Fratelli is a relatively new Indian wine company that is already making its mark with a range of quality wines. Wine dinners, tastings and vineyard visits with the Indian wine community along with intensive behind-the-scenes marketing and planning has marked the company’s strategy for success.
But will the success story sustain in the tough Indian business climate? Will the Fratelli experiments with new varietals work? Will the current Italian control on winemaking quality be sustained over time?
My interview with partners Kapil Sekhri and Alessio Secci was an attempt to find out a little bit more about the Fratelli story.
What brought about the collaboration among the partners that went on to becoming Fratelli wines?
KAPIL : Fratelli literally means brothers in Italian, and it is the only Indo-Italian collaboration for wines in India. The six brothers of Fratelli are Andrea and Alessio Secci from Italy, Gaurav and myself from Delhi and Arjun and Ranjitsinh Mohite Patil from Akluj, Maharashtra. The seventh brother is Piero Masi, the creator of Fratelli wines.
Our collaboration has arisen out of the deep trust, friendship and faith our three families share with one other.
Our project took shape with Piero coming on board and this finished the circle.
Fratelli represents a new India which wants to produce a product based purely on excellence and the faith that India can deliver the best from its soil.
Fratelli has started with a bang, with a large portfolio of wines, including some unusual ones (for India) like Sangiovese, and your soon-to-be launched Vin Santo…how confident are you of these doing well in the new Indian market?
KAPIL : The Indian consumer today is ready for new experiences and quality produce. The setting is perfect and I believe the tipping point of wine awareness is right around the corner. I am extremely confident that the quality of our wines will speak for themselves and will do well.
You have an Italian winemaker in Piero Masi. Please outline details of his involvement and that of your Italian partners in this venture?
ALESSIO : It’s his show (Piero’s) completely. He is a partner in the company and not a consultant. So from the first soil analysis to finalizing on Akluj for the vineyard, handpicking the varietals, preparing the vineyards, to finally making the wines – everything falls in his domain. What you see in the bottle today is a result of his expertise, knowledge and craftsmanship.
KAPIL : Alessio and Andrea have been involved from the first bit. Today, Alessio assists Piero in the upkeep of the vineyards and making of the wines. On the business side, Piero also acts as the global brand ambassador of Fratelli along with being involved in each and every business decision.
Truism: the Indian wine market is a tough one. New wine companies enter the market every day, but the ones that see ultimate success are very few. What are your views on the Indian market? How do you (Fratelli) propose to tackle the skepticism about Indian wines in wine circles abroad?
KAPIL : As an industry insider I can say that the pie has surely become bigger, which is in itself an extremely healthy sign for the industry. I feel that more than the numbers (that speak for themselves), it’s the overall perspective, dynamics and value that has been created that is truly promising. The momentum, which took a hit due to multiple reasons in the past few years, is now back, and the same momentum will offer sustained growth in the next 5 years.
The past year has laid the path for change within the wine eco-system of the country. The year saw some successful and some non-successful mergers, not only on the production side but also on the distribution side.
Having said that, I truly believe that the past two years belonged to the consumer, and quality as a parameter has prevailed over all other factors. The evolution of the Indian consumer has led this change. ‘Price point’ that was the decisive factor when it came to wine purchase, has given way to a quest for quality, consistency and value.
SETTE, our most premium offering is an example of this. Launched a month ago, the same is retailed at 1650/- in Mumbai and Delhi. Competing with an array of international labels, SETTE proves that quality is the only way forward.
The recognition for Indian wines on the international platform has reassured the domestic consumer with respect to the quality of the produce. We at Fratelli have led the way with 10 international awards in the last two years.
Your pricing strategy: tell me a little bit about it.
KAPIL : We have carefully priced our wines keeping in view the market dynamics, perceived value, quality of the our wines, and our brand. We always have and always will keep consumer in mind and try our best to extend the value to him with every purchase.
Our prices range is from Rs. 450 to Rs. 1650. I am sure every varietal will be judged independently, and will represent this value.
It is a known fact that the biggest issues faced by wines made in India include lack of consistency and sustained quality. How do you plan to address this issue?
ALESSIO : Quality and consistency are based on multiple factors.
We having full control over our vineyards (250 acres – the only Indian wine company that can boast of this) ensuring that not even a single grape is being contract farmed. Along with the same, we work on the ¼ yield averages, making the concentration of the juice extremely high.
Our winery, which is a pillarless structure, is all galvalume and is temperature-controlled, including wine tanks from Velo, Italy. The fact that our picking-to-crush time is a maximum of two hours all helps in maintaining the quality of our wines. The oak barrels from Saury help us age our wines and release them when we are confident.
With just three vintages under our belt, we have created a benchmark where Indian wines are concerned.
The years to come (product wise) are extremely promising as the plants will mature giving us a superlative produce.
You have started winning awards for your wines. How important are these to you, going forward?
KAPIL : Extremely important. It reassures us that we are on the right path and adds fuel to our engine which is needed to keep each and every member of the Fratelli family motivated!
The future for Fratelli (including growth/exports).How do you see it?
KAPIL : The future is exciting as we have many innovating plans but would like to unveil them one at a time rather than talking about them all at once. The exports have started to UK, Netherlands, Italy and Japan. We are working hard to start USA and then we can proudly claim that the sun never sets on Fratelli!
All of us have our feet on the ground and it is paramount that product needs to be bettered with every vintage. We are only 3 years old in an industry which is over 3000 years old!