Raise a toast for Resvera’s Jamun wine, a sophisticated avatar of the humble jamun!

In India, wine has become a way of life now. It is a gourmet adventure with a dash of panache. Until recently, most Indian consumers were unable to connect with wine. However, with the introduction of the exotic fruit wine culture in the country, this is gradually changing. And a slew of wine start-ups are now bearing fruit in the form of exotic bubbly wines for fine dining. Resvera Wines, based in Nashik, is one of them. It has launched Jamun wines, making modern Indian consumers cognizant of the fact that this seasonal fruit is more than just fit for making vinegar out of.

   
Seasonal fruit Jamun turns sophisticated, raise a toast with Resvera’s Jamun wine

I can candidly admit that I have too little experience in this arena to be called a wine lover. However, on several occasions I have been in the company of people who are inveterate connoisseurs of wines. Although India’s wine culture is relatively new, it is slowly but surely getting a good amount of exposure and traction now. As is apparent by the plethora of duty-free shops which we all are confronted with upon landing at most Indian airports nowadays.

This year, I also had the opportunity of interviewing Sonal Holland, a wine connoisseur, an entrepreneur and India’s first and only female master of wine. She says wine and women are an easy connect, and women mostly prefer wine over the stronger varieties of alcoholic beverages. But I am not going into the dynamics of gender specific wine consumption this time. I would rather talk about the women entrepreneurs who are taking deep dives into the wine industry.

Yes, they are fewer in number as compared to their male counterparts, which can be attributed to the fact that winemaking or to be more precise, the F&B industry in India is considered to be the preserve of men and is heavily dominated by them. But some wine businesses managed by women entrepreneurs are worth mentioning. These are Sula Vineyards, KRSMA, Grover Vineyards, Zorba Wines, Fruzzante and Naara Aaba among others. And such female driven firms are increasing with each passing year.

Resvera Wines, co-founded by Komal Somani, a well-known face in the HR circuit, is another addition to this list.

Somani had a long list of accomplishments to her credit prior to her entering the entrepreneurial arena. She is a computer science engineer, a graphologist, a marketing expert, and an HR professional.

“Since college I was very independent and learnt to do things on my own. In my heart I always knew that entrepreneurship is my calling, and my independence only strengthened my spirit. That fire boosted me in the first phase of me becoming a businesswoman which got me working on my passion of becoming a graphologist. I kept exploring things and moved on to heading an HR team for an IT firm, which however did not quench my thirst for achieving the greatest good,”

says Somani.

While speaking about her latest venture recently, she opened up on her entrepreneurial journey and how she got into the winemaking business.

It was an explosion of taste

It is a fact that ideas can come anywhere and at any time.

For Somani the idea for Resvera came to her while she was sipping a Jamun (Indian black berry or Java Plum) cocktail. “My life took a new turn during a trip to Mahabaleshwar where I was served a Jamun cocktail, which gave birth to the innovative idea of Resvera Wines. The initial idea of getting into the wine industry first came to my mind while visiting there with my family,” she tells us.

She was so bowled over with the taste of Jamun in a drink, that it made her think long and hard about how she could turn it into a scintillating variety of wine.

Seasonal fruit Jamun turns sophisticated, raise a toast with Resvera’s Jamun wine

“It got me thinking that what if a wine could be made with this fruit? Since the industry thrives on grape wine, it would be interesting to create something that is not usual. The unique taste notes gave me the idea of creating a radical product around it. And that was it!” recalls Somani.

If you look at the wine industry, grape wines do not have the monopoly that they once had in this sector, anymore. Fruit wines made from different fruits other than grapes are a modern trend now. Some farms and wineries have begun producing fruit wines with measurable success in recent years, capitalising on the shifts in tastes and in generational preferences.

Pineapple, banana, Chikoo, apple, mango, watermelon, and kiwi wines are abundantly available now. In berries, there are wines made from strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries…to name a few. But Jamun was still not taken, at least in India. So, the idea of a wine made from Jamun excited her.

But it also took a lot of time to come to fruition. 5 years, says Somani.

“I spent five years of my life making my goal a reality. I kept working on my idea because I was passionate about bringing a distinct sort of fruit wine to the country and breaking the stereotype of this being a male-dominated business. After five arduous years and with the support of a Canadian winemaker, the venture was finally a success,” she says.

Now her company offers two types of Jamun wines—Jamun Pure Wine & Jamun Lite Wine.

“Resvera Pure Jamun is a deep ruby red wine with purple hues. This one has the seductive and alluring aroma of wild jamun that is redolent of exciting dark berries and warm spices. The flavours are of ripe sweet dark cherries buoyed by a medium body of fine tannins. The palate is off-dry and lightly tangy ending in a long berry flavour finish. The Lite wine on the other hand is a beautiful deep rose wine. It has the sweet aroma of red fruits and musky wild berries with hints of tropical fruit notes. The sweet red fruit flavours are balanced by a nice crisp acidity. The palate is lightly sweet finishing in a dry and long berry flavour finish,” she says, describing them perfectly like a true sommelier.

As it was Somani’s maiden journey as an entrepreneur, she confesses to having had a hard time breaking into the nascent fruit wine industry.

“The choice to make a strategic move to pursue a career in wine was difficult and fraught with setbacks. So, I witnessed many challenges,” she says.

But today, after investing five years and Rs 50 lakhs into the research and development of jamun wines, her venture, Resvera Wines, is now clocking an annual revenue of Rs 4.5 crores.

Jamun is a star ingredient

The discussion on Jamun can be interesting. Ask Somani and she will inundate you with a plethora of facts about it that many of us may not even know about.

Sample this—99 per cent of Jamun grows in the wild and perishes in the wild. This fruit cannot be ripened in a ripening room. It only ripens on its tree.

“One of the main reasons for making Jamun wine was the health benefits it carries,” she declares. Jamun is a rich source of vitamin C. Besides that, it has anti-diabetic and anti-cancer properties. That is why the brand is making a mark among fruit wine lovers who want to try something new in the wine section but are also health conscious. Currently, Resvera has a presence across Maharashtra, Karnataka, West Bengal, and Gujarat.

“So far, the response has been amazing just because of this exceptional fruit,” she says.

Though she added that there are certain restrictions while using Jamun as a main ingredient, that make it a little challenging to work with. “Because Jamun is a highly seasonal fruit, we have only a short amount of time to make the most of it. We only get one month of it. If we do not succeed, we have to wait another year to try again,” Somani explains.

The fact is that Jamun has a low shelf life, is difficult to preserve and hard to find, which makes it one of the more exotic fruits to craft wine out of. “They are hard to preserve and even refrigeration doesn’t work as the seeds soak in the juice from the pulp during refrigeration. To source it in India, especially finding the virgin forests to seek out the untouched nature’s basket, we had to overcome many such challenges. Hence, it necessitated extensive research, in-depth study, and endurance,” she elaborates.

Tapping into the healthy living trend

Currently, we are all focusing on living a healthy lifestyle, which includes eating healthy foods. It goes without saying that the pandemic has accelerated this trend. Furthermore, staying at home has encouraged people to be more adventurous with their food choices, which has increased the consumption of fruit wines in India.

Earlier, people used to choose from a curated drinks menu and tended to overlook the Indian fruit wines. But the pandemic has actually opened a window of opportunity for these fruit wines, as most restaurants were shut during the lockdowns and the supply chain failed to import the foreign brands.

On top of the health benefits, Somani feels that the other reason that customers are shifting to fruit wines is that they now have a wider range of products to choose from.

“There are new and exotic flavours such as Riesling wine and other tropical wines. The emphasis on local produce has worked well for fruit wines in recent times especially due to the lockdowns. People are more open to local produce than ever. Also, fruit wines go well with our spicy Indian cuisine, while grape wines like red wines pair better with western cuisine. As a result, fruit wine in India has become increasingly popular in recent years, with a high level of market acceptance,” she comments.

All these latest trends in wine and fine dining have given a thrust to Resvera Wines. Leveraging the opportunity, the brand is collaborating with some of the top-notch hospitality brands such as Ibis, Sun N Sand, Grape County, etc. They have also partnered up with lifestyle and wellness influencers as part of their social media collaborations. “These collaborations have not just led to a rise in our sales but have also created an impactful brand image for us. In particular, these influencers were chosen because of their healthy and nature-driven lifestyles,” she tells us.

Keeping these reasons in mind, Somani says, “Resvera is a unique wine brand. My intent is to promote healthy living and a healthy lifestyle with this brand. The goal is to build a legacy around responsible winemaking and giving back to nature.”

What we receive should be given back

Completely agreeing with this philosophy, Somani’s start-up works on the same principal. “Resvera is making a mark through its core which is ‘Social en-wine-ment connect.’ Which means we are connected to nature and are generating employment for the tribal community as we believe in giving back to society,” she avers.

She also believes in the sustainability quotient.

“Our brand also believes in giving back to nature,” she says.

So far, Resvera has planted more than 2 million Jamun seeds in the last few years. The seeds are more potent with a more than 90 per cent germination rate, she tells us. “Also, we found that most of the saplings have survived for their second monsoon. All the fruits that we source come from the jungles of the Konkan and Mahabaleshwar regions which is really helping the local economy,” Somani asserts.

Inside Article2-Seasonal fruit Jamun turns sophisticated, raise a toast with Resvera’s Jamun wine

Market competition and the roadmap ahead

There are many brands which are extensively focused on bringing various fruit wines into the Indian wine market. Though every brand has their own niche, the competition is heating up among the winemakers as this trend gets increasingly popular. Commenting on her brand’s market share, Somani says that Rhythm and Fruzzante are the other brands in the Indian market, which can be considered as her competitors.

To stay ahead of the competition, Somani says that they have many things in the pipeline and a lot is happening on Resvera’s shopfloors. Besides that, they have invested in a state-of-the-art facility, stainless steel tanks and a solid chilling infrastructure to ensure that the fermentations take place at controlled temperatures.

“Currently, we are heavily invested in improvising on our Jamun wines and launching new variations of these. For now, we have definitely invested our thoughts in launching or creating another fruit wine in the near future. Pineapple, mango and pomegranate are some fruits that come to my mind when I think about creating a new wine although the launch is still a distant goal,” she informs us.

Also, the brand is exploring new avenues to expand its footprint. They are also building a new property and are delving into the hospitality industry, where people can visit their premises and go on a gourmet adventure, taste exotic wines, and thoroughly indulge themselves in this stress relieving experience. “The vision is to provide an aesthetic and fascinating experience to every visitor,” Somani concludes.