Thursday, July 25, 2024

Fratelli Wines relaunches their Master Selection range

Harvest at Fratelli Vineyars in Akluj, Solapur

Harvest at Fratelli Vineyars in Akluj, Solapur
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

On a warm and muggy April evening, there does not seem to be a better sight than that of four new bottles of wine arranged on the counter at the small, cosy lounge at Fratelli Vineyards. We are tucked away in a corner of Solapur, Maharashtra, where the last crop of the season is being prepped for harvest, to sample the brand’s M/S (Master Selection) range which is up for a re-launch. 

The new Master Selection range

The new Master Selection range
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Originally a range which comprised an M/S rosé, M/S red and M/S white, the re-launch has also added a late harvest to the M/S Vintage 2023 roster.  Giovanni Masi, enologist and agronomist at Fratelli, in Akluj, Solapur regales us with the history of the creation of the M/S range, as he pours a glass. Legendary winemaker Steven Spurrier collaborated with Giovanni’s father, their then in-house wine taster and expert Piero Masi at Fratelli to conceive the Master Selection range, and the first vintage was released in 2015. With the focus on creating approachable blends with a refined taste, they would sit together in the winery to select the blends which would later hit the shelves.

The sprawling vineyards in Solapur, spread over 240 acres, is where Giovanni can be found for a large chunk of the year. “This was virgin soil when Fratelli came here in 2006, and our grapes were the first crop to grow in this area. The soils here are filled with clay, lime, sand and gravel, and located 600 metres above sea level,” he says, stating that they add minerality, freshness and flavour to their wines. This is very different from vineyards around the world given the soil composition, he says, comparing the young slopes of Italy to the ancient soils of the Deccan plateau, where we are at. 

Grapes being harvested at Akluj, Solapur

Grapes being harvested at Akluj, Solapur
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

As we swirl and take the first sip of the 2023 vintage M/S white, Giovanni says that Solapur’s conditions are optimal for dry wines. The white, made of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Sauvignon Blanc has a sharp, fruity flavour. “If January and February are for harvesting for the white, we begin harvest for the reds at the end of February and this goes on till March or the start of April,” Giovanni says. 

The composition of the M/S red has been tweaked for the re-launch — from a Sangiovese Shiraz blend to a Shiraz Cabernet. Given India’s dominant Shiraz market, its popularity and preferred pairing with Indian food, this does not come as a surprise. Not too far away, the rolling vineyards of Garwad have soil that is ideal for the Cabernet, adding finesse and elegance to their new blend. 

For Solapur’s warm climes that dominate our trip, the refreshing 100% Sangiovese rosé made entirely of Sangiovese grapes however, seems to be the perfect choice. Mildly sweet and fruity, the blend is refreshing and light. Fratelli considers the Sangiovese their flagship — something that has lent itself well to the Indian market, says Jayanth Bharathi, DGM Marketing, at Fratelli. 

The newest entrant to the M/S 2023 vintage, the late harvest, is a much deserved inclusion. Before being barrel-aged and fermented, the grapes are allowed to sit on the plant for a few more weeks than usual. “Typically, a lot of sugar is added for similar blends but the sweetness you taste is all from the grape,” Giovanni says, of the Chenin Blanc made in the Vin Santo (traditional Tuscan dessert wine) style. 

A view of the vast, rolling vineyards

A view of the vast, rolling vineyards
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Earlier in the day, we visit the Machan, a quaint view point nestled on top of a hill, surrounded by the rolling vineyards of Garwad. We hear that the hariyal birds are often sighted on the tree tops here, and the bird with the vivid yellow plumes has found a place on the labels of the new M/S range. “The hariyal is significant to us not just as the state bird of Maharashtra, but is also a source of inspiration to our team. The bird is believed to always be up in the skies, never setting foot on the ground,” Jayanth says. 

The M/S range

The M/S range

The M/S vintage 2023 range has already hit shelves in Maharashtra and Bengaluru, and is expected to make inroads into other states over the next few months. The formula that Piero and Steven perfected, is what seems to have resonated over the years and is evident in the new range as well — as wine that will appeal to an evolved palette while also being one that is not too complex for a novice.

The writer was at Fratelli Vineyards, Solapur, on the invitation of the brand.

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