When most susegad (laidback) Goans are enjoying their feni and chorizo pao at home and gearing up for a siesta, 67-year-old Anselm Mascarhenas is busy brewing wines in his backyard in Parra, north Goa.
So how does that make him special, you would ask, considering Goa is the mecca of home-brewed wines? Because Mascarhenas has a fetish for putting anything and everything in a bottle. From mushrooms to oranges, tomatoes, amla, tender coconut, jambul and ginger, he makes wine from the most unlikely of ingredients.
And, considering that they sell well, they must be good too.
What started as an occasional attempt at winemaking 35 years ago, has blossomed into a passion today. Having retired from a bank job in 2008, Mascarhenas decided to delve deeper into the winemaking process using different fruits. His partner in wine was his wife, Santan.
“A prominent mushroom-grower approached me in 2013, asking if I could make mushroom wines,” Mascarhenas recalls. “I accepted the challenge and succeeded. That was a Eureka moment for me, as mushroom is not even a fruit, but tasteless and colourless fungi. The taste of the wine was appreciated by everyone and it is one of my popular wines now,” he says.
But what makes his wines special is that they are all a labour of love and patience. Not ready to compromise on quality, Mascarhenas prefers to adhere to his labourious five-stage winemaking process instead of taking shortcuts. Patience is the key.
The first stage is extraction of fruit pulp. This is followed by fermentation. After that, sedimentation takes place and then filtration. For clarification, clarifying agents like porous pieces of clay, a handful of wheat (which is sticky and acts as a sponge) or a lightly-beaten egg white are used, as these attract impurities. After clarification, the wines are bottled and are ready for consumption. “The first four stages take 21 days and stage five takes three months,” Mascarhenas says, adding, “These homemade wines never get spoilt and mature with time.”
To make and store wines, Mascarhenas uses basic jars and storage drums. He doesn’t like any fancy, modern equipment, as it mars the taste of wine, he feels. Named after his wife, Santanse Wines are priced at R400-500 per 750 ml bottle. He even sells these wines from his home. Being natural fruit wines with no added alcohol, the wines are extremely popular with men and women alike, as the only alcohol (3-5%) is generated from the fruit.
Right now, local wine festivals like The Grape Escapade and local exhibitions are the extent of Mascarhenas’ adventures as an entrepreneur, but that might change soon. Encouraged by the response and praise for his wines, Mascarhenas is now keen to become a full-fledged entrepreneur and scale up from the 500-odd litres of wine he makes annually. He also wants to offer employment to local Goans and put Goa on the global wine map with Santanse Wines. “I am toying with the idea of making these wines on a bigger scale and marketing them, as there are a lot of enquiries,” he says.
The day might not be far when people across India and the globe will be sipping a glass of Mascarhenas’ mushroom wine.
Mini Ribeiro is a freelancer