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Delhi Wine Club
Sula Makes the Cut at Delhi DutyFree

Posted: Thursday, 05 May 2011 15:17

Sula Makes the Cut at Delhi DutyFree

After fretting for months, Sula seems to have finally broken the monopoly of Vijay Mallya’s Four Seasons wines at the Delhi Duty-Free  shop since the inauguration last year of the new terminal T-3 of the Indira Gandhi International airport, offering great values despite indifferent attitude of the staff towards wine sales in general and Indian wines in particular, writes Subhash Arora.

Sula has a fairly wide range of premium wines which are quite reasonably priced. Sula Brut at $7 (Rs. 310) is probably the best value-for-money wine in the whole wine section followed by the slightly lower quality Seco at $6. The most expensive wine is Dindori Reserve Viognier ($10) though one could not spot the more popular red, Shiraz.

The other wines fall within the range with the ubiquitous Chenin Blanc toeing the line at $6, the popular Sauvignon Blanc at $7 and Shiraz at slightly expensive $8 and Zinfandel at relatively unattractive $9, according to the price display. The Zin Rose is at a modest $6, making them all good buys at different price points. It’s a pity that their Rosé bubbly is not there in the current portfolio.

In contrast, the complete range of Four Seasons varietals is priced at the original $10 including the Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc while the Barrique Reserve range sticks out like a sore thumb at $20 a bottle, despite the excellent display.

Wincarnis Health Wine

A pleasant surprise was the availability and display of Wincarnis Ginger and Tonic wines. Fortified with herbs to an alcohol level of 17%, the ‘natural, revitalizing and nourishing wine’ from the London based, Hedges and Butler Ltd, had raised many enquiries from the delWine readers when an article had been earlier written about these health and tonic wines. The Ginger version has been priced at $14 and the Tonic at $12.

Indifferent wine service 

If Wincarnis has not sold much since its introduction a few weeks ago, it is partly because the sales staff is neither well informed nor motivated enough to sell it. They had no clue about the wine’s characteristics. Surprisingly, when I could not hide my excitement about finding the wine and my telling them I would like to add it in my planned wine feature, the sales supervisor was reluctant to let me take a proper picture after I had realised that my blackberry had not made the best possible picture.

However, he did connect me to his supervisor, one Mr. Aneesh sir, who was even less enthusiastic and more suspecting of my motive for the picture and regretted, slapping the company policy at my face. My plea that it would be welcome by many of our readers who are interested in this wine and the picture might help them increase their sale of this wine had no effect on him, though he was quite polite. (to put things in proper perspective, no winery has ever refused me or any other journalist from ever taking a picture even when they have installed a unique equipment or process-that is truly the wonderful world of wine)

Not that the staff on the floor was any more motivated. Prices of the majority of Sula wines were not displayed anywhere. I hand-carried at least four bottles to the cashier who read the bar code to give me the prices. There was no way for a potential buyer to know the price without going through this price. In my presence, two walk-in passengers-one Indian group of wine enthusiasts and another-a young foreign girl, spent a few minutes with confused looks on their faces and walked away without buying and missing great  deals, with Sula being at almost half the street price.

While I found it almost impossible to keep my mouth shut and offer unsolicited advice, here were just a couple of examples in front of my eyes, out of thousands of occasions when the potential wine sales are perhaps being missed out every day in Retail and restaurants in India.

It was not surprising to see that there were absolutely  no ‘specials’ on any wine-foreign or Indian-including Champagnes which hog bigger than earlier space with Dom Perignon Vintage champagnes priced at up to around $250. The whisky and liquor counters close-by-like Chivas, Teachers and Grey Goose had practically every shelf showing off some deals that made once stop and at least take a second look.

Most of Sula labels selling at almost half of their street prices, made me wonder about the customs rules. Two bottles of foreign wine or liquor is allowed without duty but 5 liters of legitimately purchased alcohol can be carried personally while flying from one state to the other. Does it mean that one can buy 6 bottles of Indian premium wine- at half the street price? I would love to carry 6 bottles of Sula Brut at $7 every time I return from my foreign assignment, if someone can clarify- despite the indifferent attitude of the sales staff.

So far as the Wincarnis is concerned, if you believe in the health benefits- the label on the bottle suggests taking a small glassful 3 times a day, just go to the wine counter and insist on it-if you are lucky the sales clerk might be aware where it is displayed and may even direct you towards it.

For our earlier article, please visit Blog: Wincarnis Wine- Tonic yet not Tannic :

Subhash Arora 



B.Shankaranarayan Says:

No problem bringing in Indian origin goods from DFS. It will be treated by Customs as if it were of foreign origin. When Sula sells to duty free shop, it is considered export coz DFS pays Sula in forex. Ergo Sula gets all export benefits. Traveller has to pay in US$ and not in Indian currency to DFS. There was a time when ITDC wanted to set up DFS within India to sell imported stuff for cash $$, no questions asked so GoI cud mop up US$ floating in the cities. Project did not see light of day. We even had a concept of Deemed Export where goods made in India and sold within India but paid in forex was considered export. Remember Bajaj Chetak used to sell against forex DDs.

Posted @ May 10, 2011 11:59


Subhash Arora Says:


I thought the permit system was over in Mumbai a long time back and exists only in Gujarat! Incidentally 2 bottles of wine noramally make 1.5 liters and 2 liters of alcohol is allowed by law to be imported anyway. So 3 bottles of wine are generally allowed without any fuss unless the customs officer got up from the wrong side of the bed that morning ( in Delhi, we find them very polite and understanding). My question is if you buy Sula or Four Seasons, these are Indian wines (no doubt without taxes) but the import dutiy is applicable only to foreign goods!. Obviously, i am looking for a lacuna that will help the overseas travellers to bring in 5 liters of Indian wine, which I believe is the inter-state law for wines carried by air.. Subhash Arora

Posted @ May 09, 2011 17:52


B.Shankaranarayan Says:

No customs officer can object to your bringing in Indian origin products bought at a duty free store in Indian airports as long as it is within the allowance. As per the Bombay Prohibition Act, everyone in Maharashtra needs a permit to consume alcohol. In 2009 the then state excise principal secretary Ramanath Jha said "Anyone coming from abroad can carry two bottles of wine. But the moment he steps out of the Mumbai or any other airport in the state, he can be prosecuted for not having a permit. As the policy adopted by the state contradicts the national policy, we proposed to scrap the system.'' See TOI, Mumbai Feb.7, 2009. Jha, as happens to all practical thinking bureaucrats in this country, was transferred, the new secy. feigned total ignorance of the subject and the politicians and excise officials buried it. Another sensible idea scotched (!!).

Posted @ May 09, 2011 17:19


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