Of all the winemakers in India who have entered this industry as a second career (and they make up a significant and growing number) arguably none has had more influence than Rajeev Samant, Founder and CEO of Sula Vineyards. And like all great success stories this one combines elements of hard-work, determination and talent – with a dollop of good-fortune.
It certainly helped that Samant’s family owned land near Nashik and that in 1993 – when he returned to India determined to set up his own business – India was developing a more open economic policy. Yet despite Nashik having long been an important centre for grape-growing there was then no winery in the region, little in the way of a domestic market and precious little State Government or start-up financial support. So it was certainly a big leap of faith on his part to decide to grow wine grapes and establish a winery.
With assistance from Californian winemaker Kerry Damskey, planting of Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc vines began in 1997, which was the first time that either varietal had been planted in India. The first Sula Vineyards wine was released in 2000 and received a positive critical acclaim. Since then the company has expanded its range of wines (including so called “value brands” in 2008) and stepped up production.
Around 2009, as financial difficulties at Indage Vintners intensified, Sula Vineyards become the market leader in terms of production and sales of Indian wine. With an injection of fresh capital in 2010, ambitious plans were outlined to double in size over the period 2010 -2012. Sula Vineyards has now well and truly taken on the mantle of Ambassador for Indian wines to the wine-drinking world.
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