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How This Woman From India Created A French Wine Label

When she was 20 years old, Namratha Prashanth studied hospitality in the city of Bangalore in India. Her instructor taught her about French wines. Although she was interested and wanted to learn more, purchasing imported wines was prohibitive because of high import duties. She sampled local wines instead. Yet the experience ignited her interest in a greater range of wines and qualities.

At 24 years of age Namratha fell in love. After two years of courtship, she married. First, however, her in-laws asked that she consent not to seek work outside the house, but dedicate herself fully to the marriage and her subsequent family. She agreed, somewhat reluctantly. She lived not only with her husband, but with his large family.

“I didn’t know really how the world worked. I was totally in love. I thought, I can do anything for him. I didn’t know the intention behind why they wanted me to be a homemaker. Perhaps so that I would stay with them forever.”

She bore a daughter, and by the time her child was six years old Namratha would takes covert trips away from the house to study French at a nearby Alliance Française center. She also worked at a bakery as a way of gaining a sense of self-sufficiency. Such actions met resistance, she recalled when we recently spoke.

“In the initial stage of marriage they asked me not to work. But I said, can I study? My husband was okay. He said maybe, but I needed to ask permission from his parents.”

Their response, according to Namratha, was not affirmative. Partially as a consequence, domestic strain grew over time. She found a job, moved back to live with her parents and sought a divorce—a process she understood could take years. She took her sister’s advice and her family’s support and moved to France to engage in wine studies at the business school INSEEC. Her nine year old daughter remained in India.

Consequent to these studies she spent five months as an apprentice at Château Siran in the Médoc region of Bordeaux. Being surrounded by the silence of 88 hectares [217 acres] of vines and immersed in a new challenge provided her with a sense of peace. Afterwards she applied for, and received, a visa in 2019 for her business named Wine Equation. Previously, at a Vinexpo wine trade conference in Bordeaux she had met a winemaker from the region of Blaye named Corinne Chevrier-Loriaud, owner of Château Bel-Air-La-Royère. The two eventually agreed to collaborate on producing wine.

Namratha’s wine label design was inspired by a Salvador Dalí image she saw at an exhibit in Bruges, Belgium. On the label, the curling golden line and color changes depict evolution of wine during fermentation. She selected colors after researching consumer psychology.

“Normally people look for a name first, then design the label. I did the opposite. I joined two Latin words together. Soli means soil, and cantus means melody. It’s the song of the soil.”

She now apprentices with Corinne to learn winemaking, and is viewing the U.S. market with her 2018 vintage of 20,000 bottles.

“The label is made for the American consumer. The wine has a 14.5% alcohol level, so new taxes don’t apply. It’s also a gift item.”

Looking back at her life, Namratha remains positive.

“Today I have no regrets. Everything has made me stronger as a woman. The reward for me of this work is to empower women.”

She will also teach entrepreneurial skills to her daughter, who will soon visit Bordeaux.

The 2016 Solicantus wine is a 90/5/5 blend of Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec aged for 18 months in French oak. It will retail for approximately $16 a bottle in the U.S. It is a beauty to taste—with balanced aromas that include those of raspberries, plums, orange rind and charcoal. The wine is integrated and harmonious in the mouth—light but with a powerful tannic backbone and tastes that include those of plums and pepper. It will age well for decades.

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