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Delhi Wine Club
Sula Celebrates 15 years in Tropicale Style

Posted: Tuesday, 27 October 2015 13:05


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Sula Celebrates 15 years in Tropicale Style

Oct 27: With the first batch of Sauvignon and Chenin produced at the small winery on the family land in Nashik in 1999 and released in 2000, the leader Sula has completed 15 successful years in the wine industry, achieving several records with the latest being the grape brandy unit. They celebrated the milestone at the Asilo Lounge in Hotel St Regis where the guests also watched the launch of the latest sparkling wine Sula Brut Tropicale, writes Subhash Arora who was also present to join the celebration

Click For Large View‘When Rajeev Samant started making Sula wine in 1999 in Nashik, he would hardly have visualized being number one in a decade, especially because of well established players like Indage and Grover ruling the Indian market, but ironically he has been helped by both his competitors to reach the top spot," writes Subhash Arora

Of course, he is not willing to agree to our view that his ascent has been accelerated by the very competitors. Indage has buckled under the mountains of management and financial problems- at least for a while - and Grover Vineyards has had quality issues due to which its revenues nose-dived from Rs.230 million to Rs.130 million last year.

He does admit though that since there was a vacuum, Sula might have gained some. Last year when everyone else’s sales went down, he recorded a gain of around 10% over the previous year. 

Rajeev produced about 4000 cases from the 1999 vintage which he sold in Maharashtra-mainly in Mumbai.-going door to door, sampling his wines. Grover was the only wine which produced wines from the wine grape varietals but was known more for their red wines. Rajeev did a smart thing by producing white wines from Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc which were not only easier to produce but the high yielding Chenin gave off-dry (slightly sweet) wines which were lapped up by the wine novices.’

Those are the excerpts from an Article published on December 8 in delWine (Sula: From Zero to Hero in Ten Years)

After I had met and chatted with Rajeev Samant, the Founder CEO on November 30th in 2009 when Sula had celebrated the 10th anniversary in Delhi, he had not reacted kindly to the title of my Article till I explained to him that he had after all, started with Zero cases sales in 1999. Sula did 195,000 cases in 2008-9 and was planning to achieve the target of 250,000 cases- not a mean target considering no other producer (barring Indage who at the zenith claimed to have touched a million cases including the Click For Large Viewplethora of low-cost ‘Port’ wines). During the current year 2015-16, the company is targeting the sale of a million cases!

During the 10th year Sula became a Hero- the wine industry leader with the downfall of Indage. In the 15th year which Sula celebrated on Sunday evening with aplomb at the Asilo Lounge on the top floor of the plush St. Regis Hotel in Mumbai, the company has retained the leadership position with a wider margin. No one in their right senses would dream of edging past Sula for a long time-a situation perhaps even Rajeev did not perceive when he entered the market in 1999-2000. The company has also maintained the leadership position in exports with presence in around 30 countries. Today, he feels ‘lonely at the top’ and a trifle bored, as he tells me, since there is no real competition to make things exciting and challenging for him.

The Who’s who of Mumbai jet-set and industry were present in full strength. Half the time, he spent chatting with them-and the other half dragging some of the guests to the dance floor where the techno music handled deftly by a DJ kept making everyone swing to the beat. Also helping along were a number of wines and Brut bubbles from the stable and the newest arrival Sula Brut Tropicale-the newly launched limited edition Blanc de Noir version of the existing Sula Brut.

Sula Brut Tropicale

Sula took the opportunity to launch a limited edition of Sula Brut- called Sula Brut Tropicale which is termed as Blanc de Noir- in this case made from a majority of red wine grapes- Pinot Noir and Shiraz, the balance being white grapes. With a residual sugar of 11 gms., which feels like 6-8 gms/liter because of crisp acidity and freshness, the bubbly has a bigger body due to the presence of slight tannin and the red grapes. It has a tinge of pink because it’s made with longer skin contact with the juice.

What’s most impressive at the first look about the wine is the label-a 360˚coating of multi-coloured paisley design that is expected to be popular with people of all ages-especially women and younger drinkers. Priced at Rs. 1050 in the Mumbai marketing, it is perplexing because when I compared the two bubblies side by side, I found the Tropicale superior to the Brut in flavours and yet they are both priced at the same price point. Tropicale which has no tropical flavours per se, will soon be available in Delhi too.

Click For Large ViewIt appears that Sula is gearing up to take on Moet Hennessey who introduced Chandon sparkling wine two years ago and has had an immense success due to the aggressive pricing, marketing and the existing international branding advantage-not to mention its inherent strength and experience of making Champagne and other bubblies. The market since their entry has practically doubled but the benefits have been mostly cornered by the newcomer even though sales of Sula bubblies have remained steady. With only 6,500 cases produced for sale this fiscal year, Tropicale may be a test case for gauging the market reaction to see if they can increase the market share with the new release.

One factor that would go either way-for or against the label, is the colour. Though I loved it, one has to wait and watch the reaction by the consumers since it is not Rose and yet pink in colour. But presumably, Sula would have done some sort of a basic market survey to test the colours. All the same, the sparkler was a perfect match with the excellent seafood paella which should be prescribed as an ideal accompaniment for tasting with the sparkler.

It’s thanks to the dynamism and pro-active style of his working that Sula had come up earlier with a Revival Strategy for Sula Brut a couple of years ago shortly before Chandon was launched and reported in delWine. At that time they moved away from Thompson Seedless grapes and used more of Chenin Blanc, adding a bit of young Pinot Noir as well.

Janus Grape Brandy

Click For Large ViewAs you climbed up the stairs to the 38th floor of St Regis after coming out of the elevator at the 37th , to reach the happening and chic lounge Asilo, you were greeted by a road map on a wall at the landing , depicting Sula’s 15 years. Apparently, the seeds of Sula were sown in 1993, 5 years before the vineyard was planted at the family farmland which was an orchard earlier. The latest in that list was Janus-the 100% grape brandy-another first by Sula and a thing of joy for Rajeev.

When I talked of his vision for the next 15 years including his plans to get married, he gave me the are-you-crazy look and plainly refusing to talk about his wedding plans on his personal road map, he was very excited about Janus and said that would be the area of focus for a while. I suspect one will hear a lot more about Janus which has had the footprints of the earlier partner Remy, in the immediate future.

From Hero to Super Hero in 5 years

When delWine had published the Article ‘Sula: From Zero to Hero’, Sula had achieved a sales jump from 4000 cases in the first year to under 200,000 in the first decade. But the jump from 200,000 to 800,000 cases in 5 years is also phenomenal in an industry mired by governmental apathy and uncertain policies. This super performance of the winery makes Rajeev Samant the Super Hero and the Article perhaps deserved a better title- ‘From Hero to Super Hero in 5 years’!

Wishing you a million cases in 2015-16, Sula! Keep on rocking. Many Happy Returns and keep up the quality and stay consistent. You will still be on Top at your 20th Celebration Party anyway!

Subhash Arora

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Tags: Nashik, Sula, Asilo Lounge, Hotel St Regis, Mumbai, Sula Brut Tropicale, Indage, Grover, Blanc de Noir, Janus Grape Brandy, Rajeev Samant


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