in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka, Telangana, and Goa.
Not all fruits, they also have a honey-based dessert called Arka, which is something to watch out for. Arka, in Sanskrit translate to ‘the extract or the nectar’ and is a partially fermented drink with a Sauternes or Botrytised Semillon-like personality. It’s something that can be laid down for decades with minimal chances of deterioration. Add to that, a rose petals-infused variant which we had the good fortunes of tasting straight from the tanks. Aromas of roses gush to impress your senses, fill you up with nostalgia, and puts an unwipeable smile on your face. Priced between INR1050-1095 for 375ml, Arka is something unique, undeniably charming, and unputdownable from the first sniff on.
The Hustle Continues…
What started as a curious experiment is now tauted as a definite head-turner for India. Proudly labeled as ‘Pressed and Blessed in India’, Fruzzante has done the unthinkable. It has disrupted the industry in a promising way, battled with the stringent excise to carve a space for itself, and injected confidence in those who wish to create a new new in India. Forget not to praise the learning they’ve gone through and the continuous education they need to impart to the world for Fruzzante to keep shining.
I’m confident that’ll happen, as the parting quote from Priyanka still echoes in my memory. I was curious to know about their vision for Fruzzante and enquired. Priyanka humbly smiled and said – wine is the term from drink made from grapes, cider for apples, perry for pears, I want Fruzzante to be the term the world over for those made from fruits!! And when it happens, remember it started from Bordi, and it started from India.
First published in Sommelier India Wine Magazine, June 2021