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Raising a glass to a vintage year

Members of the Chennai-based Terroir Wine club find an inventive way to connect over Fratelli’s Sette

“It looks like 2020 is going to be a beautiful vintage. But, till you pick the grapes you never know,” says Fratelli’s Alessio Secci.

Lessons in wine, and lessons for life. After all, who would have thought a wine dinner would involve Alessio opening his bottle of Sette in Tuscany, along with sommeliers in Delhi and Chennai, while members of Terroir — The Madras Wine Club balanced their individual bottles along with phones, laptops, glasses and Peshawari kebabs at home.

Despite the pandemic, accompanied by lockdowns, the unfamiliar need for physical distancing and an ever-lurking fear of infection, people around the world are finding ways to connect, even if it means moving most of their lives online. President of Terroir and jewellery designer, Minnie Menon, with her unflagging energy, reminiscent of a just-popped bottle of champagne, was determined to bring the club together so she joined hands with Fratelli wine and the ITC Grand Chola to host Chennai’s first virtual wine dinner.

Minnie Menon, Jayanth Bharathi, Alessio Secci Fratelli and Harshith Prabhu during Terroir’s Zoom interaction

Minnie Menon, Jayanth Bharathi, Alessio Secci Fratelli and Harshith Prabhu during Terroir’s Zoom interaction
 
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Special Arrangement

As laptops power up, the hotel’s chauffeurs ferry hampers across the city, with a menu curated to accompany Fratelli’s popular Sette, starting from brie and olives to Peshawari’s signature black dal, biryani and phirni. Launching the event on Zoom from her home, Minnie speaks about the resurgent spirit of celebrating local products: Sette, for instance, is an unexpected Indian success story, built on barren land and steely determination.

“It was hard work,” says Alessio, explaining how Fratelli was founded with the vision of bottling Indian terroir. “When we moved to Akluj (Maharashtra), it was like planning vineyards in the Grand Canyon. We wanted land that was not too fertile — it means that yield is less, but there is more energy and flavour concentrated in the grape.”

Contents of the hamper from ITC Grand Chola

Fratelli, which means brothers in Italian, is a family affair, adds Alessio, explaining how it was conceived by three sets of brothers: Alessio and Andrea Secci, the Mohite-Patel brothers Ranjit and Arjun, as well as Gaurav and the late Kapil Sekhri.

Sette is their attempt to create a wine in the style of Italy’s Super Tuscans, “A super Indian,” as Alessio puts it. For the tasting, participants uncork the 2017 vintage, a blend of Sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon grapes, in a 60:40 ratio blended by Italian winemaker Piero Masi. Powerful, with a vibrant acidity from the Sangiovese, and a elegant fruitiness from the cabernet sauvignon, the wine is laced with a woody vanilla echo from the French oak it is aged in.

Led by sommelier Harshith Prabhu, resplendent in his Salvador Dali moustache, participants swirl and sip the red wine, admiring its “deep ruby core”. Harshith states, with a grin, “It reminds me of gardens with roses. Kids with citrus candy… there is so much of nostalgia, and warmth from the sun that the grapes have soaked up.”

“Our wines are an expression of the rocky, sandy soil. The microclimate of the plot, the conditions of the weather that year,” says Alessio.

He adds, “Yes, there is a style of Sette that doesn’t change. But each vintage will taste different. Every year is a new masterpiece.” Yes. Even 2020.

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