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Delhi Wine Club
Moet Chandon introducing cousin Mohit Chander

Posted: Monday, 07 February 2011 17:11

Moet Chandon introducing cousin Mohit Chander

LVMH owned Moet Hennessey India, the importer of Moet Chandon Champagne plans to produce in Nashik a  premium version of the French bubbly that might be christened as Mohit Chander (MC), writes Subhash Arora who believes  the nick name will be Chandon as in the other non-French countries where the big daddy of Champagnes  already produces sparklers under this label.

Photo By:: Adil Arora

The first harvest of grapes for the Indian avatar is already under crush. They will be purchased and vinified at the Nashik-based York Winery under Moet’s own specification, till the company builds its own winery. The first lot of Chenin Blanc is already under vinification. Two variants- Brut and Rose Brut likely to be christened as Chandon are expected to be released after August 2012, closer to Diwali.

Although sales price is not announced yet, a member of the project team indicated to delWine that it will be somewhere between the current prices of  India sparkling wines like Sula, Zampa and Vinsura Brut etc. and Moet Chandon Brut. It may be estimated to be between Rs.1500-2000 a bottle.

Jim White and Tim Heath, Australian viticulturist and winemaker currently based in Marlborough, working for Cloudy Bay Vineyards owned by the Moet Hennessy group making quality champagne-styled bubbly, are already in Nashik along with Dr. Tony Jordan who has been the CEO of different Moet Hennessy group wineries like Cape Mantel and Cloudy Bay and is currently their consultant for the project. Bruno Yvon, Managing Director of Moet Hennessey in India is also stationed in Nashik for the last few days.

Jim told delWine in an exclusive chat that he would be going back and forth till April after which he would spend more time in India to keep the grape quality at the highest possible level. Heath will continue to be here till August looking after the wine making. Although Chardonnay will be in small proportion in the first release which will be mostly Chenin, he hopes they would be able to increase the share of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes to about 30%.

The viticulture as well as winemaking will thus be directly under the control of the team from Australia though the resident viticulturist and winemaker are already in place.

When told that these two were some of the most difficult varietals to grow in this region in the past, Jim opined that the grape quality appeared to be quite acceptable for the base wine for the sparklers. He has visited about 40 vineyards during the last one week, he says, before making the conclusion.

Although the quantity and the date of release are not known yet, Ravi Gurnani of York winery which has been engaged to process the grapes for the next two years has been given the impression that over 100,000 bottles are to be produced in the first year. The empties and other accessories are to be imported from France.

Although, he does not yet own the equipment for secondary formation and finishing the sparkling wine, Ravi expects it to arrive on time to meet the delivery targets. Encouraged by the processing contract, he has also decided to produce sparkling wine for his own label, although at a much smaller level.

Skeptics may poop-pooh the idea of selling Indian sparkling wine at such high prices; most imported Crémants (non-Champagne French sparkling wine) retail in this range. But the company is apparently confident that once the wine is released and the price announced, they will be able to sell the entire quantity on the strength of their Brand and the high quality.

The parent company is already producing and successfully selling sparkling wine in USA, Australia and Brazil etc. under the Chandon label even though their Champagne is also being marketed aggressively in these countries.

True to the French tradition and in particular the policy of this company, Bruno like his predecessor Ashwin Deo, was hesitant to share any information about the quantity of Champagne being currently sold in India (as this might perhaps be considered the equivalent of an Indian government minister drinking wine in public), but they are miles ahead of their competitors in India and by industry estimates, sell about 18,000-22,000 (9-liter) cases including those sold for Sunday brunches to 5-star hotels which serve unlimited Champagne at practically no extra cost.

No matter what the price is set for the Chandon and how much they sell, arrival of Moet & Chandon on the Indian wine scene is a positive sign for the Indian wine story as it shows their confidence in the future and must be based on market surveys. It may even help change the trend in the wine consumption in India for the sparkling wine which for inexplicable reasons, has not been keeping in tune with the growth of wine consumption in India or the rest of the world.

Subhash Arora  



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