Oct 28: A new importer VBev is born, fathered by Sumedh Singh Mandla, its founder CEO with a portfolio of high ended wines, spirits and beer with many of the wines being introduced in the Delhi market, making it interesting for the consumers getting a bigger choice where available, writes Subhash Arora who feels this will widen the thin pipe of importers a little bit and give an option of fine wines like M. Chapoutier, Zenato, Codorniu and Viña Pomal and also spirits like Dalmore, Jura and Stoli
Remember Sumedh Singh Mandla, ever smiling CEO of Grover Vineyards who had left Aspri Spirits and joined Grover Zampa Vineyards as COO after almost 5 years and quit on November 1 last year? It was Homecoming for him as he re-joined his previous company Aspri as the Division Head of the newly formed AWS Global, a new Vertical business initiated by them. He had a lot of fresh ideas and new vistas to be explored and last month he unveiled the new company as VBev which will also sell Wines and Spirits but work independently of Aspri.
‘VBev is a young, (less than a year old) and dynamic company engaged in the import, sales & marketing, distribution of International wines, spirits and beers. It was created last year by the Directors of Aspri Spirits and wines with a multifaceted vision to offer efficient service and tailor -made solutions for customers; organic growth to the brand partners and new solutions & concepts to the end consumer in the Indian subcontinent markets. It is fast developing its footprint across the Indian subcontinent’, says Sumedh Singh Mandla.
Although the purpose of starting a new company to import similar labels, is not clear to the naked eyes, it is to cover the width of the producers represented. In India an importer generally represents one producer to get exclusive rights. This also obliges him not to market the products of a competitor. This way his hands are not tied as the first producer does not mind if the second company takes on a competitor’s product, especially if the two importers are in effect operating independently and even competing in the market place with some wines.
This is in congruence with what Arun Kumar, Director Aspri had told delWine in November last year, ‘We have been planning expansion for the last year and a half to take the business in a new direction. After everything fell in place, we knew we had to have a person to lead the initiative, which would operate independently of Aspri, though owned by it. Sumedh was an integral part of our team earlier and had made invaluable contribution to the development of Aspri. When he moved from us to join Grover Zampa for widening his horizons and exposure we welcomed his decision and supported him. It is now a sort of homecoming for him and we are very happy that he is back in the Aspri family. It’s a challenging assignment and the person of Sumedh’s stature, is a perfect fit.’
The company was officially launched last month in Mumbai at a function that Arora also attended, and where the portfolio of wines, spirits and beer was shared amongst the audience. The Delhi market has been now opened also with Nadima Shaikh as the Regional Manager North. She shared the portfolio with delWine in detail and though not all these products are listed in Delhi, they are available in either Mumbai or Bangalore.
VBev operates across the Indian subcontinent – On-premise covering major star hotels, restaurants and clubs in India; off-premise that include premium supermarkets and stand- alone retail shops. Global Travel Retail i.e. duty free shops at airports and seaports in India and South Asia are also a target market. Besides India it also plans to engage with the domestic markets of Nepal, Sri Lanka and Maldives.
Wines of the World
VBev boasts representing some of the top wineries from France, Italy, Spain and Chile at the moment and will continue to expand the portfolio.
Ranked among the top is M. Chapoutier from the Rhone region that competes with the top Bordeaux wines in terms of popularity, quality and ageablity. Years ago it was represented by Fine WinesNMore where Sumedh was a partner. They have selected a few wines- from Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Crozes- Hermitage, Rhone , Rhone Village and Pays D’Oc. I love their CNP and Rhone.
Their Italian portfolio represents two producers from Veneto. Zenato participated in a wine exhibition first in around 2005 in India and is a top producer of Amarone in Valpolicella and other wines from the area around Verona. A member of the Family of Twelve, their Amarone is considered one of the best and is a welcome addition as is the Ripassa Valpolicella (also known as baby Amarone or Amarone on a budget). They also offer Soave Classico and Bardolino-a cheaper cousin of Valpolicella.
Santa Margherita has also been imported earlier into India by Amfora. It is well known for its Pinot Grigio and Prosecco, the ubiquitous bubbly without which no importer’s portfolio is considered complete. However, it is produced in Valdobbiadene and as such is a docg when most other monikers are doc made outside the Classico regions.
There are a few other variants on the cheaper side-like Torresella Prosecco doc extra dry, Torresella Pinot Grigio and Merlot. Villa Vistarenni Chianti docg completes the Tuscan presence, though not a Chianti Classico.
VBev has chosen to work with Codorniu- one of the top two Cava producers in Spain- the other being Freixenet already imported by Aspri Spirits and Wines. Besides their Classico Cava, they are also importing two wines from one of its wineries in Rioja- Viña Pomal- a Reserva and a Crianza. Incidentally, Pomal is one of the oldest wineries in Rioja and its 150 year old history is a testimonial.
Codorniu also owns a winery in Castilla- La- Mancha making good quality value-for-money wines. Two offerings from Veranza – Veranza Blanco (an interesting blend of Airen, Muscat and Chardonnay) and a Veranza Tinto (Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon) offer softer and fruitier wines at lower costs.
Chile has two wineries in their portfolio- Ventisquero Classico and slightly better quality Reserva. Monte Paćifico is a winery between Mountains (Monte) and Pacific (Paćifico) and should have interesting varietal wines- only a white Chardonnay and a red Merlot are being imported.
As Sumedh says, this is just the beginning and they will be adding more to their wine portfolio. So does it mean they would be competing with Aspri as many of the products are directly competitive? Absolutely, says Nadima Shaikh. ‘Our directive is to compete with any wine in the market independent of the importer- although the portfolio has some high quality brand which will have their in-built problem of high prices escalated by higher taxes to contend with’ she says. The cheaper wines like Codorniu will see a competition with Freixenet, for sure. Thus Consumer is the net winner. Both of them makes some excellent top level Cavas- Cava de Paraje Calificado that might not be imported for years yet.
Besides wine, the emphasis is also to add spirits and beer (perhaps more than wines). The Dalmore, Jura and John Barr are the prestigious labels for single malts and whisky whereas SPI group sells Stoli, Our /Vodka from Berlin, Amsterdam and London thru VBev. There is also a range of beers at the tail of their portfolio from Magners of Scotland.
VBev is a welcome addition to the importers’ family. They are sure to climb to the Top Ten of Indian Wine Academy within a few years. However, they may not find the going easy due to the competition but the combined experience of over 70 years between the top three of the group should stand in good stead to increase their market share. Hopefully, it will also expand the market in the process.
In Delhi, the wines will be distributed by A L S. For any details, you may contact Sumedh Singh Mandla at email@example.com or check out their website vbev.co.in which could not be opened despite several attempts so far.
For earlier related Articles, you may visit:
Wine India Moves: Homecoming for Sumedh Mandla at ASPRI
Wine India Moves: Sumedh Singh Mandla calls it a day at Grover Zampa
Magnificent Seven Station District of Haro Wineries in Rioja