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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Monday, 13 September 2010 14:50

Lounge from Grover’s La Reserve

Following the Karnataka wine policy allowing sale of wine from one company-owned and approved retail shop under certain conditions, Bangalore based Grover Vineyards plans to open a wine boutique-La Reserve Lounge, a new facility with tasting room, souvenir shop and wine sales in order to boost wine tourism to the vineyards, writes Subhash Arora.

Plans for the 4000 sq. ft facility have been finalized and the work on the project will start soon, Neeraj Verma, CEO informs delWine. According to the wine policy, the winery retail store cannot be set up within 200 meters from the winery. ‘Out aim is to give the vineyard experience to our visitors,’ he adds. Therefore, the facility is expected to come up near the winery, on the vineyards of the long-term contracted farmers.

The term ‘Reserve’ is used generously for wine labels in the new world countries like US, Chile, Australia and New Zealand- as a marketing tool, indicating better quality of a wine (Italian laws are much more strict in the usage). But La Réserve has given another dimension to the meaning in India where it is the label for Grover’s premium red wine and has become a popular brand for quality red wine.

It’s made from Cabernet and Shiraz grapes grown on the old vines and aged in the barriques for 6 months. However, for exports to France, Japan and now to UK, imported wine is also been used according to the specifications approved by their consultant French partner Michel Rolland, ‘since the customers in these markets demand drier wines which are not easy to make from grapes grown here’ inform the company sources.  However the level of imported grapes has been coming down significantly over the years and is currently ‘less than 20%’, according to Kapil Grover, Director of the company, who has just returned from Europe.

Scotching the rumours that Viognier is also being made from imported wine, Kapil says that it is not true-that is purely grown grape in Karnataka. Started as an experimental wine five years ago to add to their rather insipid ‘Blanc de Blanc’ made from the French Clairette grapes, the sales of the Viognier-Clairette blend has been doing very well.

Meanwhile, the company is on the growth trajectory after suffering a couple of poor years due to quality problems and recession. Selling 27,000 cases, it has achieved a 53% growth in volume but 85% in value-the increase reflecting a 15% increase across-the-board, says Verma. Justifying the increase, he says, ‘Our products were grossly undervalued earlier.’ 

La Reserve which was THE Red Wine of India, giving the biggest bang for your buck, is now a mere part of around ten red wines in the same genre, because of continuous price increases in the last couple of years.
The company is expected to sell between 95-100,000 cases this year, in comparison with around 65,000 cases last year. Adding to the top-line will also be the La Reserve which the company plans to produce in Maharashtra to counter the extra duties it has to pay for the wine produced in Karnataka.

Grover is neither original nor unique in the concept of the proposed wine boutique. Sula opened its Tasting Room several years ago followed by a 3-room villa named ‘Beyond’ in collaboration. There has been a rush to open such facilities or at least to announce the wish. Sula has reportedly declared its intention to open a hotel on the vineyard, ever expanding the existing facilities near the tasting room.

Nashik-based York Winery has announced the opening of a restaurant, Tasting Room with living accommodation. UB is still struggling to open its facilities that were promised to the wine lovers for July opening. ‘Delay has been due to change in certain plans like the swimming pool specs etc.’ says Abhay Kewadkar, Chief of wine making operations and the VP of the wine division, defending the delay. ‘In any case, it is always good to open such facility during the harvest time and therefore we shall open around December,’ debunking some reports that there had been no progress in the project since last one year.

Projects like this are considered lucrative by many entrepreneurs as stand alone profit centers. Jumna Auto Parts, an auto accessories company with revenues of around Rs.8 billion is contemplating setting up a winery-resort in Yamuna Nagar in Haryana, about 250 kms from Delhi and is in consultation with a foreign viticulturist at the time of writing this article.

Wine tourism or eno-tourism has been a very important strategy of wineries throughout the New and Old World with several producers selling even up to half of their production through the cellar door to a host of tourists and loyal customers.

While the license has been obtained by Grover, there are some hesitations in the go-ahead as Kapil indicates. ‘We are talking to several strategic investors including venture capitalists and some wine connoisseurs who have show interest. If they come on board, it is only fair that we take their wishes into account-even perhaps rechristening the name of the new facility,’ he says.

If and when opened, the La Reserve Lounge may not only become an important wine destination for wine lovers from Karnataka and the nearby Andhra Pradesh and Chennai, it will also help the top line of Grover, perhaps impacting the bottom line even more.   

Subhash Arora


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