Tall, slender and colourful – they glisten against the warm light from behind the bar. Housing various varieties of red and white wine, the bottles are accompanied by a mound of at least 70 cork stoppers, with names such as Familia Falasco, Chamberlin, Sterling and many others.
Aptech MD and CEO, Ninad Karpe has quite a collection. “It was somewhere in 1992, in Bordeaux, where I was attending a wine and spirits trade fair called Vinexpo. That’s where I was introduced to the world of fine wine,” he says. So fascinated was the MD with the concoction that he decided to explore the science of winemaking.
15 years ago, he found a teacher in his father-in-law, who showed him how simple the entire process was. Karpe has stuck to simple – his apparatus comprises of a glass jar, plastic tube and a muslin cloth for the fermentation process. “My first batch of wine turned out just right but the second and third didn’t quite make the cut. That’s when I realised that it could be because of the pesticides in table grapes bought from the market,” he explains. Since then, Karpe uses organic grapes or wine grapes and when that’s not available, he doesn’t shy from experimenting with other fruits such as jamun.
While he makes wines only once a year – February, if he’s using grapes, and June, if he’s using jamun - the entire process takes six months. Then, the wine is allowed to mature for a year at least before it is savoured.
Even though this process keeps him occupied for a few months, Karpe says he is always exploring new flavours at wine tasting events and wineries. This has made him an expert of sorts. At a recent brief visit to the Grover Zampa vineyard in Bengaluru, he says, “They had a version of Rose, it’s normally a very sweet wine that makes for a summer drink but this one was different. I sipped it twice to be certain that I could taste the guava…the chap showing me around was pleasantly surprised and shared how normally people aren’t able to identify such subtle elements.”
When Karpe is not planning his next vineyard trip, he’s busy sniffing and sipping from the bottles sent over by wineries requesting feedback. The winemaker has already completed level one at London’s Wine and Spirits Education Trust, which imparts knowledge on the art of wine appreciation, tasting, etc. He is now looking forward to completing the next two levels, which involves week-long modules in the wineries and vineyards of France – something that will bestow him the title of a connoisseur.
The MD has not kept the hobby to himself, he has managed to involve his wife and son too. “Once the distilled mixture is set in a jar, it must be whirled a bit to enhance the fermentation process. So I leave it atop the bar platform in the living room and I have asked both of them to give it a shake each time they pass by,” he laughs.
But how does the MD of a company that’s hard at work in the competitive education segment, find the time for his hobby? “I believe that if you are passionate about something, then you learn to find the time for it. It has taught me that there are no shortcuts to success and also the importance of perseverance,” he says.
So, what’s next on his calendar, another vineyard visit, perhaps? “I have visited most of the big ones in India, I only have a couple more left. After which I plan to start a blog where I will present my notes and reviews of all Indian wines,” he reveals.