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Delhi Wine Club

Italy Invades India…and Conquers Palates

Last week saw the arrival of about sixty producers from different wine regions of Italy with over two hundred labels, to conquer the palates of Indian wine drinkers. After a day each in Mumbai on January 17 and Delhi on January 19 they left happy ..with Mission Accomplished.

The group was part of the first Vinitaly India organized by Veronafiere who also own the brand and manage Vinitaly, the biggest annual wine show in the world. It was supported by the Italian Trade Commission ( ICE -pronounced ‘ee-tch-ay'). There was countrywide representation with producers from most of the wine making states starting from Sardegna ( Sardinia ) and Sicily to Friuli Venezia Giulia. The one day event was managed by International Exhibition Management (IEM), Verona , organizers of wine shows by Vinitaly outside Italy .

It was first time that so many producers descended in a group of this size at a wine event, held in Bombay and Delhi where guided and unguided tastings were organized. There were not only Brunellos and Super Tuscans, Barolos and Barbarescos, Spumantes and Frizzantes, Amarones and Reciotos but also lesser known classic Italian wines. Most producers came themselves or sent their kin or senior officers. Antinori (Alessia-daughter of Piero Antinori) and Gaja (Gaia- daughter of Angelo Gaja) talked about their wines; Michele Chiarlo and Masi showed off their portfolio. Never-before tried international varietals from several regions were there to seduce you, though many lesser known indigenous varieties like Cannonau from Sardegna , Aglianco and Carignano del Sulcis could hold their own.

The most interesting part of the event was the presence of 14 ‘Grandi Marchis' wines. This is a new group of 18 reputed producers formed in the summer of '04 to promote their wines and educate different country-groups with Antinori at its helm and Masi and Michele Chiarlo as the Vice Presidents. Based on a similar group in Champagne, it comprises of 100% wine producing families making premium quality wine who believe in the old Italian wine tradition and are committed to quality and challenge the multinationals producing ‘ faceless wines'.

The members are so selected that there is no conflict in the market positioning. This helps them promote each other‘s wines globally. Thirteen of them flew in with their wines; while this offered the wine stakeholders in India a great opportunity to taste some fine wines, it also gave the visitors to showcase their wines to an appreciative audience. ‘This alignment gives us the opportunity to be represented in any international market. Since we represent different wines, a member could approach an importer and offer him a full portfolio of eighteen wines,' said Raffaele Boscaini, son of Masi's owner.' To keep the group cohesion and maintain the class of wines we have decided not to take any more members in the group or change the management structure for three years' added Michele Chiarlo, the second Vice President of the Istituto, who introduced the GM both at Mumbai and Delhi ..

At the morning workshops one could taste 14 different wines and share their impressions with the maestros. In the afternoon session 13 wines from some grand estates of Italy were also presented. I had the honour of moderating the presentation by different producers. Earlier, I had the pleasure of selecting different Indian dishes with the objective of matching them with wines. At a packed house in Mumbai's Grand Hyatt we had organized a thali of 13 dishes. Although matching wine and food was not something that was thrust upon the people, they were encouraged to try out their favourite dishes with different wines.

As may be expected at such events, a few alignments were made between the exporters and importers. But the best was for the trade visitors who could have a fill of some of the classic wines and give a feedback of the Indian palate. It might have been frustrating for some producers though as the attendance was below their expectation.

With the whole world focusing its attention, Italy could not be left behind. Earlier, their government and the Trade Commission perhaps thought the Indian wine market was too small compared to other areas of exports. With this Show it appears they have changed their mind and have plunged into the competition that had set in during the last few years. With their natural affinity for Italian foods and with greater pairing opportunity with spicy foods for some of their wines, the future is looking up for Italian wines. And they are finally gearing up for the action when the opportunity strikes.

Subhash Arora

January 24, 2006

For a list of participants click here
For members of Istituto di Grandi Marchi , click here


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