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Sula to launch Janus Grape Brandy beyond Goa

Posted: Tuesday, 11 August 2015 13:52


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Sula to launch Janus Grape Brandy beyond Goa

Aug 11: A few months after the Sula-Remy collaboration came to an end because of the corporate decision of Remy Cointreau to get out of India, the grape brandy that had been a work-in-progress, was launched under the Janus label in Goa and is soon to be launched in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, writes Subhash Arora who recently met Prarrthona Chowdhury, Head Marketing – Brandy Project & International Brands for Sula

Click For Large ViewThree years ago delWine had broken the news that Sula had joined hands with Remy Cointreau and was going to produce India’s first grape brandy, the real thing according to the international standards. It had also reported that the production facilities of Century Wines at Baramati would be used to manufacture the product. Century had received its distillation license a year earlier.

Sula-Remy May Usher in Real Brandy

In March we had broken another story that Remy Martin had decided to shut shop in India and would sell its shares to Sula. Earlier, during my interview with Rajeev Samant, the founder CEO of Sula had hinted to me at Sulafest on 8th February that the product was ready; it was world class but there were still a few bureaucratic hurdles and it would take its time to be sorted out and an announcement would be made soon, but he also said it would be a totally Sula operation, hinting that Remy Cointreau might be out and the negotiations were going on towards the closure.

Remy Cointreau eventually sold their equity to Sula-lock, stock and barrel (literally-since all the stocks including the liquid and Remy barrels in which brandy is aged, were also sold to Sula as part of the deal) in March this year and shut shop in June. Sula continues as the Indian distributor for all its products being imported into India including the Louis XIII Grande Champagne Cognac.

Remy Cointreau to Shut Shop in India

Enter Janus Brandy

It appears the bureaucratic hurdles have been crossed and thus was born JANUS, first 100% grape brandy in India, the only authentic brandy recognised internationally. The total market for the India-made brandies is 54 million cases. But so far, none of these are export-worthy as they don't meet the international standards. Janus will strategize to capture the upper end of this market. It will be the first Indian brandy to be exported, says Prarrthona who says that the company will plan to start exporting once the distribution system for the Indian market is in place.

Made from Bangalore purple and Thomson Seedless grapes (Ugni Blanc grapes used in making brandy in the world famous region Cognac, are no more grown in India after Indage that pioneered this grape variety went under), it has been already launched in Goa at Rs. 1500 a bottle (180 mL version is also available at Rs. 395) last month. Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi are next in line for opening the distribution channel.

Janus comes in premium packaging with a bottle design inspired from the Mid-19th century, a style known as ‘standard fifth’ or ‘lettered brandy’ with embossing. The bottle’s slender design, broad masculine shoulders and long neck would make it stand apart.

The base wine is double distilled in small batches using traditional French alembic pot stills, to produce a liquor of exceptional smoothness and character, says Prarrthona who adds that they are aged in small French oak barrels for 9-12 months under the supervision of French Master Blender Yonael Bernard, giving a smooth and distinctive taste, exceptional aromas and a complex character of a cognac-style brandy with a long finish. Made from wood from Limousin forests, these barrels are also used by Remy Cointreau, like many other premium Cognac producers.

The launch of Janus also marks the entry of Sula into the spirits business. The new business card of Prarrthona mentions Sula Vineyards, Sula Selections and Artisan Spirits which  is the subsidiary of Sula that will focus on spirits.

Those of us who think of Samant as a wine ambassador might be slightly shocked or perhaps disappointed but as he stressed to me during the interview during Sulafest where I was surprised to find a couple of unrelated non-wine stalls selling liquor, ‘I am a businessman and not a wine purist in that sense. If I find a business opportunity in spirits I will grab it. In any case we are already distributors for Asahi Beer from Japan and William Grant for Whisky so this is not really a new direction for us.’ With this launch Sula takes its first step into the world of spirits. By so doing, it has not only brought in the technology from Cognac perhaps at cheap prices but also pioneered the 100% grape brandy in India.

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions and is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. It is usually represented as having one head with two bearded faces back to back, looking in opposite directions. While Sula and Remy could represent each of these faces, the state of transition might be represented by Remy’s exit. However, Prarrthona who Click For Large Viewworked for Remy Cointreau India under the then Managing Director Rukn Luthra and was involved with the project from the conception stage, says the label was decided early in the project; Remy-Sula India was formed in 2010.

Rukn Luthra, a wine veteran since 2000, joined Remy as the Managing Director when they wanted to open an office in India in 2009. He says his recommendation to them was to set up a manufacturing plant like Pernod Ricard and Diageo had done. Remy was quite amenable to setting up a plant for premier brandies, their mainstay being cognac. ‘We scouted around for many JV partners. I interviewed many potential candidates but eventually found Sula to be the natural and best fit. They were already Remy’s distributors in India, had wine producing facilities and resources to arrange the grapes. And they were keen to enter the area and become the pioneers in grape brandies.’

'Remy Sula India was formed as the joint venture and I was made the Managing Director for this company too. We got the Alembic pot stills from France and a young master blender and did everything including packaging. The shares were sold to Sula (for a song-or two at the most-editor) in March. One of the conditions of sale was that the name Remy could not be used anywhere and they had to change the name-I believe to Artisan Spirits,’ says Rukn who is quite positive about the product quality and its marketing potential.

It appears that one would soon start hearing a lot about Artisan Spirits and India's first 100% grape brandy labelled as Janus with a single face, that of Sula.

Subhash Arora

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Tags: Sula-Remy, Remy Cointreau, Janus , Goa , Prarrthona Chowdhury , Sula , grape brandy, Century Wines, Remy Martin , Rajeev Samant, Louis XIII Grande Champagne Cognac, Ugni Blanc , Cognac , standard fifth, lettered brandy, Yonael Bernard , Rukn Luthra, Remy-Sula India, Alembic pot stills, Artisan Spirits


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