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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Thursday, November 15 2007. 11:00 AM

India Wine Challenge: Boon for Importers and Producers

The first-ever India Wine Challenge being conducted in London and Delhi promises to be a good marketing tool for wine importers and domestic producers who are also promised a complimentary report on tastings by the organisers, reports Subhash Arora.

India Wine Challenge

The medals awarded at the competition can be flaunted by the producers and importers alike. Eventually, they might become more powerful than even Wine Spectator points for the imported wines which at any rate are based on a highly biased system which is meant to augment their advertising programme. There is no creditable competition for Indian wines, which takes into account the Indian palate

Benefits for domestic producers

The Indian producers have additional benefits. Firstly, their wines can compete in the international section against all the other wines-failing which they have the opportunity to score in the special category of Indian wines.

As a bonus, the organisers have offered additional help which no other competition does. The producers can get a report, free of charge, giving them details of why the wine did not win a medal, with the opinion and tasting notes of the judges.

This can help them analyse the weakness in their wines and what they can do to improve quality- a free consultancy from experts! 'It will increase our work. But I really want the Indian industry to come up and don't mind making the extra effort if it can help them improve their quality,' says Joseph who feels that the medals in an unbiased and creditable wine competition like this will also help the consumer decide what to buy .

Importers and overseas producers profit too

I know a German wine producer from Pfalz. He makes decent wines and sells them at affordable prices. His wines are also one of the most awarded in its category. Reason is simple. He takes part in as many wine competitions as possible- I won't be surprised if he has entered his wine samples in the India Wine Challenge too. Working on the simple math, it is logical that he gets his fair share of medals in these competitions.

His brochure is full of mention of these awards. An astute marketer too, he does not increase the price of award winning wines as some do, but concentrates on increasing the sales instead. 'What if I don't get the award next year?' he asks.

The well-known Villa Maria Estate of New Zealand just won five gold, twelve silver and twelve bronze medals at this year's Air New Zealand Wine Awards Competition for which the awards were announced today. Within a few hours the news was flashed all over the world on the Net. If they entered the India Wine Challenge, the medals would be a reassurance for the person buying the bottle in India.

When the wine selling in India gets a medal, it has a special significance. It shows that the judges have impartially decided on tasting blind that a particular wine has found their approval for the Indian consumer.

Sample selection from domestic producers

A few months ago, the two-buck-chuck won a Gold medal at a California state wine competition. Many eye-brows were raised but as Robert told me when I met him in Germany for judging at the MundusVini Competition, ' If judges from a region feel that way for a particular wine, why not? It indicates their decision based on their preferences.'

When I raised the point with Michael Schaeffer, a fellow judge, friend and a US wine educator, his reaction was different. 'How do we know what samples were submitted for the competition? Maybe they submitted samples which were different than their normal production!'

A doubt raised, but a theory that Robert does not subscribe to. Many people also voiced the same doubt for Indian wine producers taking part in the current Challenge, suggesting it might be a better idea to pick up the samples from the market to avoid this suspicion. If one did that, there would be yet another question of whether the samples so collected were stored properly.

In most of the wine world, this problem- akin to being caught taking drugs in Olympics, has generally not been encountered. Last December, Brent Marris, the chief judge at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards, was forced to resign after his Wither Hills competition wines were found to be different to those sold to the public. Although he was later cleared of the charge of creating special batches of sauvignon blanc wine for award tastings, the case should be a pre-warning to such producers of the adverse consequences.

Adds Robert, 'To avoid this problem we ask for 3 samples-one for tasting, second in case the wine is corked. Third is kept sealed. In case of doubts, the organizers have the option to go to the market and pick up a sample to compare the DNA of the sample with the one picked up in the market.'

The last date to submit the samples of wines already being imported and domestically produced for the India Wine Challenge is approaching fast. The final round of tasting will be organised on December 3 and 4 and the results will be announced at IFE-India 2007 to be held on December 6-8 in Delhi. It is not mandatory to take part in IFE in order to take part in the competition though IFE does offer several opportunities to the importers as well as producers.

Whether you are an importer, producer, a buyer or an Indian consumer, the India Wine Challenge is for you. Be a part of it! If you don't know whom to contact, try

Subhash Arora

November 14, 2007



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