Nov 28: The two- week international gastronomic fair of Dijon held on October 31 to November 11 this year at the Exhibition Center and Congress Dijon is the largest fair of its kind in Burgundy, since 1921 in the modern avatar but this yea India was honoured as the Guest of Honour country, with Grover Zampa Vineyards showcasing around 25 labels impressing the visitors, writes Ravi Viswanathan practically representing the Indian wine industry
The 2 week international gastronomic fair of Dijon, is the largest fair of its kind in Burgundy. It started in its modern avatar in 1921 which incidentally was a very good vintage if you happen to come across a bottle. Dijon, the capital of Burgundy, is world famous for its wines, mustard, truffles and many other delicacies.
It is also famous for being the birth place of a classic aperitif named Kir (Aligote white wine or champagne with a dash of crème de cassis). Felix Kir was a priest who fought the Germans in World War II and subsequently became the town mayor and Member of Parliament for the constituency. A devout Catholic, always wearing his black robe in parliament or in the city hall, he was quite a truculent character. To a communist MP in parliament who refused to acknowledge the existence of God since nobody had seen Him, he retorted “And my ass, no one has seen it but nevertheless it exists!”.
India as the Guest of Honour
The organisers of the Dijon fair have been inviting a country or region every year to showcase its culture, history, gastronomy, handicrafts and wines. This year India was the chosen guest of honour. Alongside the main fair, Vinidivio traditionally hosts the wineries of the featured country. There were no plans to hold Vinidivio this year since no one in the organising committee thought there were wine makers in India. But serendipity intervened and soon they realized that maybe there were wines in India worth exploring!
Grover Zampa invited
After a memorable lunch with the Chairman of the Dijon Congrexpo and his team which blew away any misgivings or lingering doubts about the quality of Indian wine industry, the fair approached most wineries in India to participate and GZV enthusiastically accepted the invitation. Since its foundation about 30 years ago, GZV has always been the most French of all Indian wineries and now that Chateau d’Etroyes, 45 minutes’ drive away from Dijon, is a member of our group, it is now also the most Indian of all Burgundian domains.’
Thirst for Indian wines
About 25 different wines from group companies (more if you count the various vintages available) were offered to the numerous visitors who came to taste and even buy Indian wines. Some of those wines were introduced for the first time outside of India. Curiosity mingled with a pinch of scepticism drove countless locals and foreign visitors to our booths manned by the 15 people strong GZV team-a potpourri of friends, bartenders, sommeliers and students from a local college specialising in hospitality under the supervision of Mathias Pellissard from our wine making team.
After being pleasantly surprised by the first couple of wines they sampled, the common theme to most visitors was an insatiable thirst for more wine and also deeper knowledge with dozens of questions on every wine, varietal, terroir, winery, specificities of tropical viticulture such as the 2 vegetative cycles per year etc.
The Dawn of Wine: India
To facilitate the learning process, on a large screen on the side wall of Vinidivio, a soon-to-be-broadcasted documentary on Franco German TV channel Arte told the story of the nascent wine industry in India and its bright future prospects. Many thanks to the producers of The dawn of wine: India, who graciously agreed to our request for screening it before its official release. Pictures and video clips of our vineyards and wineries were also shown continuously in the background.
Vinidivio opened with a special tasting event reserved for journalists and other wine industry professionals (wine or barrel makers, wine merchants, sommeliers, chefs etc.). Laurent Peugeot of Le Charlemagne and Dominique Loiseau from the fabled Bernard Loiseau group were spotted tasting, as were many other local celebrities.
After that event, many comments were flattering, even some laudatory articles were published in the French media and Burgundian winemakers invited the GZV team for a particularly lively Paulee de Dijon mixing legendary grands crus of Cote de Nuits and Cote de Beaune with wines from Nandi Hills and Charosa.
And since actions matter more than words, sales were surprisingly brisk to the extent that some wines were out of stocks on the very first day, despite a price range of €8 to 100 per bottle. Keep in mind that it is quite a challenge to convince a Burgundian to even try a Bordeaux wine, never mind buying one!
The pattern repeated itself over the next 3 days with regular visitors. Packed wine masterclasses conducted by Matthias Pellissard were organized every day for the wider public.
About 500 bottles were opened during Vinidivio 2019 and 3 times more were sold with shortages for some of the wines. Among the most popular ones were the sparkling wines, including the fully sold out Auriga with gold flakes and the new and very dry La Reserve sparkling which got rave reviews from chefs as a perfect accompaniment to an entire meal. The Vendanges Tardives sweet wine which we ran out of on the second day despite a hefty price tag of € 25 for 375ml bottle and the classic favourites of our domains like Chene, Vijay Amritraj Reserve or Charosa Cabernet Sauvignon.
Some restaurants in and around Dijon want also to expand their wine lists with the likes of Insignia, so far only available at our Bangalore winery and Charosa Sauvignon Blanc. As a world premiere, visitors were also able to try our La Reserve de Bourgogne wines. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir which have now just reached India will very soon be sold in Mumbai and Bangalore. Finally a domain wine from Burgundy at a competitive pricing in India!
All in all, a very successful event and one of the many steps we have taken to make the rest of the world aware about the Indian wine industry. The challenge now remains to convince Indians that connoisseurs everywhere else think the nascent but promising Indian wine industry has now achieved world class quality.
The Indian Wine Day conceptualised by Indian Wine Academy and the Lalit, celebrated for the 3rd year on the fixed date of 16 November, and has been a huge hit with consumers, restaurants and our collaborators. Unfortunately the response from the Indian wine industry has been lukewarm. Hopefully, the industry will take it upon itself to promote the day on a common platform, which is in their interest-editor
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