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Bangalore International Wine Festival turns a ‘Mela’

Posted: Thursday, 31 July 2014 15:12

Bangalore International Wine Festival turns a ‘Mela’

July 31: The Bengaluru International Wine Festival 2014 organized by The Karnataka Wine Board in collaboration with Department of Horticulture at the Jaymahal Palace Ground on July 25-27 last week with 25 Indian and international wineries participating, was marred by rains and rowdy behavior by a section of the visitors who had paid a mere Rs.49 to enter the Exhibition

Click For Large ViewThe organizers perhaps had grandiose plans to make the Wine Festival accessible to masses rather than classes and had reduced the entry charges from Rs. 300 last year to Rs. 49. This gave a considerable opportunity to everyone interested to taste wines. But the fortified wines available free of charge saw many people get drunk with a case of molestation involving the police marred the sanctity of the annual fest which is a progressive and laudable effort by the Karnataka Wine Board.

Unlike last year when the entry fee was Rs.300 and a limited number of tastings was free, this year the organizers reduced the entry ticket to Rs.49 with the tastings at stands erected by producers like Sula, Grover, Big Banyan and KRSMA have tasting flights at prices varying from around Rs. 150-250 flight of 4-6 wines.

Aeisha Sahni, Brand Manager of Bangalore-based Big Banyan feels the Festival could not be termed as a roaring success. ‘Big banyan tried to do something completely different and erected a stand with a young fresh look to attract the younger audience. We created a take away shack out of our stand that was very vibrant and colourful. The overall experience was good but we did not come across too many serious wine drinkers as the entry cost was only Rs. 49. We sampled our wines at Rs. 150 for 4 varietals and 200 for 6 varietals. The Bellissima (late harvest Moscato) did exceptionally well at the fest and we were sold out by the second day.’ Their ‘Rose Rossa’ Rose and Merlot had many takers as well. Interestingly, although they did not taste the top-end ‘Limited’ they managed to sell a few bottles as they have a regular following who were happy with a 10% discount allowed at the Exhibition.

She best sums up their experience best by saying,’ after seeing the type of crowd that came, I personally feel that we should have brought our ‘Goana’-the fortified wine instead of our premium range and we would have done a big business!’ Goana is one of the leading brands in South India for fortified wine but is not produced under the Big Banyan banner but directly under John Distilleries Pvt.  Ltd., the parent company of Big Banyan.

Sneha Rao, Business Development Manager for the newly introduced KRSMA wines in Bangalore earlier this year was slightly more charitable about the Show. ‘Many people wanted to taste out wines as we have introduced them this year and they had not tasted them though they had heard a lot of positive things. We also wanted the trade to taste the wines. Therefore, we charged Rs. 250 for a flight of four wines but for the trade professionals including the hospitality industry professionals, Sommeliers and journalists, it was complimentary.’ She was quite pleased with the response.

The biggest problem according to most trade professionals who attended the Show and informed delWine, was the presence of too many people who neither knew anything about wine nor were interested. They came for a free joy ride with the booze. To that extent, the busy stand of Heritage Winery provided the fuel. Although they were selling a bottle of their fortified wine at Rs. 100 and had many takers, the free tasting was the big attraction. It seemed to be a win-win for all except the serious wine connoisseurs and women many of whom were reportedly harassed by the inebriated. In fact, one case of molestation reportedly involved police and arrest of two people, leaving a very bad taste in the mouth of organisers and many of the visitors.

Seemingly, the organisers had adopted a strategy to discourage the fortified wine producers who had to shell out Rs. 40,000-50,000 for a stand for which premium wine producers paid Rs.25,000 only. Apparently, this plan backfired as they attracted the maximum crowd due to freebies.

Besides Wine Tasting, the Fest offered the opportunity to pick up wine at a discount of up to 10%, there were seminars on Wine & Food Pairing.  There was Live Kitchen Art & Craft Zone and the Grape Stomping that has become traditional at all such wine fests, thanks to the now defunct Chateau Indage. There were various wine Conferences and Workshops, Entertainment and Live Performances.

Estimates on the attendance vary, ranging from 2,000 and up- but very different than the organisers might like to project-someone seems to have conveyed an astonishing figure of 30-35,000 people at the exhibition which was held on the lawns of the hotel. The rain on the first day did not help either and one saw very thin crowds on Friday.

Click For Large ViewThe way out

What is the way out to make such festivals productive? Wine Festivals are a very important and irreplaceable tool to promote wine culture anywhere but especially India where advertisement of any kind is not allowed and wine education is non-existent, with a vast majority linking wine drinking to liquor guzzling. Alok Chandra, a local consultant and journalist who attended the BIWF on 2 days and confirms that the only stall giving free samples for their fortified wines which retail for Rs. 100 for a standard 750 ml bottle, was Bangalore-based Heritage winery ; all others were charging anything from Rs. 50/30 ml upwards. He says the way out is to 1) Charge a higher entry fee to dissuade louts, 2) Ban free samples of fortified wines being dished out and  3) Have 1 - 2 days reserved for the trade (retail/ HORECA) for B2B transactions and tastings, as is the norm internationally.

The organisers would perhaps agree that there is a need to evolve and change the direction, tweaking every edition but we certainly don’t want to throw the baby out with bath water. Karnataka has a good thing going thanks to Karnataka Wine Board (KWB) and by involving various stakeholders; KWB can be the binding factor. Carry on KWB and the Department of Horticulture!!

Subhash Arora



Ashwin Rodrigues Says:

Many thanks to Subhash for highlighting an important issue. In my opinion segmentation is the answer. We need to have separate festivals based on our target audiences. Many wineries are happy to cater to the grassroot level and others cannot stand in judgement of what they should or should not be drinking. Such festivals need to have a different format compared to a high-end one. It happens in all industries, from handicrafts to garments. A similar case was the India Grape Harvest this year held near Vinchur village, 50 km from Nasik. Two very different types of crowds mixed leading to unpleasant situations. Besides, limiting production to only premium wine will lead to smaller scale. The world over, be it France or Australia, commercial wine accounts for 60 to 70% of production. It funds research institutes, larger vineyard area, better production techniques, improved farmer knowledge and pays for better talent. The need of the Indian wine industry today is bigger scale. Premium wine quality automatically benefits from a large base.

Posted @ August 09, 2014 10:50


Sidd Banerji Says:

As always and without any exception,Subhash's report was a moving story,a running commentary,educative and interesting on the maiden effort by any of our Government bodies pan India.Since last 3 years probably,they are on it.Kudos to Karnatak Government's Wine Board. Another stalwart of extraordinary merit,in the firmament of Indian wine industry,B Shankaranarayan of Pune and of several wine festival fame,in this part of the country,has also expressed his valuable and thought provoking views on the fest.We as readers and wine lovers are grateful for the unique Indian wine e platform which give on an absolute regular basis solid reports,comments and news on wines in India.Regards to Subhash,regards to Shankaranarayan.

Posted @ August 06, 2014 13:48


B.Shankaranarayan Says:

As the pioneer of wine festivals, I was always curious about BIWF and finally managed to attend this one. Very well organized. Wineries in hangar,big screens for the talks, KWB honchos on the dais, food court outside etc. The low entry fee model no doubt attracts larger numbers and might even increase the wine drinking base but it is debatable if it contributes to higher sales of good quality wines. I came across visitors going winery to winery asking for deals without even tasting the wines!! My experience has convinced me that our model - Rs.500 entry for one tasting per exhibiting winery and no port wine allowed - will benefit the industry more. Some wineries were very pleased with their high sales. One is said to have sold Rs.3 lacs worth of wines. But the devil lies in the details. What sold - port or the reserves or the cab savs! All said and done we need more wine festivals and a ban on wine will over 15% alcohol!!

Posted @ August 01, 2014 16:10


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