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Delhi Wine Club
Tale of the Trail for Yellow Tail

Posted: Tuesday, 12 October 2010 13:53

Tale of the Trail for Yellow Tail

A query from a reader from Lucknow, who loves the flavour of the ubiquitous Yellow Tail from Australia, asking where she could find it in Delhi set me on a trail which took me to several wine shops in Delhi and Gurgaon, arriving at the conclusion that it is available for as low as Rs. 700 at which price it is recommended to the novices and those looking for a branded product at an unbranded price.

Photos By:: Adil Arora

‘Yellow Tail is the most important brand in our portfolio. It is available at Chittaranjan Suri or Ashok Gulrajani in Delhi (approx 1300 per bottle). However Gurgaon will be a cheaper option (approx 900) and is available at Spencer’s, SRS, and Galleria etc. Our distributor is Veekay & Co who could also get it delivered. Jatin Virmani’s number is 9711300000,’ says Farhad Bhabha, MD of the importing firm, Berkmann Cellar India.

The substantial difference in price of around 45% could be explained by the difference in excise duties between Delhi and Haryana where there is none except the annual cost of the wholesale and retail licenses- Delhi has an excise duty of 30% on the MRP, if less than Rs.2000.

Concerned with the huge difference, I drove to Gurgaon on the trail. A firm believer in the organised retail being the future of wine consumption, as compared to the hotels which charge up to 500-600% margins on the duty free prices because of their high annual license costs and even higher fixed expenses, I headed to Reliance in the DT Mall, Gurgaon where I spotted a small corner with a reasonable number of wines.

Many readers would be surprised because I was told categorically that Reliance which had started selling wine last year had discontinued wine sales a few months ago. I was intrigued and piqued, so it was a relief to see it operational with an air-conditioner succeeding to keep the wine bottles alive.

The salesman quoted me Rs.900 for a bottle of the Tail, but the sticker indicated Rs.800. He was magnanimous enough to admit the error but told me that in any case the bar code reader would read 800 even if there were no prices mentioned on the bottle, alleviating my fear that the salesmen could charge more according to what the traffic might bear. He was also candid enough to admit that the shop had been earlier consigned to another vendor who had not renewed the license. The present vendors renewed the license and the shop had been opened only for a month.

This was quite a rude shock. Mumbai is also full of department stores leasing out the space and thus outsourcing the sale, but I have been shutting my eyes hoping that chains like Reliance would directly sell wines and increase the portfolio to high volumes, bring the costs down and pass the advantage to the consumer- making wines cheaper, even through with private labels. Till the utopian state is achieved, it appears one would continue to see wholesalers running small shops on a rental/consignment basis.

A good business proposition perhaps for the interim period, the Yellow Tail was offered to me at 10% discount on a case basis by Vipin Goyal, partner of Wine Hub. He runs several such shops in Gurgaon including the one at Reliance. Presumably, if the quantity is larger for a party, or for regular customers, Vipin could be more flexible and  could sell at Rs.700- a decent price at which it is worth recommending the wine.

I drove back to Delhi and went to the Greater Kailash-II retail Shop being run by Suri. I was shocked to know the price of the Yellow Tail- hold your breath- Rs.1485-more than twice in Gurgaon! I wonder if it was because he pays higher rent at the new location in the Savitri complex with a better location or because DSIDC which I had recommended three years ago as it was the first air-conditioned shop in Delhi, has moved away to the DLF Mall Saket. However, no rebates are allowed in Delhi and the prices are pre-announced and fixed with the excise department at the beginning of the year and cannot change, so what gives?!

But I decided to dash across to Saket Malls to check out the DSIDC shop-yes, a few shops have been given the license L-56 this year to sell wine in the shopping Malls. Select City Mall has recently added ‘House of Spirits’, where there were more spirits than wines. When I asked for a Yellow Tail, I was told by the salesman who will opefully be a knowledgeable sommelier one day in the utopian future that they had placed the order with the distributor and would soon have it in stock-after all they were opened only a month ago!

I walked over to the adjoining DLF Mall, where DSIDC moved in about 6 months ago-again taking the lead with L-56. Not only did I hear the sob story of very poor business with no customers except on the week-ends, I was told that the Yellow Tail  had not been registered this year and that Suri was perhaps selling his the old stock- a confusing explanation as any importer would tell you, one cannot sell even one bottle of imported wine without registering the label in that fiscal year.

Although I was and am convinced that the price is ridiculously high in Delhi, I was tempted to visit the nearby Nature’s Basket in Defence colony which opened around 6 months ago- and has been awaiting the retail license L-53 ever since the scheme was announced and the staff has been religiously and faithfully informing me that it would start selling wines in a couple of weeks. Their latest flyer which I found in my mail box indicated wine and beer were now available. It read, ‘ Perhaps this would be Delhi’s finest collection of wines from France, Italy, Australia, South Africa, US, Chile Argentina and India, stored in the most celebrated wine cellar in town.’

The flyer exhorted that I ‘must try’ Amarone della Valpolicella, Moet et Chandon, Chateauneuf-du Pape etc. Minor errors like ‘dela’ and ‘De’ in the listing could be certainly excused as typos but the fact that they don’t have a license and yet are advertising in their catalogue costing  me an hour of futile exercise and a wasted trip borders on being a criminal offence.

I can recommend this fruity and reasonably priced export from Australia but what is Yellow Tail?  It is perhaps the biggest wine success story of Australia that defies logic. Many agree that the person who can come up with a plausible explanation of the unprecedented success deserves a PhD in wine. Climbing the brand wagon, it was named the most powerful Australian wine brand in the world in the Annual Power 100 report by British consultancy firm Intangible Business in May this year, It was also ranked number 4 in the overall global wine industry.

Click Here For large View
High Times by DSIDC at the DLF Mall, Saket
A brain child of the Casella family from Sicily going back to six generations of wine making the winery was founded in 1969 and did modest business till John Casella took over in 1993. Recognising the strength of the smaller kangaroo known as Yellow Tail- a symbol of Australia, he began export to the US only a decade ago. He has reached an annual export of 8 million cases- over 5 times the total wine consumption in India! With annual sales of more than 12 million cases globally, one would be hard pressed to criticize it for ‘cocacolisation’ of wine. The simple, quaffable wine is easy drinking with soft tannins and is technically well made.

At Rs.700 a bottle, buy a case from Goyal- call him at 9560400016- or Jatin Virmani. 
For our Lucknow reader, my advice would be to take the Metro to the MGF Mall- the vendor may offer to bring the wine to the station. One hitch though- more than 2 bottles cannot be legally carried across the border- for air travel the limit is 5 liters of alcohol!

‘I’d walk a mile for a Camel,’ was a very popular ad for a cigarette in the seventies. After driving a hundred miles over two days to get the Tale of the Trail for Yellow Trail-or as some might say-the Holy Grail, is perhaps not yet over.

Subhash Arora


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