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Lambrusco-Perfect Grape for Difficult Indian Market

Posted: Saturday, 23 November 2013 11:44

Lambrusco-Perfect Grape for Difficult Indian Market

Nov 23: Emilia-Romagna’s prime grape Lambrusco is a true gem with its 60 clones producing a variety of wines favoured by not only Italians but also wine drinkers all over the world. However, even though key Lambrusco producers are keen to see their high-quality wines in India, their wines are yet to make real inroads into the Indian market. During Grasparossa 2013 (Oct 19-21) in Italy, delWine Correspondent Rishi Vohra CSW explored why India is such a perfect yet difficult market for Lambrusco.

Click For Large ViewAs a wine, Lambrusco offers the best of both worlds.  Made primarily from the red grape of the same name, the wines offer the bouquet and aroma of a still wine pairing it perfectly with a variety of cuisines, including Indian food.  On the other hand, it offers the fizz of a sparkling wine making it a perfect aperitif to start the evening. There’s no doubt that its perfumed notes, berry flavours, and heady aromas, would make it a class apart from its counterparts in India.

However, even though Lambrusco has found favour in world markets such as the U.S., UK, Russia, Japan, Brazil, among others, it has yet to make its mark on Indian palates. And the main reason is not only in the stringent importing legislations of foreign wines into the country.  It also lies in lack of sufficient promotions, which is essential to woo wine drinkers into tasting this wine.  Word of mouth kicks in later.

Sachin Singh, Director of NBD Spirits (India) understands its potential in India and was actively scouting for Lambrusco wines at Grasparossa 2013 in Modena.  He believes that a significant investment both in time and money has to be made by wine companies looking to gain a foothold in India.  He says, “At this stage, Lambrusco needs to be looked upon as an investment by the wine companies looking to export to India.  It’s a 2-3 year process. These companies don’t see return on investment from India in the near future.  As importers, we need investment from these companies in terms of wine dinners, tasting events etc.  If they don’t sponsor these events, it becomes difficult for importers to push the product further.”

Click For Large ViewOn being asked as to how he is selecting Lambrusco for his portfolio of wines in India, he says, “Because of the high import duty (150%), anything over 5 euros will make it only to 5-star hotels, not retail.  And F&B managers of these hotels look for international award winners and promotions.  Chiarli and Reunite & CIV are big brands producing Lambrusco who have these promotional materials, and can invest in a variety of other such activities.”

Cantine Reunite & CIV is perhaps the only company exporting Lambrusco to India through Aspri Spirits, around 20,000 bottles a year.  Export Manager Gian Paolo Gavioli has been to India several times and has now, chalked out a new strategy for India.  He says, “We plan to spend more time and efforts on India.  This means not only visiting India more but also conducting wine tastings, making Indian wine drinkers aware of the product, what we can offer, and providing information on how it pairs well with Indian food.”  In fact, Gavioli already has a trip on the cards for India next year.

Nino Visco, Direttore Commerciale – Cantine Reunite & CIV, was in India for Vinitaly eight years back.  He observed that Lambrusco was highly favourited by many Indian wine drinkers during the wine tastings.  He says, “The taxation is high which makes business very hard.  That and the label registration charges that we have to pay, have made it difficult for us to monetize our presence in India.”  However, Visco is being patient and knows that Lambrusco is bound to find universal appeal among Indian wine drinkers with time.  He adds, “India is a good opportunity.  Our wine is low in alcohol with a lot of culture attached to it.  With further awareness and education, people will understand not only its uniqueness in terms of quality and taste, but also health benefits.”

Click For Large ViewMichele Shah, wine consultant and one of the key forces behind Grasparossa 2013, reports:-‘Aspri Spirits in India has been importing Riunite Lambrusco over the last three years and is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  According to Arun Kumar, CEO of Aspri, the first years are generally difficult for all wines in India, still considered an emerging market.   Kumar explains that the geographical size and the complexities of legislation in India make the width and depth of distribution a challenge.  On the other hand consumers who have tasted Lambrusco and are repeating purchase, is testimony to the product being well received. The price, quality and product ratios are in line and will entice the customer to buy.  He says, “The category is still in the development stage and a lot of effort needs to be made with regard to education and tasting of the product in order to see a positive development of Lambrusco in the market.  We think Lambrusco is a good match not only to Indian cuisine which has a good mix of spices, but also to the Indian climate and the consumption habits of the Indian consumer who doesn’t necessarily pair wine with food but also consumes the product on it's own.”

Thomas Grootvaeldt (Export Manager of Emilia-Romagna’s oldest winery Chiarli and prime producer of Lambrusco) is also optimistic.  He says, “We established contact with India during the London Wine Fair a few years ago but things didn’t go further.  I feel that our dry Lambrusco would be perfect with Indian food and believe in the Indian market.”  During Grasparossa 2013, Sachin Singh of NBD, expressed an interest in importing some of Chiarli wines so India may see some of these wines sometime next year.

As of now, the custom duty on wines and spirits is 150%.  However, during the signing of the Free Trade Agreement with the European Union, India had apparently offered to slash down these duties to 40%.  Cavaliere Subhash Arora, President of Indian Wine Academy, has been advocating for a cut in duties but feels that a reduction may not be such great news considering the devaluation of the Indian rupee.  He says "The costs of imported wines have gone up by over 20% during the last 3-4 years, making the imports more difficult, increasingly complex procedures notwithstanding. But during many of my tastings, novices and women have been thrilled by the slightly sweet and sparkling Lambrusco."

Click For Large ViewApart from the big Lambrusco producers Chiarli and Cantine Reunite & CIV, several boutique Lambrusco producers are keen to make a foray into the Indian market.  These include Fattoria Moretto, Ca Berti, Manicardi, among others.   

Indian importers and establishments serving wine will perhaps soon realize that Lambrusco could be the next big thing in India, if marketed and promoted well.  Among the sudden onslaught of sparkling wines in India, I believe Lambrusco could well position itself as a brand here with its versatility as both a still and sparkling wine.  After tasting innumerous Lambrusco wines during Grasparossa 2013 at Castelvetro di Modena, I have no doubt that Lambrusco could well make a mark on the Indian sparkling market.  But like everyone else eager too see Lambrusco on Indian wine lists all over, we have to be patient. 

Rishi Vohra, CSW

Rishi Vohra is the Mumbai Correspondent of delWine and is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) from the Society of Wine Educators - USA. He has done an MBA in Sustainable Business from San Francisco State University and a Masters Diploma in Environmental Law from WWF-India. His debut fiction novel, ‘Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai,’ is a bestseller and was recently awarded an honorable mention in the General Fiction category at the Hollywood Book Festival, and was the only book from India to be awarded at the festival. He can be contacted at



Malika Says:

Rishi, You will find Vin'Opera Lambrusco in Delhi and Gurgaon as well. It is being imported by Vinner Enoteca in India. Cheers! Malika

Posted @ November 29, 2013 13:11


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