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Posted: Tuesday, 08 October 2019 00:28

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IWA 2019: Indian Wines have a bright Future on World Stage, asserts Viswanathan

Oct 08: Ravi Viswanathan who was anointed as the Chairman of Grover Zampa Vineyards last year and came to India from Singapore especially to attend the 3rd India Wine Awards Night at The Leela Mumbai on October 5, asserted that despite the difficulties and hurdles created by the government, Indian wines have a bright future and hoped that Indians notice them before the rest of the world. Subhash Arora, one of the judges for all 3 editions, reports

Viswanathan said the answer was a resounding yes for a number of key reasons some of which were outside the control of Indian producers like global warming that would narrow the gap between the oldest and the best versus the smallest and newest wine countries.

He started by saying ‘In a nutshell, yes, Indian wines can succeed against their global competitors. Let me focus only on the factors which are under our control and excluding factors like government, excise etc.’

‘More importantly Indian wines are already making a mark in the world. The world has started to notice us, but Indians just don’t realize it. My fear is that we will make a mark on the world stage before we make a mark on the Indian stage.’

In a self aggrandizing fashion he settled down to review some anecdotal evidence. He has a cellar in Burgundy which had 5000 bottles with no Indian wines a decade ago. ‘Today I have about 300 bottles of Indian wines from 6 different wineries.  If anyone here tonight has wines coming from more wineries please raise your hands!’ Perhaps he forgot that Indian laws limit storage of wines in the house; the bureaucrats don’t give credence to the fact that collectible wines need to be stored for years, to test the evolution in the bottle.’ He has stored 3 bottles of Champagne in his cellar that will be 200 years old next year!

As an example of Indian wines advancing in reputation he mentioned the Dijon International Gastronomy Fair which has its roots in the Middle Ages. It is a premier show of its kind in France, held in November. Being organised on Oct 31-Nov 11 they have invited Indian wineries this year (with no cost for participation) to showcase their wines in the heart of the best wine region in the world. 

Jean-Baptiste Ancelot, Founder of Wine Explorers, a unique project to inventory  all the wine producing countries of the world, has visited 500 wine estates in 90 wine countries and tasted 5,500 wines since 2014. After going around 400,000 kms around the world in 4 years, his book Wine Explorers, released very recently, does mention 3 Indian wineries (Grover Zampa, Sula and York-editor) even though India represents less than 1/10 % of wine produced in the world. Indian wineries are over-represented in that wine encyclopaedia.

‘The Franco German TV channel Arte commissioned a series titled Of Vines and Men. The first season focused on the better known wine countries but there is an episode about India in Season 2 which will air in a couple of months in Europe’, he added.

‘A couple of weeks, Decanter Asia (DAWA) published the medals it awarded for 2019. As a ballpark figure, keep in mind that France, Italy, USA have a wine industry more than 100 times bigger than ours. For China and Australia it is more than 50 times bigger than ours.’ Details were given in the previous edition of delWine.

He gave out the list of the medal count and it is logical and fair that medals are in line with the size of the wine industries of various countries:

Italy 621

Australia 462

France 350

China 115

USA 41

India 13

UK 8

‘Whether it is in cricket or winemaking, it is always enjoyable to beat the Brits!’ said Ravi Viswanathan on a lighter note, pointing towards Ian Harris, the visiting CEO of Wine and Spirits Institute, sitting at the front table in the front.

For the amount of wine made in these countries, the number of medals is much higher than the percentage of wines produced. And remember that those international wine competitions have a big bias, you never send your worst wines to an international competition which makes our relative over-performance quite a feat!

 ‘Yes, we are making some international quality wines and every year we improve bit by bit. We are present in some of the top restaurants around the world and that list is expanding all the time’, he said.

Indian wineries have also seized upon a unique opportunity to have a leading role in the new technologies that promise to revolutionize viticulture and winemaking. We don’t have the same regulatory constraints that wineries in the old world and even in the big countries of the new world have, so we are free to experiment, and that process has started already.

‘But before the world fully notices us, we should make Indians notice us first. In a nutshell, yes Indian wines can succeed against their global peers but let’s first win the hearts and minds of Indian consumers,’ concluded Ravi pontificating on Indian wines.

Subhash Arora


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