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Delhi Wine Club
German Parliamentarians visit Indian Wine Academy

Posted: Wednesday, 06 February 2013 17:40

German Parliamentarians visit Indian Wine Academy

Feb 06: Sunday might be a day of rest for most but not for the visiting German delegation that included 8 Members of Parliament on a study tour of the agro industry in India and the day they landed, they chose to visit the residence of Subhash Arora, President of the Indian Wine Academy in the evening for an insight into the Indian wine industry, tasting through an array of wines provided by Sula, Four Seasons, Grover –Zampa and Fratelli, writes Subhash Arora

Photos By:: Adil Arora

Click For Large ViewI was surprised to receive a call a few weeks ago from the German Embassy. Sabine Raddatz , Counsellor –Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, informed me about the visit of an 8-member delegation of Members of Parliament (Mitglied des Deutschen Bundestages) on an agricultural tour including the wine industry. One of them had read my article on the Indian Wine Market in Meininger’s Wine Business International of which I have been the Indian Correspondence since it was founded around 6 years ago. They wanted to meet me personally and could I please find time to meet them at the ITC Maurya where they would be staying? No award for guessing my answer but it got interesting when she said they wanted to taste some Indian wines too. Of course, I said yes- all the producers are my friends and surely they would love to treat the foreign guests to a glass or twelve, of some decent, diverse Indian wines.

There was a small hitch- the hotel would not allow tasting of the wines even though they would be purchased from the licensed shop. Reason: the excise laws won’t allow it unless the wines were being purchased through the hotel. That would be lesson number one for the visitors even before starting the tour officially from Monday. Of course, the hotel could arrange a separate area but that would mean extra charges and perhaps getting a day-license from the excise department. Lesson no. 2- licensing restricted.

However, I instantly offered Sabine the hospitality at my house where we could chat in an informal atmosphere and make it a fun evening. After a few exchange of emails between India and Germany my invitation was accepted and we were set for the evening on their arrival in India, on February 3.

Click For Large ViewSelecting wines for tasting was not difficult- based on the ease of availability and my close direct contacts with the owners, it took only four calls to get the four producers come on board- Sula, Fratelli, Grover Zampa and Four Seasons-the last being the winery owned by Vijay Mallya’s UB group but the chief winemaker and business head of currently the second largest winery in India, Abhay Kewadkar knows that if there is a request or a proposal from Indian Wine Academy, there must be a significant benefit for the company; though in this case I had clarified that my main objective was to have the visiting Parliamentarians get a representative taste of decent Indian Wines-from Maharashtra to Karnataka.

What binds people from different political parties or bonds them?  In India, corruption unfortunately might be the first reaction coming to mind for most, though not necessarily correct. In case of Germany, it certainly seems to be wine. There were 8 members of Deutschen Bundestages in the group of 11 travelling in a coach- Prof. Dr. Erik Schweickert (who I learnt later, had been a fellow judge at MundusVini since 2009 but has to regret now because of his latest stint), Gabriele Groneberg, Heinz Paula, Dr. Max Lehmer, Mechthild Heil, Alois Gerig, Harald Ebner and Alexander Süssmair- and they belonged to five  different political parties ranging from the Left to the Right with a ‘Christian’ in the middle!

Rather than talking about the Indian industry, we chose to start the evening with wine tasting from the 4 wineries. Not only because Germany is a huge Sekt (sparkling wine) producing country but also since we produce delectable sparkling wines as well, we started with Grover Zampa Brut and the Pink Soiree (both have been made by Zampa but due to the recent merger, the labels have been changed to Grover Zampa). Earlier, I had told the producer to forget about these wines as they were not registered in Delhi. But I must compliment them that they purchased them in Chandigarh and transported to Delhi. It was a smart move-partly because the visitors had parched throats and partly as they are used to Sekt as a welcome drink, both the bottles were polished off even before the snacks could be properly served. The wines were highly appreciated by everyone- the Rose was declared a winner with strawberry aromas and the brioche flavours and persistent after-taste.

Click For Large ViewThe wines also provided a handle to illustrate the Indian laws further-every state has its own policy (though Germany to a great extent has similar problems as they are a Federal country- except that wine is a regular drink and treated as an alcohol, loaded with archaic laws). Since it is not registered this year (each label has to be registered every year against payment of Registration charges and a plethora of documents) in Delhi, it is not available and had been hand carried for the evening on the previous night.

That brought another question-whether it could be considered smuggling. The answer according to another set of laws meant no-it was not; each person can carry 2 bottles of wine or spirit each across the state borders. Since this was a private function it was legal but if it were held outside, the hotel could  have allowed it a few months earlier, in a designated section, provided a special 1-day license costing around Rs.3500 were procured from the excise department. But under the recent interpretation and directive of the excise department, the wines must be first brought to the hotel stores. This would mean the wine must be registered first and hence it could not have been supplied even for tasting like this.

By this time, it was a full-blown informal session; starting from whites- Sauvignon. Riesling, Chenin and Chardonnay  from the four producers , we proceeded to taste the two Rosés. Whites were generally liked by the visitors with Chardonnay from Fratelli edging out Sauvignon Blanc from Four Seasons because of its purity and lack of oak. However, they were not impressed much with the Rosé though a couple of them liked the Zinfandel and the California touch in them.

Click For Large ViewAs we went through the snacks and different wines, several questions kept on popping up, keeping the interpreter busy; some were technical, others related to marketing and the industry. They found it surprising that more red wine is consumed in India than white (60:40). They wanted to know the average salary of a worker in a winery in order to estimate the level of price that would be suitable for such consumers. I had to cut them short, es tut mir leid! and tell them that an average worker could neither afford a bottle of wine on a regular basis nor was he interested. His staple diet would be perhaps strong beer or country liquor or low-cost IMFL. When we talk of the Indian wine market we talk of the middle class earning from € 800- 4000 a month and this potential market of around 30 million out of the estimated and growing middle class of 300 -400 million is what made the foreign producers and Indian producers jump with excitement, the exorbitant import duties and unjust excise duties for German and other foreign wines notwithstanding.

There were mixed reaction to red wines. Grover La Reserva is seldom faulted but Dindori Reserve was the best red wine for the visitors-unanimously. It was very smooth and soft though a part of the reason could be that the top wine of Sula-Rasa and Sette from Fratelli, still needed time to evolve. Perhaps, they should have been decanted an hour or two before serving to draw the applause the deserve.

Click For Large ViewI had really hoped the Parliamentarians would get a taste of an affordable Indian dessert wine as I would serve the chilled Late Harvest Chenin Blanc from Sula as the last wine. But the jet-lag and the small personal spittoon I had kept, made them drink most of the wines and they would not believe my suggestion that as passengers they would not be asked to go through the breath analyzer test!  

Hopefully, the German Members of Parliament left with a good first impression about the Indian wines.

Subhash Arora

I acknowledge with thanks Sula, Four Seasons, Grover Zampa and Fratelli for the whole-hearted support they extended by providing the wines- editor



Sabine Raddatz Says:

Dear Subhash, I would like to thank you and your family very much for your hospitality, the interesting discussion and the opportunity to taste some Indian wines. The delegation was full of praise for this wonderful start of their visit to India, and declared that Delhi has certainly set a new standard in terms of welcoming them at the beginning of a trip. Warm regards, Sabine Raddatz, Counsellor - Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany

Posted @ Wednesday 13, 2013 13:28


Sidd Banerji Says:

Dear Subhash, Again a brilliant report on Germans 'invading' your privacy the other day. I as always enjoyed, learned and was educated. Thanks to your usual reporting style. Sidd Banerji

Posted @ Tuesday 12, 2013 16:38


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