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Chenab Impex: Rising Star in Wine Imports

Posted: Wednesday, 30 March 2016 18:45


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Chenab Impex: Rising Star in Wine Imports

March 30: Many wine importers in India have been in the liquor business earlier, but it is seldom that a well-heeled food importer like Chenab Impex Pvt Ltd. owned by Anil Chandhok, a Chemical Engineer from IIT Bombay, enters wine imports and with an expanding portfolio hopes to become a star in the wine business too, writes Subhash Arora who thinks that he is driven enough and well equipped to forge ahead in the wine business although he may eventually need to establish a good pan India distribution network

I had first come across Chenab Impex as a food importer in 2009 when Sopexa had organised the 6th edition of Aperitif à la Française at the Novotel Mumbai Juhu Beach Hotel, showcasing a grand selection of French agro food products. Chenab had then showcased wild forest mushrooms, olives and red berries.

I was surprised when Anil Chandhok, CEO and President of  Chenab Impex Pvt Ltd, wrote to me a couple of months ago and told me had also entered the wine imports business last year and that he had been awarded ‘Chevalier de l'order de merite agricole 2015’ in recognition of his efforts to promote premium French fine foods in India. As a Chemical Engineer from IIT Bombay and with experience of food imports since 2002, I knew that he had what it takes to become a Star in the wine business.

Starting the food business

From IIT Mumbai to the wine import business has been a fascinating journey for Anil Chandhok. He started a software consultancy in 1987 that meant numerous travels overseas and of course, enjoying fine foods.
When he made a decision to focus on the domestic market, he realised he would miss out on his culinary adventures abroad. He realized that there must be others like him who would love to indulge their palates with authentic global cuisine, without having to step out of the country. Once a passion, food became an excellent profession for Anil as he started the food import and distribution business.

We started by importing Spanish olives, and over the years have built the business to represent more than 70 leading international food companies from France, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Thailand, UK and USA. Today, our customers include luxury hotels, fine restaurants, gourmet stores and modern retail chains,’ says Anil.

Foray into wines

I was first introduced to wines in the late 1970s, with domestic wines of no discernible quality. During my travels later I learnt to really appreciate and enjoy wines and learn about them. Developing my food business has brought me in contact with some exceptional wines, he says. He branched out into wine imports last year and says that his foray has been already well appreciated.

 Modest but Interesting Portfolio

At present Chenab Impex has only 11 labels in its portfolio with wines from Spain, Italy, France, Greece and Chile. An interesting thing about his Portfolio is that none of his wines have the same grapes. So if you buy his complete Portfolio, it would have 11 grape varietals from 5 countries. Here is a list of his wines:

·         FINCA VIEJA-Tempranillo & Airen from La Mancha, Spain
·         SIRENTE- Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, from Abruzzi, Italy
·         LES TROIS COURONNES A leading AOC Cotes du Rhone, France
·         CAVINO-Agiorgitiko and Xinomavro reds from Greece
·         MANCURA ETNIA- Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmanere, Merlot varietals and a blended Rose from Central Valley, Chile

Work-in Progress

Understandably, he says this is pretty much a 'work-in-progress' as he is keen to add other varietals and origins too. ‘We would like to offer our customers an opportunity to explore lesser known wines from origins rarely available, as we have done with our Greek wines. We plan to increase our range, and cover many of the leading wine regions and styles –including sparkling wines. We propose to cover a wide spectrum of young as well age-worthy wines and even matured wines. We will also cover all the major grape varietals in our portfolio,’ he says. Realizing the diversity of tastes in India with palates still evolving, he also plans to offer both dry and sweet wines. 

‘Our focus is on working directly with reputed wineries with attached vineyards, offering affordable quality for the Indian consumer.’ All their imports from European origins are AOC, IGP or DOP for authenticity.

Anil is particularly proud of his Greek portfolio. ‘Our Greek wines are no doubt exceptional and the Cavino winery regularly wins many awards for their different labels. We are importing a red wine from Naousa from Macedonia in the north, made from Xinomavro-the most predominant Greek grape. Cavino Nemea is a red wine made from Agiorgitiko grape variety in the Nemea region. We will add to this range as we go along. In fact this is exactly what we want to do – bring in good, but relatively unknown wines and grape varietals at affordable price points and delight the consumer.’

Astute Policy

Anil Chandhok appears to be an astute businessman. ‘The Spanish wine is quite nice and we started with the import of that wine. The Italian is from a cooperative and we liked the wine. We also liked a Trebbiano from the same source but as you know, whites are not moving as well as Reds in India and so we have postponed the imports for the white wines.

The Chilean range sort of completes the assortment from Chile for the moment and also provides a nice alternative at affordable cost to consumers for well known grape varietals. Our range also has a single varietal Carmenere, considered the flagship grape of Chile.

Don’t forget my Cotes Du Rhone! It’s the largest selling AOC wine in France. We are working on some more French wines – Bordeaux and Loire Valley for instance,’ he says.

As in food, their effort is to offer wines with authentic taste and a wide variety of origins, grapes and production techniques. Anil has kept in mind that the average Indian wine drinker is price conscious and not very knowledgeable yet. ‘This makes it our responsibility to make available to the consumer affordable yet good quality wines of a wide variety to enable him to develop his palate,’ says Anil.

‘Our main focus is to find suitable supply partners who will prove to be reliable in terms of quality and supply. We appreciate the effort and resource intensive nature of this endeavor, but we hope that by doing this we will be broadening the market and attracting new consumers,’ he adds. His Greek wine import is one such example.

Chenab Impex plans to increase their distribution coverage within India, expanding to Pune, Goa and Bengaluru in the next few months. ‘So many wines! So much to do! It’s very exciting. We are running promotions and tastings, recently in a food show, IHM Dadar, and a leading Club, says Anil Chandhok, the new star on the horizon in wine imports.

Subhash Arora

Tags: Chenab Impex Pvt Ltd, Anil Chandhok, Sopexa, Aperitif à la Française, Chevalier de l'order de merite agricole 2015, Cavino, Xinomavro, Cavino Nemea, Agiorgitiko, Carmenere, Cotes Du Rhone

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