Before becoming a vintner, Rajeev Samant struggled for more than three years to get a license to put down vines. Finally, he persuaded alcohol-suspicious authorities that the ability to grow vinifera in the region was “a gift from the gods.” A novice grower, he had no idea what to plant and where, and once he decided on Sauvignon Blanc, he had no idea if his grapes would ripen—no idea if they would even bear fruit.
Where he lives is hot—regularly over 100° F three months a year—so to say his cellar is temperature-controlled would be an understatement. Even pricing his product was problematic: When he started out in 1996, there was a $3 excise tax on every bottle, and none could legally be priced at more than four times that amount, the equivalent of $12. The winemaker overcame all that, but like clockwork, Mother Nature drops a new bomb on his vines every year. “The biggest challenge,” said Samant, whose Sula Vineyards now dominates 65 percent of India’s wine market, “is managing the monsoon.”