Encouraged by favourable reports on the increasing wine consumption in India, and ever-prepared to open Viña Santa Marina to new markets, we decided to exhibit at IFE-India for the first time in December 2005.
The exhibition wasn't that encouraging in the sense that only one specialised wine buyer came to our stand! Many of the visitors were importers of food and non-food products willing to start wine imports; another 'category' of visitors weren't in the import business, but they find the wine market highly interesting so they proposed to us that they will be our representatives in India. None of them had a licence to import wine, nor did they know anything about the subject.
But we weren't disappointed, because it was exactly like our experience in Japan, where we now have consolidated a distribution network over the past two years. According to what I've seen in Delhi, I guess India will follow the same steps in wine imports as Japan:
- In 2000, you could hardly find a sommelier in Japan; in 2005, many experienced sommeliers came to our booth at Foodex demanding Tempranillo from Extremadura, showing a deep knowledge of the wine industry in Spain.
- In 2000, we didn't receive a single visit from wine shops; in 2005, the same wine shops represented the highest number of attendees and it was a great deal for our importers.
- In 2000, the few Japanese wine importers dealt only with French or Italian wines; in 2005, the demand for wines from other countries, mainly the New World and Spain, had multiplied ten times!
We're persuaded by the positive 'buzz' about the wine culture in India that the growing interest will get transformed into real export opportunities for us in the very near future. The Olive restaurant, for instance, has become the most successful high-profile restaurant in Delhi, with informed waiters and an impressive wine list. You pay far more for wines than for food in India, yet people keep on demanding wines from Spain and the New World.
I guess it's not an isolated experience. You'll find many similar examples in Mumbai and Chennai and of course Goa, where international tourists have been clamouring for quality foreign wines for some years now. Olive is an example of what can be expected from the Indian market in the coming years. Our faith was reinforced by the turnout of F&B professionals and important players in the wine business at the two workshops organised by the Indian Wine Academy at IFE-India 2005. These were the most rewarding wine events at the fair. The wine appreciation workshop especially helped the participating producers/importers from France, Spain, Germany, UK and the US share details of their wine regions and portfolios with the attendees, who represented the new generation of F&B professionals and can become our potential brand ambassadors. The opening workshop on the Indian wine market was a reality check for us -- it helped us gain rare insights into the Indian wine culture and the roadblocks ahead.
So, we came back with a happy feeling from IFE-India 2005. We got good information on the market that we believe will grow and some contacts may be important within the next 3-5 years, when India will definitely become a significant wine export destination. www.indianwineacademy.com
-- The writer is the Export Director of Vina Santa Marina, a company based in the relatively young Spanish DO, Ribera del Guadiana in Extremadura