July 06: After working as a winemaker for 23 years with Indage, Grover Vineyards and Four Seasons, Abhay Kewadkar has let his entrepreneurial juices come to the fore and has formed Tetrad Global Beverages company in partnership with Rishad Minocher and Joseph Andrade from Dubai to import wines from France to start with, including a range of private label wines, writes Subhash Arora who met him recently in Bangalore and tasted a range of his wines and found them a good VFM wines
One thing that impresses you about the new venture by Abhay Kewadkar who people know mostly from his Four Seasons days that go back further to Grover where he had been a Senior Winemaker for several years, is the Portfolio catalogue packaged professionally to impress suitably. But when you see it beyond the cover, you realise the clarity in the wine description that is the hallmark of his business strategy. Each product is listed with clear details, including alcohol level, serving temperature and pricing in Bangalore- both for Duty Paid and Duty Free wines. It goes even further and describes various production parameters and about the owners of the labels if you are interested.
The hallmark of his range is the private label ‘Early Dark’- designed in a chic style. Explaining the rationale behind the label, he says that Indians love to open their bottle of whisky at 8 in the evening. But before that is a good time to open a bottle of his wine. It could also justify opening the wine bottle earlier-in fact, any time of the day.
He has selected 6 labels from a single French winemaker Vignobles Arbeau. To simplify the wine selection by the consumer, he has selected 3 IGP (Protected Geographical Indication) wines which are not oaked at all, easy to drink and on the palate as they are priced between Rs. 1250-1400. The 3 AOP (Appellation l’Origine Protégée- same as the DOC system in Italy and earlier AOC system in France -Appellation l’Origine Controlee)- wines which are better quality, in the Reserve range and are oaked. They are all priced between Rs.1540-1685.
IGP wine labels are Chardonnay, Rose and a Cabernet Merlot Red wine. Reserve range has a Sauvignon Blanc , a Bordeaux Red Blend and an interesting wine with a blend of Negrette, Shiraz and Gamay grapes. All the wines have been selected keeping Indian palate and food in mind- they are generally on the juicy and fruity style that goes well with spicy food as well, says Abhay. He has intentionally kept the sugar level in the Rose higher at 10 gms/liter, keeping Indian palate in mind and the spicy food that might be consumed with this wine. Being a winemaker, he can tweak the wines to the taste of his consumers, at will.
Other French Labels
He has also tied up with Vignobles Arbeau for some of their original labels as also with two high-volume family producers Borie Manoux, Le Grands Chais de France (GCF) for labels across France including Burgundy, costing as low as Rs. 1500-2500 but as high as Rs. 9,055 for Chateau Batailley (5th Grand Cru Classe 1855) and Rs. 13,435 for Chateau Trottevieille 2013 Premier Grand Cru Classe Saint Emilion from the most prestigious Chateau of Borie- Manoux owned by Philippe Castéja who is also the President of the Conseil des Grands Crus Classes de Bordeaux (1855).
Three containers were imported this year already and the wines are available in the Karnataka market-his home base which also has the least headaches in India, he feels. He has 26 French labels in the kitty. He may add Italian portfolio next but basically Prosecco, Chianti and Pinot Grigio at this point. He also has a few labels from Victoria in mind after the Australian Trade and Investment Commissioner-South Asia for Victoria Government- met him at his residence and convinced him of their products being compatible to his philosophy for good PQR.
He is on a good wicket in terms of getting investments and other marketing alliances, he says, thanks to his background and a long wicket in winemaking. ‘People approach me rather than me approaching them, right from my college mates to my associates in business later. This will help us expand faster,’ he says. He is perhaps the senior- most person working in the Indian wine industry after all, having worked with Chateau Indage from 1984-91, Grover Vineyards from 1991-2006 and then with Four Seasons (a div of United Spirit later sold to Diageo) till he left his job in 2017 to start his own venture.
He took a year to decide his next course of action. ‘I did not want to continue as a winemaker but start as an entrepreneur,’ he says. He says he found very compatible active partner in Rishad Minocher who had also been a friend for a long time in Bangalore. Abhay is still involved in winemaking,in France though now, right harvest to blending to bottling-at every important step.
Microbrewery and a restaurant
Tetrad is already expanding its wings and has formed another company with 35% share in it- and making a microbrewery that should be ready by next month. The space rented for the project would also have a restaurant where wine will be served. Storage facilities are also to be provided there. With the home market that he has handled for years and Minocher’s valuable experience of 40 years in the restaurant business they have got a head start. When I asked him when he might target to be included in the Top Ten Importers List of delWine, he thought for a few seconds and said, ‘ 3 years’.
Kewadkar and Tetrad has obviously grandiose plans and would definitely help expand the market for imported wines.
If you Like this article please click on the Like button