Chateau d'Ori is one of the new
wine producers of India in Dindori, near Nashik .To get
a glimpse of what was inside the vineyards and the minds
of its Chairman, Ranjit Dhuru, Subhash Arora took time out
recently to spend a couple of days with him.
|Ranjit Dhuru with the vineyard
and guest house in the background
Waiting for Dhuru at the Mumbai airport
that fateful morning, I glanced at TV18 blasting away the
Breaking News. Stock market bulls had been crushed with
the BSE going South 2035 points. The other headline news
was about 38 bus passengers who had died near Nashik in
a crash. The one-hour delay caused by the late departure
of Kingfisher Airlines flight in Delhi due to the airport
closure because of Republic Day rehearsals was a minor irritant,
in front of this depressing news.
I was waiting for Dhuru to pick me up
to go to Nashik. What a day of crushes and crashes I had
chosen to visit his vineyards and winery at Dindori, in
the 'wine capital', I thought to myself!'
Before I could reflect on the millions
I would have lost (hopefully on paper) during the morning
flight of an hour and fifty minutes, Ranjit Dhuru arrived
in his Rs. 55 lakh ( $140,000) beautiful, blue Touareg SUV
from Volkswagen and I felt slightly reassured. Proud of
his acquisition, he did confess to me having almost bought
a Tata Safari because of its performance. He had chanced
across the Touareg which was a bit expensive (about 6 times!)
but had stolen his heart and he had bought it a couple of
The journey to Nashik takes around 3.5
hours-at least on paper. The endless city traffic in Mumbai
can add an hour or two-or three, to that time. Ranjit did
seem excited about the fact that Laloo Yadav (our railway
minister of Harvard fame) was proposing a TGV style train
to Nashik, which would cut down the travel time to an unbelievable
1.5 hours. Add 2 hours to reach the station from the airport
and you would get a clearer picture of Mumbai traffic.
Our journey was very pleasant with Ranjit
sharing his thoughts about the Sauvignon Blanc crush which
might be a few days earlier than the usual Feb beginning
or the middle. He was being disturbed perennially by phone
calls- the non-wine world around him seemed to be more concerned
with the stock market crash, right now.
|‘Don’t worry, the crash is temporary’
says Dhuru to an investor in his IT company.
Ranjit Dhuru is a lawyer by profession and the Chairman
of a well-known public limited and traded IT company,
Aftek, which he founded in 1986 and took to $100 million
size, employing over a thousand employees, the majority
being in their working office in Pune. The news had apparently
permeated that his stock had also gone southwards along
with BSE and was making fund managers across the globe
who had holdings in his company rather nervous.
But he was cheerful enough to talk of
his passion – wine and the indigenous production.
To the un-initiated, Ranjit might come
across as a Bordeaux snob. Right from the name of his import
label-Chateau d'Ori to his imported wines, his personal
taste of wines and his wine purchases and collections- he
has been a serious En Primeur buyer his preference for Bordeaux
sticks out like a sore thumb.
He even chose a French winemaker of Greek
descent, Anthony Fakorellis from Bordeaux when he decided
to give shape to his passion and decided to set up a winery
and convert land he had bought into vineyards, four years
He took this time to import and sell 8
labels of wine, all from Bordeaux left and the right banks
including Graves, Pauillac, St. Emilion and Pomerol. It
is no mean achievement that during the last 4 years he carved
a niche of about 5000 cases market , especially as he concentrated
on Maharashtra and primarily the Mumbai market.
He got slightly disturbed when I asked
him why he had chosen a typically Bordeaux name for his
label and winery. 'What is wrong in that?' he retorted.
'Aren't we addressing grapes like Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet
Sauvignon by their French names? Besides, there are so many
wineries in the world who use French names.
It is not that Ranjit is blindly in love
with Bordeaux or France. 'During the course of business
we had bought an IT company in Munich and I used to travel
a lot to Europe and the US on business and where I started
enjoying wines,' he told me. He also started visiting several
wineries. It really hit him during a visit to Opus One winery
in Napa valley when the winemaker proudly told him that
Mondavi had a tie up with Rothschild in Bordeaux to make
this excellent wine.
He reasoned, if even Mondavi would go
thousands of miles to Bordeaux to make a quality wine, why
not go to the basic source. He started frequenting it and
went to several tastings for En Primeur too. In the process,
he collected wines like Angelus, d'Yquem, Cheval Blanc,
Pontet Canet, Domaine de Chevalier.
During his visits, he had met a French
negociant, Ivan Cruse, who helped him along and rest is
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