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Delhi Wine Club
Michel Négrier of Domaines Barons de Rothschild Lafite

Posted: Tuesday, 08 February 2011 12:49

Michel Négrier of Domaines Barons de Rothschild Lafite

Michel Négrier, Export Director of Domaines Barons de Rothschild Lafite was in Mumbai and Delhi recently to promote the current portfolio of 11 wine labels from the French and Argentine stables of the iconic wine family from Bordeaux, introduced recently by Aspri. Subhash Arora who met him at a dinner in Westin, Gurgaon had an exclusive chat with detailed discussions about Lafite and Rothschild.

Photo By:: Adil Arora

What is the relationship of Domaines Barons de Rothschild Lafite (DBR) with the First Growth Chateau Lafite in Pauillac, Bordeaux, I ask Michel Négrier on behalf of the readers of delWine. ‘Chateau Lafite is part of DBR which is owned by the Rothschild family. Lafite in turn is owned by members of the family, but with different shareholdings,’ he clarifies.

DBR was created by the Rothschilds as a marketing arm in 1985, he informs me. ‘The growth during the last 5 years has been phenomenal,' he says in a tone that indicates that the Asia story has been stupendous for them with unprecedented growth. ‘The boom in China has spread to other parts of Asia as well with the Australian market where they are rediscovering low alcohol Bordeaux wines, he says with a smile. Hong Kong waiver of taxes has been of some help but ‘we had already started expanding before the change was effected,’ he adds.

DBR markets wines from several Chateaux owned by the family-only one of which is Chateau Lafite. They also own others in Pauillac, Languedoc, Chile and Argentina one of whose wines is already being imported by Aspri.

Which portfolio does he handle? ‘We have divided the marketing into two parts. One person looks after Europe for all products handled by DBR. He also looks after the sale of Chateau Lafite which as you know, is sold exclusively through négociants. I look after the sales for the rest of the world.’

In other words, he does not sell the Chateau wine or its second label, Carruades de Lafite.  But since he handles China, could he throw some light on the exponential growth of Lafite in China? ‘There is no one reason. You could say we are lucky as they have focused on only one of the five First Growths-ours. But we have been present there since long and have been driving the market. Interestingly, the bosses of the communist party patronise Chateau Lafite. This means that all wine drinkers want to emulate the party seniors, if they can afford it,’ he opines.

An interesting point about China which has really been an open secret, was reinforced by Michel and ought to raise the antennas of the Indian bureaucrats and politicians as well. ‘Chinese government encourages production and import of grape wine as compared to rice wine to take the load off the cereal. Liberal advertising on TV about wine helps the cause. Barely five years ago there were pubs full of rice wine drinkers and now one sees everyone drinking wine,’ he says.

Has the Lafite name helped the sale of the rest of the DBR division and does he think the popularity is a bubble that will burst soon? ‘We realise that Lafite has been getting a lot of attention from China and thus adding to the price. It is possible that the prices will come down eventually as other First Growths also push for their share. But you won’t see a crash in prices-only a small percentage drop may be there.’ He further clarifies that unlike other Chateaux,  Lafite sells 90% of its production as En Primeur and of course all through the négociants.’

Says Sumedh S Mandla, CEO of Aspri,’ I met Michel 3 years ago and we have been talking about importing their wines ever since. Our brief was that the wines we import have to be exclusive and not négociant-handled wines like Lafite. I am glad they agreed to the exclusivity. We imported 11 labels in the first instance as the time for selling during the current fiscal year is rather limited. But we hope to add several labels as the response to these wines has been tremendous.’

It might be interesting for the wine drinkers to realise that Lafite does not mean only Chateau Lafite. Several years ago, ignorant wine snobs in Delhi and Mumbai proudly used to proclaim their preferred drink was Mouton Cadet, thinking that they were drinking the top French wine. Much water has flown in the river since then and one does not hear of this in the high society echelons. 

Michel does not hide the fact that the Domaines Barons De Rothschild Lafite Legende, Domaines Barons De Rothschild Lafite Aussieres Blanc Domaines Barons De Rothschild Lafite Reserve Speciale Medoc and Domaines Barons De Rothschild Lafite Reserve Speciale Pauillac 2008- the four wines being served at the dinner with Pan Asian food at the newly opened  and chic ‘Eest’ Restaurant at Westin, are not the Chateaux wines as the name might suggest but made with the same care at different Chateaux owned by the family in different regions.

For rich politicians, bureaucrats and the countless scamsters, there is Chateau Lafite, the King of  Bordeaux wines, but the ordinary mortals can now enjoy quality wines that are available at Rs.2075 and up and are available in Mumbai retail and also in several hotels and restaurants, thanks to DBR-the marketing arm of Chateau Lafite, with a wide portfolio of affordable quality wines.

Subhash Arora



Rishi Vohra, CSW Says:

This article got me thinking. It's amazing how many inroads prestigious wines of the world have made into India. Unfortunately, due to the fact that India has banned the advertising of alcohol, wine consumers and potential adopters aren't aware of these fine wines. The Indian Government should understand that wine, unlike other 'alcohol' has tremendous health benefits and should allow at least print advertising on the condition that the advertisement also strongly conveys the health benefit to the consumer. This would also see the possibility of exclusive wine magazines in India, as this advertising would also support revenues. Wishful thinking, isn't it??

Posted @ February 09, 2011 11:15


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