Farewell Kapil Sekhri

By Madhulika Dash

The co-founder of one of India’s finest vino brands passed away two days ago, here’s a toast to that shy wine maker who turned every sixth young drinker into a wine lover – and a connoisseur.

Circa 2006. Standing on a piece of barren land in a small town of Sholapur with his partners – a set of three brothers (and equal brains behind the brand) Alessio and Andrea Secci, Kapil and Gaurav Sekhri and Ranjit and Arjun Mohite – Patil – when Kapil Sekhri decided to go ahead with a less fertile land than the ones available in closer Nashik, little did the entrepreneur knew that this decision would be indeed their play to success. Fratelli that started their work in 2006 and got their first wine  to consumers by 2010 was a known (even preferred brand) by 2014 – and among the few winemakers in the country who were designing exclusive signature wines for establishments and occasions. One such masterstroke is the Fratelli 'The Glass House' 2011, a classic Bordeaux blend (Cabernet/merlot/Cabernet Franc) that was created for The Glass House, a new 'deli-bistro-bar' in the heart of Bangalore.

In the years that followed, Fratelli, under the aegis of its founders, prospered. Even repeating the feat (and many others) many a times, including launching their well-received vintage collection in 2019. And behind all the success were not only the winemaker duo of Alessio and Andrea, but Kapil too – a relative shy promoter who decided to stir the brand to its existential recognition. Seen often at launches – and some say missed easily too because of his quiet mannerism – the suave capitalist thanks to his wine business acumen soon was a name to reckon with, at least for most chefs, wine aficionados and hoteliers. Few even giving Kapil his nickname “The Wine Gentleman”.

For the rest however, Kapil would be remembered as the man who made “wine drinking pleasurable, thanks to creating varietals that were easy on the palate – and paired beautifully with a variety of cuisine, especially from India.” A feat that Fratelli did with aplomb. The reason that the brand could do so was perhaps the Fratelli House within their factory vicinity help promote local Maharastrian cuisine was paired with their own wines. Those visiting the winery called it the perfect “introduction to Fratelli vino charms.”

But who really was Kapil Sekhri? For Chef Abhijit Saha (Founder, Fava), who has not only met him but has worked with Fratelli wines, which does occupy a place of pride in his Indian wine collection, says, “Kapil Sekhri was a man of great vision and brought in a lot of fresh ideas into the wine business in India. Fratelli was launched almost at the same time as Caperberry and we met for the first time over lunch when he was visiting Bangalore. He believed in collaboration and working with the finest experts in wine making from different countries. His flagship wine Sette continues to be one of my favourites. His passing away is a blow to the fraternity of Indian wines and he will be missed dearly by the wine and hospitality fraternity. However, with the strong foundation he has created, I am sure the Fratelli Flag will continue to fly for a long time to come.”

Concurs Wishbox founder Pawan Hora, who likes Fratelli for its Indian palate play. “Fratelli, to me symbolised the coming of age of the wine culture in India. And in doing so, Kapil Sekhri has had a pretty significant role to play. In fact, as a branding head, I have met their representatives of the brand at a wine tasting cum exhibition in Delhi and was impressed with not just the variety but knowledge about their brand, a virtue that wins the hearts of the wine czars. I also saw an immense pride in the way their talked about the lineage of the brand and the variety of grapes, the timing of the produce etc etc at their Sholapur vineyard. Little wonder, Fratelli, a young brand, is among the few who have democratised the Indian wine space.”

For Srijan Vadhera (GM, Conrad Bengaluru), a vino connoisseur himself the role of Kapil Sekhri – one of the finest winemakers of the country – goes beyond producing great quality wines. “It is his acumen. How many wine makers across the world can understand the public pulse of a non-wine drinking country – and create versions that would appeal to them? Kapil had that kind of ingenuity to see where the lacuna was and plug in – be it with a wine varietal or the pricing. And yet, he never compromised on the brand, be it the taste or the visual perceptions. And he has done so quite commendably as I see many amateur wine drinkers prefer Fratelli as a brand to understand their vino better. And that solely deserves a salutation to Kapil Sekhri who made every eight young drinker love wine – and the vino life.”

Or as the legendary Benjamin Franklin had once said, “Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance.” Thanks, Kapil, for that wonderful ‘toast’.