Rupali Bhatnagar has been in charge of winemaking for Sula's sparkling wines since 2008. Rupali has been an important part of Sula's journey in innovating and creating different types of wines. Initially, for method champenoise, only traditional varietals like Pinot-noir, Pinot-Meunier and Chardonnay were used. The challenge was that these varietals weren't readily available in India and Rupali could only use Thomson and Chenin to experiment with. There was an assumption that other varietals like Viognier, Riesling, and Shiraz won’t age gracefully in the secondary fermentation. After researching and several trials, Rupali created an unusual blend of CBL, Shiraz, Viognier, Riesling, TCU, RZIN to make a white sparkling base. It was one-of-its-kind, different and extremely tasteful. This was a huge success and there has been no looking back for Rupali ever since.
Rupali has successfully created India's first Sparkling Shiraz and is experienced in both the reductive and oxidative style of winemaking. Currently, she handles winemaking processes for wine varietals like Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Viognier, Roussanne, Riesling, Zinfandel (both Red and Rose), Pinot Nor, Ugni Blanc, Tempranillo and Chardonnay at Sula Vineyards and also manages wine tastings and tours in Nashik.
Rupali Bhatnagar, General Manager and Senior Winemaker, Sparkling Wines at Sula Vineyards, talks about her approach towards winemaking.
First Inspirations in Wine
I really don’t know if I was actually inspired by wine in the first place. I am actually a student of microbiology which contains a chapter on wine, basically fermentations. At that time, too, I was very fond of the topic. Moreover, my father was a part of Sula in 2005, when I just completed my graduation. Being a microbiologist, I asked him if I was eligible to do an internship. He introduced me to the-then chief winemaker of Sula, Ajoy Shaw, and this is how my journey in wine began.
Wines Produced at Sula Vineyards
They are as many as 34 wines in the Sula and Kadu portfolios. These include reds, whites, sparkling, rose and everything from dry wines, dessert wines and much more. We are continuously trying to introduce new varietals in the market.
Creating the Right Combination
My idea behind creating the right wine is basically to maintain balance - in terms of palate, flavour profile and texture.
My winemaking philosophy is all about making delicious wines; wines that everyone can enjoy and love drinking again and again.
New Winemaking Equipment
All the winemaking equipment is impressive. Every piece of equipment is bigger and quite impressive. There are so many of them and all of them are meaningful in their own way.
Focusing on Sustainable Agriculture
More than techniques, Sustainable Agriculture is what the world is focusing on. Any vintner worth his salt knows that protecting the environment is more than just good for the planet – it is good for his wines.
Talking about winemaking tools, I would like to mention yeast as a tool. I love to use different kinds of yeast as it contributes so much to the flavour profile of the wine. I love experimenting with different yeasts and analysing the difference in palate.
Approach as A Winemaker in the Industry Segment
Again, my approach towards winemaking is to just keep it simple and creative, both at the same time.