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Desi Champagne Chandon from Moët Hennessy

Posted: Wednesday, 15 May 2013 13:46

Desi Champagne Chandon from Moët Hennessy

May 15: The talks of Moët Hennessy releasing the much written-about Chandon sparkling wine from Nashik are in the air with Decanter disclosing the open secret about the company announcing plans to release the Indian avatar, but one would have to wait and see whether it will be coined the ‘desi champagne’ and the still undisclosed release price, writes Subhash Arora

Travelling back in time or déjà vu?  That is the impression left by a recent article in Decanter. It has been an open secret for the last two years that Moët Hennessy is making sparkling wine from the bought out grapes crushed, fermented and bottled at the York winery in Nashik. In fact, delWine had met various officials of the company at Sulafest held at the Sula Vineyards site in February 2011 and reported it in delWine.

One would normally ignore the article as a breaking news story but my heart skipped a beat when I read that the Indian population had reached 1.4 billion! The last I knew it was being bandied around at 1.2 billion. I know we are heading towards become a super power and the number one nation in population but did we add 200 million people overnight! A quick search indicated that we may have in fact reached 1.27 billion in 2013.  

The company has been crushing, bottling at York as confirmed by Ravi Gurnani, Director. ‘I don’t know the quantity that will be released, the price or the date of release but I do know that It has been constructing its own winery and will crush it in its own winery next year,’ he says. There has also been sporadic news that it has bought its own land for vineyard which would be quite an achievement considering the strict ownership laws of Maharashtra. As expected, he was evasive about the details in general but indicated that he was not aware of their planting their own vines.

Meanwhile, the reaction of the Indian producers has been positive to indifferent. Although the sparkling wine in India began with the advent of Marquis de Pompadour Brut by Indage Vintners (then Champagne Indage) around 1990 and flourished till the company became a sick industry, Sula which had added it to their portfolio over ten years ago are now the market leaders in the sparkling wine sector as well

Rajeev Samant, Director, owner and CEO of Sula welcomes the launch of Chandon sparkling wines from Nashik. He says, ‘it's a huge tribute to the Nashik region and the Dindori sub-region in particular from one of the world's great wine companies. We need more quality producers in our market. Sula discovered Nashik and Dindori as wine regions, and we welcome Chandon with open arms. We hope others follow suit soon.

We believe this will increase the excitement and interest in sparkling wines produced in India and particularly from Nashik which produces the best sparkling wines at present.’

According to the Decanter report, 19 hA of Pinot Noir, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay were planted in 2011, in Dindori. But most producers contacted, could not confirm it and even wondered about the picture of the vineyard released as their own vineyard.

It is expected that Chandon-the brand name given to the bubbly as in other countries like Australia and California, is expected to spark interest of the market and the domestic producers are already gearing up for it. Grover Zampa and Vinsura are already producing Brut and Four Seasons, Fratelli, Big Banyan have announced plans to enter with the bottles already undergoing second fermentation.

Although Shiraz has been the de facto grape used for Rose Brut so far, the trend is shifting gradually towards using more Pinot Noir as Chandon had announced a couple of years ago. ‘Our 2013 Rose cuvee includes Pinot Noir and we are looking forward to increasing the proportion in coming years as more vineyards come up’, says Rajeev.

Pricing of Chandon has still not been announced though the wine is expected to be released by the year-end.  Our earlier estimates of Rs.1500-2000 are still valid though the Brut ought to be close to the lower end of the spectrum. With players like Sula and Grover Zampa selling at around Rs. 600, Chandon may not be able to reach high volumes even at Rs.1500; the company might well choose to keep the introductory price at around Rs.1200 with special offers. In any case, it might motivate the existing producers to increase their price to some extent, to keep the gap lower. It is difficult to visualize a Sula Brut selling at Rs.600 and a Chandon at Rs.1500, though it is a given that most existing producers will have to improve their quality standards.

While pricing the Chandon, the prices of the currently popular Bouvet Ladubay from France and Jacobs Creek Brut also need to be considered-at around Rs.1700 they are the comparable imported sparkling wines . Knowing the past history of Moët Hennessy in India, there will be a lot of promotions initially. They might even put brakes on the Champagne freebies and special priced bottles and ship out the newbie for tasting at the so called After Hours fashion parties and other luxury events.

Whether, Indians will treat Chandon as Desi (indigenous) champagne or another sparkling wine will be interesting to watch. Moet Chandon has a huge image as a champagne producer and was the first to pitch its flag in India as the Indian government relaxed the imports of imported wines in 2002. But it may not officially use the term champagne directly. Indirectly, it would be happier to find the Indian drinker think of it as desi champagne in which case it would have a distinct advantage as the Real McCoy with the similar label costs around Rs.6, 000.

Most Indians still consider every sparkling wine including Prosecco, Cava and the Indian Brut including Sula Brut, as Champagne and perhaps the word desi champagne will spread faster with every bottle of Chandon uncorked from 2014 onwards. Indeed bubbly times are around the corner. Cheers, Chandon!

Subhash Arora



Subhash Arora Says:

As implied, it will depend on the pricing of Chandon whether it will dent the sales of Sula. I feel it will help their bottom line anyway as I foresee an increase in prices of the desi bubblies. Chandon will definitely help expand the sparkling wine category. Thus Sula's market share will come down but the numbers may not. Thanks for your comments, Alok. Subhash Arora from Ancona

Posted @ April 16, 2013 12:15


Alok Chandra Says:

Kudos to Rajeev for such a positive outlook, although the Chandon label is sure to dent sales of his own Sula Brut, but at the same time grow the category. Interesting that you did not touch upon the possibility of cannabalisation of Moet Chandon Champagnes by the desi variety - although again since the latter sells mainly duty free to he big hotels the impact may not be much. But keen to taste the new cuvee and compare it to the others mentioned above.

Posted @ April 16, 2013 12:09


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