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Delhi Wine Club
Paolo Cuccia of Gambero Rosso

Posted: Wednesday, 15 December 2010 15:11

Paolo Cuccia of Gambero Rosso

The new owner and CEO of Gambero Rosso, Paolo Cuccia was in Delhi for a day on his way to Hong Kong where he was invited to attend a grand dinner with the wines from over sixty Italian producers, awarded Tre Bicchieri , the highest honour from the famous and well respected Italian wine guide. Subhash Arora spent a considerable amount of time with him during his stay in Delhi and had an exclusive chat with him.

Photos By:: Adil Arora

A civil engineer with an MBA and working for 30 years as a banker-the last assignment being with ABN Amro bank as a corporate VP until it was taken over by Royal Bank of Scotland, Paolo Cuccia was drawn into wine because of his passion. I found an instant connect when I met him at the Italian embassy, barely a few hours after his plane had landed in Delhi. The hour- long meeting extended into a visit to the ongoing wine-show that did not impress him much but gave us plenty of time to talk that continued on to the hotel, until the jetlag and lack of sleep caught up with him and we promised to continue later in Rome or Delhi.

Paolo is the new owner of Gambero Rosso-a 24-year old mini media empire that started with the wine guide Gambero Rosso that awards one, two or three ‘Bicchieri’ to wines depending on quality. It specializes in food, wine, travel and lifestyle and has several magazines, online programmes, a TV show and has signed the rights for Masterchef Australia for Italy. Tre Forchette (Restaurant Guide Awards), ‘Bere Bene’ (low cost award winning wines) are only a couple of the well-known initiatives that have now taken the route of podcasts and iTunes. IPad and IPod applications now have made the accessibility a lot easier for their print media in the electronic space.

He is in fact not as new as CEO as it sounds-he took over control of the enterprise almost a year ago. He had been increasing his investments gradually over the years. He is also not the complete owner as he has some journalists as the minority partners. But he is a hands-on kind of a person. ‘This is the first time the CEO of Gambero Rosso has ever visited India,’ he says, adding, ‘India is a growing market-a strongly emerging market and one cannot ignore it.’ The visit was a preliminary one to meet as many players as possible during his short stay in Delhi followed by a 2-day sojourn with his wife in  Mumbai before flying out to Hong Kong for the gala event on December 10. 

‘Over 20,000 wines are tasted throughout Italy and now also Switzerland and Slavonia, with about 400 getting the coveted Tre Bicchieri’, he says. Of course, being of top quality they tend to be expensive too.’ Ca’del Bosco (Zonin), Marchesi di Barolo, Pio Cesar, Fontanafredda, Banfi, Antinori, Felsina, Mazzei, Zenato are just a few of the labels besides the iconic Gaja which have earned the Tre Bicchieri and are also present in the Indian market.

Not all Tre Bicchieri are unaffordable, says Paolo. Whereas over 400 wines or so wine the top honours, we do publish a list of such wines which sell for under €15; this year there were 52 such wines. As may be expected, out of the 52 wines listed in this category this year, 36 are white wines.

‘Gambero Rosso competes with l’Espresso for the major share of Italian wine guides which are ever growing in number. Whereas l’Espresso is big in size, we have a niche market. Veronelli used to be a very serious and successful guide till Luigi Veronelli who was really the father of Italian Guides, was alive,’ opines Paolo. After his death in 2004, apparently Veronelli has lost much of its steam. ‘I do believe we sell more copies of our wine guide than any of our competitors,’ claims Paolo.

Cuccia and Gambero Rosso appear very upbeat about India. He says, ‘we welcome the other cultural experience and India is the key. Italians love Indian food. Indians love to visit Italy- I believe after UK, that’s the most favourite destination. I believe we can work together here.’

This might have been the first-a flying visit to India but Paolo left one in no doubt that he will be back in India soon and we shall see more of Gambero Rosso and Tre Bicchieri and many of their products in India.

Subhash Arora  

Tre Bicchieri under € 15


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