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Vinisud 2014: Passionately Mediterranean Wine Show

Posted: Wednesday, 12 March 2014 17:29

Vinisud 2014: Passionately Mediterranean Wine Show

Mar 12: The biennial wine show Vinisud, passionately dedicated to promote Mediterranean wines, celebrated its 20th anniversary as it held the eleventh edition at the regular venue in Montpellier in the wine producing region of Languedoc Roussillon on February 24-26 with about 1630 exhibitors participating for visitors from over 60 countries, writes Subhash Arora who was a repeat visitor and found the Show full of activities and one offering several wines worth a chance for the Indian market due to low prices

Click For Large ViewAccording to Fabrice Rieu, President of Vinisud Mediterranean wines represent over 50% of the wines produced in the world and generating 65% of the revenue, making it an interesting show to attend. Located in Montpellier which is in the Languedoc-Roussillon region implies a larger participation by the region which has over 9,500 wine producing enterprises with almost 1200 of the producers opting for organic wines representing 9% of the total production.

Languedoc-Roussillon

Languedoc-Roussillon is the biggest participating region, hogging almost half the exhibiting space in numbers from France which had about 90% of the total participation at the Show. The region has the image of producing some real low- end wines that form a wine lake full of unsalable wines. Not so, says Gerard Basset, OBE running his own hotel Terra Vina in UK. ‘I sell quite a few of the wines from this region. The quality used to be poor but during the last 10-15 years it has improved a lot. The Mediterranean wines have improved in quality tremendously. The younger generations are not interested in carrying on with the bulk wine making business. They have studied enology and they want to innovate or get out of the wine business. These wines have a unique character and personality and are desirable to be in the wine list of any fine restaurant.’

Master classes-Basset and Basso

Basset should know! He was chosen as the Best Sommelier of the World in 2010. He is also a Master of Wine, Master Sommelier and a Wine MBA-and humble. ‘Today, you can find good quality wines in this area, whose prices have still not hit the roof.’

Paolo Basso, on the other hand, is the current Best Sommelier of the World- a title this Italian-settled in Geneva now, earned last year. He is also as impressed with the wines from this area and passionate as one could see in his conducting a Masterclass, ‘Discovering Mediterranean wines’ on the very first day. But the highlight of the whole show was the Masterclass Basset and Basso synthesized together. ‘The great red wine appellations /regions of the Mediterranean’ with an overflowing house enjoying the guided wine tasting as well, was a Masterclass with a difference because each of them taking turns and commenting on each wine also disclosed the reason for selecting the wine.

Click For Large ViewOne had an opportunity to interact also with Oliver Poussier, winner of the World’s Best Sommelier award at another Master class, ‘When grape variety and heritage go hand in hand,’ which he conducted with the President of the Corsican Sommeliers Association, that I could not attend unfortunately; despite the show being much smaller than Vinexpo, it has too many activities planned for one to take advantage of.

I was lured by one of the attractive feature of the show providing an opportunity of tasting independently at the Mediterranean Palace, a Free- access tasting area which is presented by the Union des Oenologues de France like the last time. One could discover the rich diversity of Mediterranean wines, including the organic wines showcased.

Scoring a Taste Century  

Century Wine Cub is an organisation of which I have been a member for several years. It may sound easy but when you start counting the grapes you have tasted, it is difficult to reach the 100 mark for most wine lovers and join this Club. Over the years, I have been now fortunate enough to taste over 400 varieties although I did not have time to list them all for an upgrade to the fourth level of membership. Mediterranean Expression area was a new innovation which showcased the rich diversity of Mediterranean wines and the cultural heritage. In one sampling area you could discover around a hundred Mediterranean grape varieties that you have never tasted before and would be eligible to become a member of this organisation! The cricketer in you would make you salivate at the prospect of hitting a taste century in a day.

Roses, Roses everywhere

There is a heavy latent demand for Rosé wines in India. This is visible at various tastings and the desire of all Indian importers and producers to add one wine in this category to their portfolio; a few importers carry even more than one label from different countries. Provence continues to spin the magic when it comes to Rosé, supplying about half this wine consumed in France. A seminar ‘World trends in rosé wines" was worth attending if one did not have time to visit infinite number of stands that made you dizzy seeing pink for several minutes after  leaving the Provence pavilion.

Rhone Valley and CNP

Click For Large ViewWhereas Rhone is a region that still has some great value for money wines, Chateau Neuf du Pape (CNP)  is known for creating fine quality higher end Bordeaux-like wines that can be quite expensive. Surprisingly, CNP had a brand image of high quality French wines in India 2-3 decades back but the sales did not keep up with the changing times despite visits by producers and the consortium from this prestigious village and wine producing French area. One such fine producer who is still looking for a producer and I visited the stand is Domain de Nalys whose General Manager Isabelle Ogre is no stranger to India and has been scouting around for over 5 years but has not found a worthy importer and would love to be present.

Of course, there were wines from several other regions and countries including Bulgaria, Spain, Greece, Italy, Lebanon, Morocco, Portugal and Tunisia. France did show up everywhere-with 90% participation it can be expected to be a French-heavy wine show; a little knowledge of French also helps.

Click For Large ViewWalking through different Halls, I did spend a lot of time at several wineries of interest to Indian market. Maison Gabriel Meffre of Gigondas where the Mumbai-born French Export Manager Yash Ghienne showcased several wines including La Chasse being exported to India and Laurus Gigondas and CNP that were exported earlier to JW Marriott Mumbai  when SV Distributors used to import wines. It was amusing, though not completely surprising to learn that their world famous ‘Fat Bastard’ could not be registered in Mumbai due to the prudish reasons.

Click For Large ViewChateau de Saint Cosme is another Gigondas producer whose interesting Gigondas wines are being imported by the Wine Park in Mumbai. Louis Barruol, the producer cum négociant is quite happy with the exports to India though has a much wider range than what is sold in India. I had to explain to him that despite my strong bias to see a wider choice from his winery, the registration costs are really a problem in India and it is not feasible for so many labels from the same winery to be present and that in fact most importers are in the process of pruning the labels.

Click For Large ViewDomaine Santa Duc and Domaine Brusset were a couple of producers also very keen to export their range of Rhone, Gigondas and CNP wines with good quality and reasonable prices. A chance meeting with Domaine La Colombette owned by Pugibet family in Beziers had me taste several interesting wines which were at extremely competitive rates, suitable for India too. But the interesting feature was that they make low alcohol wine at 9% ‘by using RO techniques and not by mixing water like many other producers do.’ It got me thinking!!

Digital marketing and social media

Vinisud has been giving a growing importance to digital marketing and use of tools like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Topics like ‘How to communicate online with a limited budget,’ and ‘what impact do social media have on the various wine markets?’ were well attended an attracted provocative response. There were plenty of tips for those improving their marketing strategy or the specialists in the area.

Wine Tourism

Click For Large ViewWine Tourism is an important aspect of marketing wines and there has been a continuously growing interest both by the producers and consumers- the two being connected by the travel agencies specializing in wine tourism. Round table discussion with contributions from wine tourism estates, travel agencies and institutional stakeholders and named ‘Sunshine, historic and cultural heritage, exceptional wines…the Mediterranean, a wine tourism paradise’ evoked a good response.

Gerard Bertrand’s New Winery

Click For Large ViewOf course, one of the highlights on the sidelines was a visit to Gerard Bertrand’s new winery being inaugurated at the nearby town of Narbonne. Gerard, an ex-footballer has done a lot for his region and people seemed to have a lot of respect and affection for him. One has had several wine tastings and small dinners in the wine cellars. Having dinner at a small winery is a par for the course but a sit down meal with a profession catering for over 250 people next to the big bottling line and the tanks was a unique experience that also included a professional pop singer that must have cost Gerard a pretty penny. His was one of the most visited and active single-group stand. Incidentally, Gerard Bertrand wines are being already imported in India by Aspri and are an important part of their portfolio.

Vinisud is an interesting Show, but at the end of the day highly French wine focussed- though the focus is more on the South of Dijon. There is a sea of lovely wines. One has to have the time and willingness to dive into it. Hopefully, the importers and restaurateurs in India will follow the guidelines that Gerard Basset, the World’s Best Sommelier preaches and practices at his restaurant in England.

Subhash Arora

Glimpses of Vinisud

       

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