Wine = grapes.
But Maharashtra-based Priyanka Save, founder and director of Hill Zill Wines, is on a mission to change that idea with her brand of fruit wine FruzzantÃ©.
Priyanka collaborated with famous fruit winemaker Dominic Rivard of Canada to produce the world’s first chikoo wine, which was launched in 2017 after years of perfecting the method. This unique drink was initially retailed exclusively in Mumbai.
The positive response prompted the founders of FruzzantÃ© to create other sparkling alcohols by fermenting fruits such as pineapples, strawberries, star fruit and mangoes. The company has also recently branched out into a premium line of luxury ArkÃ¤ dessert meads, available in flavors such as wildflower honey, rose and jamun.
âOur concept and core philosophy is farm-to-bottle and we are in the process of encouraging farmers and ensuring that local fruit gets its due,â says Priyanka in a frank conversation with YS weekend.
âWe don’t make wines from grapes or ciders from apples; we create truly unique sparkling alcoholic beverages from other fruits grown locally in India.
Born in Bordi, a sleepy little seaside town in Maharashtra, Priyanka was raised in the wild. She continued her graduate studies in Mumbai, BA in Mechanical Engineering from DY Patil College of Engineering in Pune and MA in Mechanical Engineering from NJIIT, USA. His credentials were amplified by certificate courses in wines and spirits from WSET, London. Like her, Nagesh Pai, her husband, is a mechanical engineer turned wine entrepreneur.
She says: âFruzzantÃ© was a fortuitous discovery. I come from a farming background and we have a lot of fruit on our property. When I returned from the United States, I noticed that 40 percent of the chikoos on our farm were lost. I wanted to do something about this waste. My husband and I started working on ideas and after a lot of research we focused on making alcoholic products from chikoos.
By reusing the basement of a vacant building inside the complex his father owns in Bordi, they were able to save on the initial capital investment on the structure. They invested Rs 77 lakh for a factory and machinery, and around Rs 50 lakh in working capital.
Over the years they have grown into a team of over 30 people, operating between Bordi’s winery and the Mumbai head office, where sales and marketing are primarily handled. Commercial executives are spread across various districts of Maharashtra and Goa.
Priyanka Save, founder and director of Hill Zill Wines, is on a mission to popularize fruit wines with FruzzantÃ©.
What FruzzantÃ© offers
The startup’s fruits come directly from farmers in Maharashtra, as Priyanka is passionate about the idea of ââgiving back to farmers.
âSince I come from a farming family, we were directly confronted with the complexity of the supply chain process. Too many intermediaries are involved, which affects the quality of the harvest, and we make a point of sourcing directly from local farmers. Sometimes we also use products from our family farms, âshe says.
She believes the real benefit of sourcing directly from farmers is that they get fresh, quality produce, contributing to a âbetter product in the endâ.
After being picked, the fruits are brought to the cellar and placed in the conditioning chamber so that they ripen evenly. They are then placed in grinders to extract the juice, which is carefully filtered and added to the fermentation chambers with yeast for a period of 30 to 45 days. The product is carbonated to add its signature sparkle. No external flavor or color is added.
When asked about their most popular product, Priyanka says people choose their flavors based on the fruits they enjoy or how popular they are in a particular place. Therefore, each of their products is doing well. For example, Mahabaleshwar’s bestseller is the strawberry; in the district of Palghar, it is chikoo.
FruzzantÃ© sparkling fruit wines are available at retail outlets throughout Maharashtra, with a strong presence in Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur and Nashik. In early 2021, they were launched in Goa.
âPeople who come to Goa are more willing to try different things. We are very happy with the response and acceptance we have received from Goa, âsaid Priyanka.
FruzzantÃ© drinks are available from retailers and outlets in Maharashtra, as well as delivery apps like Spiritzone, Living Liquidz, Liquor Ginnie, Tully Gully, Craft Liquors, etc. The price of sparkling alcoholic drinks ranges from Rs 170 to 200.
Priyanka shares that they overcame the initial challenges of making fruit-based sparkling alcoholic beverages through a grueling process of trial and error. They also had problems getting the excise duty exemption and placing alcoholic fruit drinks in the same category as wines, but all went well once these start-up issues were resolved. .
In 2017, FruzzantÃ© won the silver medal in the âDrink Outside the Grapeâ challenge organized in the United States, where they competed against 145 global wines and ciders.
A new start
The success of fruit wines led the founders to expand their repertoire by launching their brand of honey mead ArkÃ¤. âWhile FruzzantÃ© focuses on the purity of the fruit without adding flavor or color, ArkÃ¤ is a mead where flavor and color are extracted from multiple ingredients and then fermented to reach its final version,â says Priyanka.
Wildflower honey, rose and locally sourced jamun berries are used to enhance the flavors of Arka, a dessert mead.
Wildflower honey, rose and jamun berries, sourced from local tribes in the area, are used to enhance the flavors of this dessert mead.
All three variants are currently available in Maharashtra and will soon be launched in Goa and Karnataka. The premium range is priced at Rs 1,050 for a 375ml bottle of ArkÃ¤ Honey and Jamun, and Rs 1,095 for ArkÃ¤ Rose.
âSpecialized, carbon-negative corking techniques due to micro-oxygenation are used to age the mead. The cork stopper used for ArkÃ¤ uses PlantCorc â¢ technology based on renewable plant polymers derived from sugar cane. These closures are more durable and improve the overall appearance.
âArkÃ¤ bottles are packaged in an eco-certified composite MDF that contains less than 0.11 parts per million formaldehyde concentration. In addition to being safe, this MDF is also sustainable and environmentally friendly, as it is mainly composed of wood fibers, wood chips, and other parts of wood which are normally discarded.
âThis reduces waste and ensures that a higher percentage of harvested trees is used to create valuable products, putting less pressure on our forests and creating sustainable building practices for years to come,â Priyanka said. .
While ArkÃ¤ is a niche product, FruzzantÃ©’s sparkling alcohol drinks are on the path to expansion. They will be launched in Karnataka as soon as the lockdown eases there, and “will be available in Punjab, Assam, Meghalaya and Sikkim by the end of 2021”.