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Delhi Wine Club
Blog: Oh-To Be the First one

Posted: Tuesday, 01 May 2012 18:13

Blog: Oh-To Be the First one

May 01: An article in a wine magazine recently sang and danced about Valdivieso wines from Chile being introduced in India, completely oblivious of and not mentioning the fact that it was already introduced by another importer in 2002 and marketed for 5 years. It makes me wonder if people in the world of wine here are so ignorant of the market or are too close- hearted to give credit to someone for being the first.

The article appeared to be a booster for the image of Agnetta International, a Gurgaon based  company which has been importing liquor and had  added a brand of wine from the USA. It has recently acquired the rights from the Chilean producer Viña Valdivieso which has been known for its sparkling wines but in India made a good presence of Sauvignon Blanc and Caballo Loco.

The Case of Valdivieso

In fact the then importer, Sovereign Impex had carried out several marketing activities including a dinner with the Delhi Wine Club members. The then Chilean Ambassador, H.E. Jorge Heine and I were especially fond of Caballo loco-the 6th and 7th numbers of which (their wines do not mention vintage as they are produced in Solera style) were launched at that time. In fact, the Ambassador had personally taken interest in the wines from this winery and a few others that were presence in India.

Being the first one, did not give any rights or a permanent place in the Indian wine history to sovereign Impex which has only a symbolic presence in the market. But the magazine or the importer have no moral or ethical right to take away that credit of introduction by the Sovereign and give the impression to the readers that it is being introduced by them. It may be a matter of interest that Brindco was in advanced stage of talks with the winery to take over the imports when I met the owner in Santiago in 2010, but decided against it finally. While congratulating them both- it is a good label for the Indian market, the current importer who surely will benefit from the earlier listings in several hotels, would do well not to misguide magazines like this one, which has perhaps published an article or two about this wine during the early days of 2002-2008.

First Indian Flag  at a Wine Show

I am reminded of a petty instance that involved me. Visiting many wine shows, I wanted to see an Indian flag flying at some such shows and worked extremely hard to make it happen at Wine for Asia in 2005. Only 4 companies participated- including Sula, Indage (Vinsura had also signed up but at the last minute chickened out). A small participation, but Ranjit Chougule and Rajiv Samant had personally visited the Show and were at the stands. It was a matter of pride for me that Indian flag was present to welcome the visitors. The following year I washed my hands from the project as it was not remunerative and required too much time and organization.

A few years later (in 2009) Indian Grape processing Board with millions of rupees of budget was able to take part in the Hong Kong Show. The laudable effort notwithstanding, I was quite peeved when the then Minister for Food processing openly took credit on behalf of IGPB for being the first to take part in a wine show overseas (critics speculated that Rs.1.7 million were spent on the participation) during the first national Convention of the IGPB in 2010. Fortunately, I was a speaker after the Minister and I made it a point to correct him when I started my speech, even though he did not like it. For the related article click Wine for Asia 2005 –Well Worth The Visit

Producers and Importers

Although Indage is down in the dumps today ( no action in sight, till the court order decides their fate), no one should deny them the credit for being the pioneer in the wine industry- and not Grover or Sula, thanks to Sham Chougule who brought the Marquis di pompadour and some fizz to our lives in the early eighties. No-one can take the credit away from Sanjay Menon to have brought in the imported wines first though that did not win him any medals or a permanent seat at the top. Today, he is languishing but he should be recognized as the person who introduced imported  wines in India.

World Wine Symposium

The 3-editions old World Wine Symposium in Villa d’Este in Italy is an excellent platform for wine connoisseurs to learn about the latest happenings and producers to showcase their wines. I have been the first and the only Indian invited to this excellent networking venue and event-every year. I feel we should have affluent Indians with an aristocratic lifestyle and love for wine, exposed to the event. I feel that the quality wine producers must be present at this place for promoting their products.  I am working diligently without any financially consideration and I feel I have come close to that happening. I know one day there will be more people wanting to join than the limited registrations can make it possible.  But my only motivation is that I should be the first one to get the Indians even though I could merrily be the only Indian present at the annual event for next few years- for whatever its worth.

Georgia on My Mind

I recently met an importer who starting importing Georgian wines and although wine import is his second or third business-it would be foolish for anyone to make it the first business for the wines from a new country, it is his passion to promote Georgian wines as he loves that country and loves their wines. Surely, the world’s oldest wine civilization will have its day in India soon, but he will clearly be the first importer of these wines and it will do no one any harm to say that he is the person who introduced them.

I have picked up a few random examples that came to mind. There are multitudes of cases where the wine persons could be more open hearted in giving the credit where it is due. Its great to be the first one- and the nascent wine market will present many such opportunities. Let us recognize them. 

In that case, we won’t need an article like this! Cheers to you all with a glass of Valdivieso which was first introduced by Sovereign Impex (I am sure the owner who lives mostly in London or Singapore  has not even seen that article).

Subhash Arora


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