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Delhi Wine Club
Fine Food India 2011 had Wines Too

Posted: Tuesday, 13 December 2011 12:42

Wine Show: Fine Food India 2011 had Wines Too

Dec 13: The 3-day inaugural edition of Fine Food India Expo on 5-7 December at Pragati Maidan was a mixed bag with a fair amount of wines at the Show that was much smaller in the floor area than the similar Shows earlier and could have better attendance with several exhibitors stressed due to the complex import procedures but a general sense of satisfaction prevailed, writes Subhash Arora who visited most of the wine stands.

Photos By:: Adil Arora

Click For Large ViewThe visitors were greeted -head on, by the stand of Chateauneuf –du-Pape producers who had over 20 labels to taste from-a good start from the oldest AOC and one of the most popular and respected appellations of France, with some connoisseurs putting it at par or even better on their palates because of the inherent spiciness and elegance, especially as the appellation does not command higher prices like the premium Bordeaux and Burgundy though the wines can age well.

This was only one of the stalls from the French stable that had several producers with the message ‘we shall overcome’. There were producers from Bordeaux, Burgundy and even a champagne producer- Champagne Malard whose premier champagne costs the same as the prices of regular not-so-special better known champagnes. The Grand Cru from Jean-Marc Pottiez was a treat to taste. Chateaux Solidaires from Blaye, Cotes de Bordeaux is a conglomerate of 12 Chateaux and seems to understand that the smaller producers must come together for marketing their wines. Their charming export manger Laura Sorin had some interesting wines, including a fruiticious 'J'Adore!' for the youth, at very decent prices which most importers would still find expensive as they all look for L-1 (a popular term used in the Indian government circles where the purchase contract must be given to the lowest bidder-irrespective of the quality) priced wines.

Click For Large ViewFood ans wines from Spain had set up an inviting stall right at the entry too-with lots of tempting food items including olives and olive oils as also wine participation from Juberfam Mittal and Nobel Resources who are slowly but steadily expanding their Spanish wine and food portfolio.

The Indian entries were rather disappointing. Sula has been a fairly regular participant. It was reassuring to see the Sula Brut Rose, highly recommended by delWine two years ago when it was launched despite a massive cork opening problem, find its well deserved place in the popularity chart this time. Despite the relatively high price tag of Rs.900 (at Rs. 700 it would have been the queen of all Indian wines), this bubbly can match or beat several imported wines and is an excellent substitute for Rose Champagnes (costing over 5 times as much) at still-budget prices.

Click For Large ViewFratelli winery was the second participant. Relatively new on the wine scene, having entered Delhi less than a couple of months ago through the former distributor of Sula, Amazon Marketing, it was a busy-looking table with too many wine bottles cluttering the space but the Sauvignon, Chenin and Cabernet were good examples of why it may be a worthy opponent for Sula in the next 5-10 years.

Click For Large ViewMichel Blanc who was representing the Federation of Chateauneuf Wine Producers was quite pleased with the response at the Show. ‘My feeling is that there are several Indians who appreciate the quality and special characteristics of wines from our region.’ Laura Sorin was quite impressed with the quality of people enquiring about the wines despite a man standing next to me, claiming to be a political journalist for a leading daily asking for wines from the first bottle his fingers pointed to, proclaiming that he was at a Spanish stand. He insisted on having the glass well-filled to help him taste the wine better- he couldn’t care less which region it was from or what colour or varietal the grapes were.

Jean-Marc at Champagne Malard stand was quite frustrated with the import procedures. ‘Everyone from the shipping company to the cargo clearing agent wants a pound of flesh and the costs become prohibitive because of the complexity and vagueness in procedures. Apparently, Adeline Moutier, the Asia Export Manager of Vignerons Catalans in South of France (who I ran across later in the evening at P’tit Bar in Defence Colony and she confirmed it) had to shell out a total of €3000 for 60 bottles the actual average price of each bottle being under € 3. Having worked in China where the procedures are quite complex too, she said that she found it easier to work in China.

Another significant participant was Austrade that included participation by Buller Wines. They were being exported through Pearl Wines for a couple of years until the importer changed gears and decided to sell vodka and beer instead and so Mr. Richard Buller, the owner winemaker  decided to come and look for an importer and went back generally pleased with the maiden experience.

Indian producers do not have to worry about such extraneous matters. ‘Overall we were happy with our participation in Fine Food India Expo 2011,’ says Cecilia Oldne, Head of International Business for Nashik Vintners (Sula). ‘The show could possibly have been better attended, but the interest in our wines and the buzz around our main stall was positive. I believe this was a good platform for us to showcase our portfolio to the right audience.’ A range of Sula wines were showcased also in the IGPB stand which was part of the Ministry of Food Processing stall.

The organisers seemed to be quite pleased with the performance. As Pravin Gupta, the Project Manager and former General Manager of APEDA put it, ‘this was the first year and we have been able to get good participation at the Show-including about 25 wine producers.’

Click For Large ViewThough he would not estimate the people who attended the Show, it appeared to be about 2000-2500 people visiting the Show in 3 days. It seemed to be the abridged version of IFE India that ruled Pragati Maidan for food and wine shows for 4-5 years till it had to close shop due to differences with their UK partners and legal commitments kept them both away for two years.

Interestingly, the gap was filled by IFDE- another show organised by an English company, that limped along for 2 years and never took off and the promoters decided to move to greener pastures.

Click For Large ViewWhether the Show will go the IFE way or the IFDE way , only time will tell but the apathy of serious visitors to the wine segment is disturbing. Unless the market shows signs of expanding and the Indian producers are confident enough to showcase a quality product or the policies are streamlined and more importers want to throw their hat in the ring, it is not a feasible preposition to run a Show like this. Unfortunately, the importers are not smitten enough with wines to want to taste different wines and vintages and are happy with their existing portfolios.

But the Delhi government also needs to look into the import aspect. In Singapore, the importers and show organisers were able to convince their government to waive off duties on a 3 bottles/day basis per label a couple of years ago. They even have one day now for public where they have to pay duties and can ‘sell’ wines as the consumers buy the entry tickets and there is some revenue sharing for the wines sold, but the government in Delhi is so paranoid that they feel that a policy like this might turn out to be a bigger scam than 2G or CWG and are happier threatening to pull the trigger on the small guys.

Meanwhile Fine Food India 2012 will be held on September 17-19, 2012.

Subhash Arora


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