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Delhi Wine Club
TASTE of Wines from Ubi FRANCE

Posted: Tuesday, 08 February 2011 11:42

TASTE of Wines from Ubi FRANCE

The second edition of TASTE 2011, the wine and food show held recently in Mumbai had a dominance of wines from France organised by UbiFrance although there was presence  from countries like Italy, South Africa, Central Europe, Slovenia, Australia and a couple of  wineries from India as well, writes Subhash Arora who tasted several  wines extensively during January 27-29.

Click For Large ViewFrench wine industry seems to have suddenly woken up a couple of years ago, to the fact that their antennas might have been in the wrong direction. With China and countries around it in Asia booming, they have started focusing on this market. India is a part of their newly defined strategy-at least so it seems from their increase presence at such shows and similar events.

Thanks to UbiFrance, the French export body for international business development- call it French Trade Commission, if you will, the smaller and lesser known wineries also get an opportunity to try and crack the Indian market.

That all of them would get a foothold in the Indian market would be a fantasy because of the size of the market and complex regulations; it would be easier with simpler and cheaper registration procedures. But producers from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace, Loire Valley, Champagne, South and South-West of France (in fact Jura was the only region that seemed to be missing) presented wines some of which were a great find at different price levels that could be attractive to discerning hotels as also retail and a bonanza for the consumers, when available.

Click For Large ViewBesides another French producer Ch Saint Jacques de Albas whose wines are being imported by a new importer in Delhi, De Vine, there were two producers- Steyer and Santomas from Slovenia with some very exciting wines as also a highly motivated Vindia from Slovakia representing Central European wineries from Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Olive oils and other food products dominated the Italian stands but the wines were not very inspiring except perhaps Gulfi. South African wines were constantly being poured by a WOSA representative pouring a variety of wines from several producers and seemed to draw multitudes of tasters, because of the excellent location of the stand.

Crete’s Co had hundreds of food items and a few wines made from indigenous grapes as well, giving the outlook of a small kirana store in the Greek island of Crete. Canada also had a prominent location and presence for food products due to the size of the stand and live food demos.

There was an interesting Australian boutique winery Dizzy International which is co-owned by Thomas K Hardy, one of the descendents of the famous Hardy whose Hardy’s label is being imported by Sula for years. The iconic Dizzy Collection 201 is named after the partner, a well known Australian bowler Jason Gillespie who scored 201 runs against Bangladesh when sent as a night watchman, thus recording the highest score by a night watchman. 

Unfortunately, attendance from the trade was rather dismal, though quite a few first-time exhibitors were satisfied with the response. The perennial problem of importers not showing enough interest in tasting wines from different countries or vintages made it  tough in a country of seven wine importers and-a-half.

However, it was heartening to see the likes of Jackie Matai and Sumedh S Mandla of Aspri Wines and Spirits, Dharti Desai and Craig Wedge of FWM and Vishal Kadakia from the Wine Park, enthusiastically tasting wines at various stalls. Ranjit Gupta from Amfora had made an effort to fly to Mumbai to meet his potential Sicilian principal, Gulfi Estates-one of whose Nero d’Avola had won the ‘Best Red Wine’ award at the India Wine Challenge last year.

There was an interesting trade tasting organised by Chateau Les Bertrands- a 9th generation producer from Blaye Cotes de Bordeaux at the Prego Restaurant in the nearby Westin Hotel one evening. The tasting was blind in the sense that the guests were not given the prices of 6-7 wines while tasting. It was a pleasant surprise to know at the end that the higher end wines cost a fraction of what most estimated- signifying they have great value-for-money Bordeaux blends.

There were no customs problems like last year though it was incomprehensible why the excise department would not allow sample bottles to be taken out by trade. All the bottles have had taxes paid before being allowed (in contrast to Singapore where a limited quantity of each label is now allowed daily, free of taxes at such shows).

Perhaps, our officials still do not appreciate that wines need to be tasted and sampled before purchasing.  Producers were seen requesting the small number of importers and the potential customers to take a bottle or two of their wines for tasting. But the security did not allow anyone to take out a single bottle, at least till the time I left the place in the afternoon of the final day, left me wondering about the fate of the duty-paid bottles left unopened!

Perhaps time is ripe that a limited number of wine lovers should also be now allowed on the last day to taste the wines. The producers may not at first relish the idea but these people are the consumers and could give a direct feedback to the exhibitors. Of course, the modus operandi acceptable to organisers, exhibitors and the excise officials would need to be devised. Suffice it to say that in several international shows like Vinitaly, Hong Kong and Singapore, this is a common practice.  

TASTE was first organised in 2009 as India international wine and food show at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. Last edition saw not only its new avatar and the change of venue to the current one at Goregaon, but the previous edition in 2010 also had the third edition of the Indian Wine Challenge at this venue. This year the competition was however cancelled due to lack of enough interest shown by the foreign producers.

While Delhi does not have any location problems, Mumbai is riddled with the North and South Divide due to chaotic traffic. Many local visitors quizzed, about the reason for seemingly lukewarm presence felt that the location was unsuitable for the South Mumbai residents; the same logic would apply if the location were to be shifted there.

Lack of enthusiasm by the Indian producers was also visible, with the presence of only two wine producers- Good Earth and Nine Hills. Understandably, the producers may not feel the need for participation since they already have the distribution system in place but retail and hotel trade is present in big numbers along with trade journalists. It is important to have the new vintages tasted and quality improvements demonstrated in the liquid in the glass.

Nine Hills is a good example; every Show they participate in, there are a few positive surprises in the tasting glass. Perhaps the Indian Grape Processing Board can negotiate special rates with the organisers of such shows and offer the participation to the local producers at throw away prices; this is bound to help the domestic producers, especially the newer and smaller ones.

It is important for the industry to realise that the success of such shows is important in expanding wine culture and subsequent business. More than the formal educational courses and the training programs conducted for the hotels, the wine staff gets a much better exposure to wine on a one-to-one basis interaction with several producers. All these visitors might not be decision makers but they are gradually inching up to that position in the fast changing hospitality industry and are wine sellers at various levels.

Response at the IFDE 2010 in December in Delhi was dismal. Taste 2011 was better attended but just so and only time will tell whether the shows need a relook at the location, style of display and tastings or outright structural changes. In the meanwhile, the wine producers from UbiFrance and other participants would have hopefully had a satisfactory experience.

Subhash Arora

List of UbiFrance Exhibitors          Gallery Ubi FRANCE



Sidd Banerji Says:

The newsletter probably needs to flash national/international forthcoming events more prominently. Many events are read,rather attended.I am sure you shall assist.

Posted @ February 11, 2011 11:26


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