Meet the man who wants the world to drink Indian wine

Grape expectations
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Story highlights

  • Rajeev Samant founded one of India's most successful wineries -- Sula Vineyards
  • However, Samant studied engineering at Stanford University and before becoming a winemaker worked for Oracle
  • His Sula Vineyards were first to be featured in Wine Spectator, a respected industry magazine

(CNN)India may not be the first place to spring to mind when it comes to fine wine, but the country's tradition of viticulture stretches back for centuries.

India has produced wine throughout its history, but its popularity waned after phylloxera, a pest which also heavily affected European wine production in the 19th century, ravaged many of the subcontinent's vineyards.
However, one man is on a quest to get Indians drinking the grape nectar once again. Rajeev Samant's journey to becoming a winemaker has been unusual -- he studied engineering at Stanford University and got a high-flying job at Oracle after graduating. However, he left it all behind to return to his father's birthplace, Nashik, a city in western India, and started experimenting with different vines.
    "I just noticed that Nashik was full of grapes, and no one was making wine in this beautiful place," he says.
    Initially, Samant had a modest goal -- to merely produce wine that was pleasant and drinkable. However, with the help of a noted Californian winemaker Kerry Damskey, he soon realized that the terroir had the potential for much more.
    "Things went to a different level. We started from selling just 40,000 bottles of wine to something like 10 million bottles of wine... and it's a beautiful business that has brought not just profit to us but to the greater community at large," he says.
    International acclaim
    Samant's Sula Vineyards were the first in India to be featured in Wine Spectator, a respected industry magazine, in 2002. Today, Sula is India's top wine producer, holding about 65% of the country's wine market.
    The entrepreneur's gamble proved successful, but what had made him abandon a prestigious Silicon Valley job and throw himself into a new venture?
    "I really wanted to do something that I was really passionate about when I wake up every day, and that was something that I wasn't feeling in my corporate job. I strapped on a backpack and just started moving across the world, landing up here in Nashik.
    "There is a world of difference between the way I feel now about what I'm doing, full of passion, compared to what I used to do. Every day I'm so excited to take on the challenges. It's my baby, it's as simple as that," he says.