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Curious Case of Soma vs. Somanda Wineries

Posted: Monday, 25 May 2015 14:44

Curious Case of Soma vs. Somanda Wineries

May 25: In the miniscule Indian wine industry, there are two wineries named Soma Vineyards in Bangalore and the younger Somanda Vineyards in Nashik, creating a potential confusion in the minds of wine lovers especially as both are specialising in wine tourism and making wines labelled as Soma, writes Subhash Arora who hopes that the two will sort out the confusion amicably

Click For Large ViewI met D.N (Darby) Raju on one of my visits to Bangalore about 5-6 years ago. He is an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Science and a sound specialist. As a wine appassionato, he had bought 120 acres of agricultural land near Bangalore and has been growing wine grapes since 2001. He told me then that he had been supplying grapes to Grover Vineyards for years. He was also building a winery-the location was heavenly for wine tourists. In fact, even at that time, he claimed to have had several groups of people visit the location where he offered wine made from his grapes crushed in another winery. He registered Bangalore Soma Vineyards Pvt Ltd in 2008 and has had a short spell supplying to Sula as well.

I have met Pradeep Pachpatil several times during the last decade. He is a denizen of Nashik and has been with Sula since inception and rose in the ranks to the position of Vice President-winery Operations before handing in his papers in August 2012 to start his own business. The Sula Resort, ‘Beyond’ is a property owned by him and leased to Sula on a long-term basis. He has also been supplying Sula grapes grown in his vineyards.

He started constructing his winery Somanda Vineyards after leaving Sula; it was inaugurated last year. He has built 2 villas each with 7 rooms and an independent swimming pool that are rented to wine tourists. The first crush of Somanda Vineyards had been last year after which I had visited the winery which is a part of the wine -tourism complex. It has 3 halls and a restaurant, with facilities to keep children busy. As he confirms to me all these facilities are ready and in operation now with Go-Karting already in operation. He also intends to add water slides in his repertoire. But the wine is being produced under the Soma label.

All these non winery related activities fall under another company known as Soma Vine Village. It’s  this name that Raju of Bangalore Soma is unhappy about, besides the wine being labelled as Soma. He says, ‘I had met Pachpatil when I was supplying grapes to Sula as he was working with them. He knew I was a vendor as Soma Vineyards. He knew I was making wines under the Soma brand. I don’t know why he chose to keep the same name.’

Pachpatil has his own viewpoint. He tells me, ‘I registered Soma Wines Pvt Ltd in 2009.  I am never going to the Bangalore market. I see no problem or confusion. In fact, D. N Raju had visited me along with Abhay Kewadkar of Four Seasons after you visited my winery in July last year. He had seen the wine bottles and labels but did not raise any objections then. Why this fuss now?’

Raju counterclaims, ‘I had seen the big wall hanging on the wall that said it was Somanda Vineyards. He must have had an after-thought to shorten the name in the style of Sula. I am the Vice-President of the Karnataka Chapter of the All India Wine Producers’ Association’ as the Managing Director of Bangalore Soma Vineyards so he knew about the name.’

It’s interesting that the logos of both seem to be rather similar and this could be a point in Raju’s favour. He plans to consult his lawyers to see if this is a trademark infringement or if he can come to some kind of understanding with Pachpatil.

Click For Large ViewThe Trademark infringement possibility notwithstanding, this is not the first case of confusing names. Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria and France are full of such confusions, mostly due to family wineries using their last names after splits or families with similar last names. The US is not immune to such similar names, the most glaring example being that of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellar (of Judgment of Paris 1976 fame) and Stags Leap Winery, both located in the Stags Leap Wine District in Napa. Lenz Moser of Grüner Veltliner fame in Austria, has at least 3 different wineries with similar names.  Louis Latour in Burgundy has nothing to do with Chateau Latour in Bordeaux. Chateaux Haut Brion and Smith Haut Brion in Bordeaux are just another example.

Pachpatil may have yet another reason for his fetish for the ‘Soma’ label. A Research Report by Bloomberg listing brings out the origins of Sula. It describes Rajeev’s company as and I quote, ‘Samant Soma Wines Ltd. produces wines. The company also imports and distributes wines from other wine producers. Samant Soma Wines exports its products internationally. The company was founded in 1993 and is based in Mumbai, India.’ It shows Rajeev Suresh Samant as the Founder and CEO and Pradeep Somnath Pachpatil as the Winery Manager. (We did not check the veracity of the year of founding as it is irrelevant for the issue).

Regardless of the possibility of trademark infringement, both are very good wine destinations-the first in Bangalore (50 kms from the city) in conjunction with Grover Vineyards and the second one in Nashik (Some Vine Villas are adjacent to the ‘Beyond’) in conjunction with visits to Sula and the close-by York Winery.

Subhash Arora

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Tags: Indian wine industry, Soma Vineyards, Bangalore, Somanda Vineyards, Nashik, Soma, D.N (Darby) Raju, Grover Vineyards, Bangalore Soma Vineyards Pvt Ltd, Sula, Pradeep Pachpatil, The Sula Resort, Beyond, Soma Vine Village, Soma Wines Pvt Ltd, All India Wine Producers’ Association’, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellar, Stags Leap Winery, Stags Leap Wine District, Latour, Chateaux Haut Brion, Smith Haut Brion, Samant Soma Wines


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