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Delhi Wine Club
Two Generations of PFV Family

Posted: Thursday, 31 May 2012 15:06

Star Interview: Two Generations of PFV Family

May 31 : Miguel Torres Sr., Chairman of Torres Group and Fredric Drouhin, Managing Director of family-owned Burgundy wine company Joseph Drouhin, the foreign partners of Prestige Wines and Spirits and also representing two generations of the 11-member family-run group PFV, Primum Familiae Vini, were in Delhi last week to attend the Board Meeting of Prestige. Subhash Arora had an exclusive chat with them.

Fredric Drouhin is the President of PFV, Primum Familiae Vini for the current year. ‘My father and Miguel Torres Sr. were the founders of the 12-member family-owned premier wineries with proven quality performance for at least 3 generations’. He was on his way to Hong Kong where PFV has taken a stand at the Vinexpo.

Change of Wind at Torres

Miguel Torres Sr. looked slightly more relaxed than before. Reason- Miguel Jr. has returned to Spain from Chile and taken over as General Manager. According to the succession plan written about in delWine earlier, Miguel Jr. will become the CEO of Torres Group, including Torres China, this fall. His winemaker sister Mireia will take independent charge of smaller winery group including Priorat, Jean Leon, Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Miramar Torres who lives with her daughter Cristina in Sausalito, California will continue to handle the winery in Sonoma, California.

Miguel Sr. will remain the President, but will spend longer time enjoying the family and grand children, travel and maybe learn a foreign language, he tells me.  People who know Torres Sr. find it hard to believe that he will ever let go of the firm grip on the company though. Come fall, and they should get the answer.

Highlights of current PFV activities

So what have been the high points of PFV activities during his year, I ask the President Fredric? ‘Well, besides taking part in Hong Kong Vinexpo as a group, we conducted a ‘Back to Roots’ tasting in UK this February. We decided it was time to go back to the countries that have traditionally been drinking our wines. We also thought since the next generation has also joined the business like Mireia and I,  we should have  a duo of two generations present wines-like my father and I did for our wines, Pierre Antinori and his daughter Alessia and Miguel Sr. with his daughter Mireia presented the philosophy to the journalists at the luncheon, who really liked this new concept.

The missing 12th ‘Man’

What about the 12th member spot left vacant after Robert Mondavi had to leave the PFV family in 2003 as the company was sold to Constellation, I ask Fredric? ‘We have been looking at the replacement carefully. We want to make sure that the winery has a successful track record and is compatible with the rest of the family. We are currently considering the membership from Australia or the US.’ In the meantime, Australia has already formed its own family of 12, I tell him. I suggest a couple of names to him from Napa Valley, who  he said, the members would be willing to consider, adding,’ the problem with the US family vintners is that as they grow to a certain point they convert themselves into public companies and often sell out.’

Drouhin and Torres have many things in common-apart from being a part of the family in which two generations are now actively working. ‘It was very interesting as two generations of each family talked about their philosophy at the Press lunch in February, he says’. Drouhin joined hands with Prestige Wines in India as minority shareholder, presumably as the plans call for a long term expansion. Joseph Drouhin also sells in China through Torres China.

Prestige for Drouhin

Joseph Drouhin was earlier being sold in India through the family-owned business of Global Tax Free until the arrangement ran into trouble a couple of years ago and they had to switch, Prestige being the rather obvious choice. How was the separation, I ask? ‘Well, I think we had a very amicable parting. Mehras are very nice and kind people. But the problem was that both father and son don’t drink wine. It is unimaginable to promote the sale of a region like Burgundy and our wines when one cannot appreciate the nuances,’ he says as I request another glass of the delicious and elegant Puligny Montrachet with just the right balance and acidity at the exclusive dinner at La Piazza.

Scottish Delights Granted

For the main course, I order a Scottish Salmon in honour of George Grant who is the third foreign partner of the Prestige JV-producing Grant Glenfarclas Single malt and often confused with the Grant of the Scotch family- me included. I excuse myself from his amazing Glenfarclas 21 years to be served after dessert since it is against my religion (wine!). But in the meantime I had quickly sized up the Wine list of the evening which had besides the Joseph Drouhin Montrachet and Pommard-both classic matches for a salmon.

Wine Duet at the Piazza

The first wine of the evening, Viña Esmeralda is refreshing and goes well with the appetizers or the first course. The last wine, the evergreen Gran Coronas is the Cabernet Sauvignon that is full-bodied, ripe and fruity but not jammy and has very rounded tannins, making it a pleasure to drink. As Miguel explains, ‘it is made from the grapes grown in the Mas La Plana vineyards and what we cannot use in our top wine Mas la Plana , we make Gran Coronas with it.’  Mas la Plana had won the Cabernet Sauvignon category at the Wine Olympics organized by the food and wine magazine Gault Millau in 1979; Gran Coronas (it would perhaps be considered a Second Wine for a  Bordeaux chateau) offers one of the best value-for-money quality Cabernets in India.

Non-jealous Drouhin Siblings

Fredric Drouhin is the youngest of the three siblings and at 44 is the Managing Director of the company. One brother looks after the production while the winemaker sister Veronique also looks after Domain Drouhin in Oregon where she travels four times a year. ‘We are equal in all respects-shareholdings and the salaries we draw,’ emphasizing that it is the passion for wine that is the common bondage in life. ‘This way there are no jealousies. We love to travel and we don’t need a Ferrari to drive,’ he says in response to my query whether women are treated at the same level as men by law and in otherwise in wine business.

Joseph Drouhin has amassed a few vineyards over the years, including in Chablis. With 77hA how many bottles of wines do they make? ‘Not enough,’ he smiles as he answers.  As a policy we do not make our figures public as we don’t think it is fair. We make over 40 labels from 50 cases to 40,000 cases of a single label. Of course, labels with the smaller lot production are under allocation. Despite the increasing popularity of their wines they have kept the prices steady unlike Bordeaux where supply and demand seems to play a key role and with China and Hong Kong clamouring for reds.

Giving the example of their top Grand Cru Musigny of which they make 3000 bottles, some are given to Hong Kong for local as well as the Chinese market. ‘You just cannot find it unless you know the retailer and at 3-4 times our selling price. We cannot increase the price absurdly, now that it is much in demand. What about our loyal customers who has been buying from us for decades? Though certainly not cheap, it is a wine worth buying and collecting. Prestige and India have not yet discovered it yet so it is not available here. Before I move on, I make him promise to allocate 12 bottles that would adorn any decent 5-star cellar and despite the Rs.5000 registration charge per label ought to be easy to market.

Transfusing Young Blood

Being from the young generation, Fredric is keen that the young generation is enticed to drink wine. ‘We make efforts in our company as well as PFV to expose younger people to imbibe the drink.’ He makes a point as he says that the next year’s President is from Mouton Rothschild (one-year term by rotation). That may be the Baroness or one of her sons, Philippe or Julien who is an excellent PR person and would be a great asset to the group.

Wider and Wider

Joseph Drouhin is very popular in New York, San Francisco and Las Vegas. A few years ago when I was staying t Bellagio I was impressed by the wine list carrying an impressing array of Drouhin wines and when I wrote to him he wrote back saying that all his production could be easily absorbed in Las Vegas alone but they wanted presence in the wider markets. Even in China, he tells me, it is not Beijing Shanghai and Guangzhou alone that makes their Chinese market. ‘We want wider spectrum of drinkers knowing about our wines. Therefore, we (Torres China) have set up an office in Western China to cater to this population.

DRC- The Holy Grail

What does he think of DRC? They are the Holy Grail for us Burgundians- Graal as we French call them. DRC is like God-one cannot go any higher. But that is good for us as it helps promote the region-like it is doing in China. People are also getting more and more health conscious. Our wines are softer in tannins and go better with food. 

What does he think of the New World wines coming on the world scene? We like the New World promoting wines. People can learn wine drinking through varietals. Their palates evolve later into appreciating fine wines and Burgundy is right there.

Oak in Chablis

What about the new practice of using part- oak for making Chablis that seems to be catching on? ‘I think Chablis is one of the best white wines of the world due to the unique Kimmeridgian soil we have. The wine is absolutely pure and delicious. The problem is that the area of Appellation of Chablis has been extended due to the growing popularity- quite a lot of it by promoting Petit Chablis to Chablis appellation. The lesser vineyards have a soil not as good and the winemakers tend to use various techniques to make the wine more interesting, including oak to give certain character or attimes to hide the fault. We do not use any oak,’ he concludes.

Au revoir

There is a lot one can ask him and Miguel Torres Sr. but he has to catch the Jet flight to Hong Kong and Miguel has to return to Spain through the Swiss flight around the same time. So we have to curtail the chats for another occasion. This was the first time a Board Meeting of Prestige Wine which has Gautam Thapar as the Indian partner, was held in India and shows that internally, the company has great plans to boost imports and make it to the Podium at this stage and collect a trophy as an importer rather than mere points (by remaining a Top Ten Importer) as in Formula One Championship.

Subhash Arora


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