By : Nagesh pai and priyanka Save – Founders fruzzante
Our winery is located in the quaint settings of a small coastal town of Bordi about 150 km north of Mumbai. It was established in 2016 overcoming several hurdles to manufacture the world’s first ever cider style product from Chikoo/Sapota. Our first flagship product was launched in January 2017 as Fruzzanté Original which also managed to bag a Silver Medal at ‘Drink Outside the Grape’ Challenge 2017 in the USA, competing alongside 145 other wines and ciders. Working with fruits other than grapes was a challenge when we initially began our winery. We visited several wineries in India as well as overseas to understand the production process. We critically analysed our observations. Both me and Nagesh Pai (Co-founder, Hill Zill Wines) are from Mechanical Engineering background, which momentously helped us understand the plant and machinery better. Our Chief Winemaker, Mr. Dominic Rivard is a highly distinguished person in North America in the world of fruit wines and ciders. His passion, combined with his expertise, and over 17 years of experience in wine making was instrumental in achieving the desired results.
Chikoo/Sapota was our first fruit and probably the toughest of all fruits we have dealt with so far. It all started with ripening the fruit to the desired level. Some fruits, like chikoo, need controlled environment for ripening while others, like grapes, ripen naturally on the vine and are harvested when the desired ripeness is achieved. With some fruits we resorted to ripening in chambers which controls the natural ripening process, rather than ripening them using non organic means. The benefit was uniform ripening and hence, better quality of juice resulting in a quality product on the whole. While some fruits, like Starfruit which ripen naturally on the tree, the challenge is to harvest without damaging the fruit.
The second step was extraction of juice, or in wine making terms ‘must’, for various fruits which is later fermented to wine or cider. We imported a hydraulic fruit press which is originally used to cold press fruits for cider making. Cold pressed fruits ensure quality juice. The other challenge was to adapt the press to various fruits. Although, different fruits have different pressure requirement for effective juice extraction, the same may not be applicable to certain fruits which are delicate — like grapes, or have undesirable flavonoids from their peel — such as orange. Similarly, different fruits need different combination of processes such as pulping, crushing and pressing while some fruits, like chikoo, need to undergo all the above mentioned processes. Hence, the study of juice extraction process had to be thoroughly done before designing the plant and machinery. The study involved understanding the nature of fruits to be processed and effective means of extracting healthy must which is conducive to the process of fermentation.
Once the must is obtained it, needs to be transferred to vats or fermentation tanks for further processing. Here, the transfer pumps play an important role. The most common food grade transfer pump is a centrifugal pump which finds applications in most food processing units where fluid is transferred. But, an impeller pump is the most feasible option for a winery, where fluid transfer is intermittent. The reason being centrifugal pumps need priming and cannot run dry, whereas impeller pumps are self-priming ones. The piping used is food grade which can be steel 304 grade or more in case of fixed piping. However, the most feasible one is a food grade PPR hard wired flexible piping which makes maneuvering much simpler and cuts down considerable capital investment. Such critical probing helped efficient equipment selection for various production processes in the winery.
The most important part in wine making is fermentation, when the sugar in the must is converted to alcohol and wine is made. We strongly believe in least human interference and simply provide conducive environment for the yeast to conduct effective fermentation process. Although, it’s an established fact that 80 percent of wine is made in the vineyard or in general fruit development and ripening process, the process of fermentation is the key to a quality product. Making provisions for fermentation to be carried out in the most effective way is very important. Design and fabrication of the fermentation tanks was done in Nashik with the help of industry experts suiting our requirement.
The winery building was not constructed, rather we had to do a fit-out in an existing building. The north facing location on a stilt level seemed ideal with least sun exposure, ensuring less cooling requirement and ultimately power savings. The fermentation tank design was created with limited head space available in the existing premise. Tanks were designed with effective cooling jackets in order to dissipate the heat released during the process of fermentation. As a meal slowly cooked always tastes better, same is the analogy with wines. In order to bring out the finesse in the product, we adopted optimum timeline for each production process including effective fermentation. Automatic temperature control system was installed for the tanks, which we feel is the least of automation desired in a winery. The other most essential part was to maintain hygiene and sterile conditions in the winery. Wines and ciders are highly susceptible to many viruses and microbial attacks. For the same, we installed ozonators in the premise and practiced the use of non-reactive housekeeping products. This will always ensure that the wine is free of any fungal or viral condition which immensely deteriorates quality of the product.
Further, a well-made product needs to be packaged correctly. We have a full automatic bottling line in the winery which ensures the bottles are rinsed, filled, and capped appropriately. The bottling as well as storage facility in the winery is air conditioned to maintain comfortable temperature for product storage. We have always placed quality first which we believe is an inevitable element in any process.
We currently have fruit variants from Chikoo namely Original and Spice Garden along with Mango and Pineapple under the brand Fruzzanté — a cider style alcoholic beverage currently available in the market. Additionally, we also have sparkling white wines from Starfruit blended with grapes under the brand name Jiwa, and a premium honey dessert wine or mead under the brand name Arkä. We aspire to work with several other fruits in future while striving to maintain the quality standards.