A crisp red or clear white? A vintage classic or a young crop? When it comes to wine, Ananth Narayanan, CEO, Myntra-Jabong has studied them all. A connoisseur of fine wines, Ananth knows how to choose the best wines to add to his vast collection.
Ananth tasted wine for the first time in 2000 while working as an analyst in San Francisco.
“My client was French, and we would go out every evening after work for a glass of wine. He was able to blind taste the wine and say where it was from. I learnt a lot from him, and that is how I got into wine,” he says.
For Ananth, it is not just about enjoying a glass of wine, but also learning about its flavour, its attributes, and having friends who are interested in wine-making.
Ananth grew up in Chennai but left home at 21 to study at the University of Michigan.
“I started collecting wine seriously in 2001,” he says.
As CEO of Flipkart-owned fashion ecommerce portal Myntra and Jabong, Ananth lives in Bengaluru now, but has a large collection of wines in his cellar in Chicago.
Ananth reiterates the adage that wine gets better with age – the more it matures, the better it tastes. “Meeting people over a glass of wine is as much a social thing as it is about the wine itself. It is a great way to meet new and interesting people,” he says.
Ananth says he is partial to wine from Bordeaux, France. In fact, he has collected wine from Bordeaux for his three daughters – now aged 12, nine, and six.
“They were born on years when the French wines were very good. I bought French wines in the US, connected to their birth year. I hope to give these bottles of wine to them when they are 21. That makes these wines very special for me. It can be a good story to tell and it can also be a drink at their wedding or any other important occasion,” he says.
For novices, a good wine year is when the weather conditions are favourable. During those years, grapes are of a high quality, and do not have too much sugar.
Ananth has travelled to 40-50 countries, and wherever he has found a wine that he did not have in his collection, he has purchased it. Today, he has over 1500 bottles of wine. “I know the status of all my wines,” he says.
Ananth’s collection includes wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy in France, from Italy, and California where he used to live.
“I have wines from Argentina and Chile too – which are easier to drink as they are younger wines. I don’t have too many wines from South Africa and Australia, but I am hoping to add them to my collection,” he adds.
When it comes to purchasing a bottle of wine, Ananth looks for the variety, the wine maker, and the year. The major variables when looking out for wine are the region, soil, the grape variety, and the year it is brewed.
“For instance, the years 2000, 2005, 2009 and 2015 were all very good years – so I buy more wines from these years,” he says. “I like to try different bottles of wines when we entertain friends rather than finish one bottle.”
Ananth is part of The Wine Connoisseurs (TWC) in Bengaluru. The members meet once a month, and everybody brings a bottle of wine to their meetings.
Ananth elaborates, “The group includes entrepreneurs, prominent Bengalureans, writers and many interesting people. I try and get as many interesting people together to talk about wine. I also get Myntra people at my home to drink wine. Over wine, you get to know the other person, as opposed to knowing someone as a colleague.”
Most of Ananth’s family vacations revolve around vineyards.
“The best place we have visited is Italy - the food, wine and landscape combination is very interesting,” he says.
For special occasions Ananth would choose a French wine, like a bottle of Château Latour wine and a Château Mouton Rothschild wine.
“But both are very expensive; so you cannot drink them on a regular basis. I prefer bottles priced at $50 to $100,” he says.
Ananth says he would love to make wine if he had more time.
“India is starting to get a reasonably good set of winemakers. It is still a few years away from being world class but a number of boutique wineries are coming up in our country,” he says.
Ananth recollects the most expensive wine he has had – it was Château Palmer wine made in the year 1961.
"I tasted the wine in a vineyard in France. The owner opened a bottle of this wine for me. I didn’t pay for it,” Ananth smiles.
Like most wine lovers, he likes to pair with wine with cheese.
“The kind of cheese that I choose depends on the wine I am drinking,” he says.
The Chennai boy in him has some unique tastes too.
“I pair south Indian food with wine, and it actually goes quite well. I know the best wine with masala dosa and the best wine with bisibele bhath. Austrian white wine pairs well with south Indian food. I tried it 10 years ago in Chicago,” he says.
Most people in Myntra are now familiar with South Indian food with wine.
“I like the food, so I figured out what wine will go with the food after a lot of experimentation. I am now the wine guy. Whenever anyone has an event, they ask me what to do,” Ananth adds.
His tip for wine lovers is to try as many varieties as possible.
“Try many different things because you never know what you are going to like. Don’t overpay for wine. The difference between a $50 wine and $500 wine is not that much; it is just marketing,” he smiles.