The Business of Wine & Spirits in India
Authored by Sommelier Nikhil Agarwal for Black Book India
The Business of Wine and Spirits in India is like an intensedrama movie. There is little success for some and a lot of success for a few; lot of plot twists and equal amount of pain and suffering. Actually I think the business of wine and spirits in India is unlike the wine and spirits business anywhere else in the world.
I don’t think anyone getting into the alcohol business in India ever imagined that it would be so complicated. However, here lies the secret that all of us in the business know; because it is complicated and ruthless it will keep a lot of people out and if we hold on with all our might we will see fruition of our efforts.
Things have changed very dramatically in the last decade or so, more so than the decade before but then a lot of things haven’t changed at all.
The beverage trade in India faces every problem you can imagine. We have a hostile business environment, some states are dry while some have recently become dryandmany are threatening to do so..
In Gujarat for example, the old saying that more bottles of Johnnie are sold there than produced is probably true. In the legal sense,Gujarat has about 30 to 35 license holders. These license holders can purchase stock and sell to consumers who themselves have permits. The permits to consumers are given to those who need alcohol for maintaining their health. Maintaining their health….just genius.
The Courtyard Marriott in Ahmedabad holds such a license for example. They can sell to these health minded locals or international tourist, business travellers and of course the celebrated NRI’s because they have an international passport and are notgoverned by the same laws as we are. Dry states actually make for very good alcohol trade but not for the likes of us.
Besides custom duties on a central level for the imports and each individual state has its on own take on excise duties, VAT, octroi and other taxes.
Each state with a different tax regime means multiple cost cards, multiple prices for the same product, different strategies on schemes and marketing, different marketing budgets and in some cases like in the state of Karnataka convoluted methods to get the right discounts to our trade partners.
Also, just to make things more fun, the rules are often changed and without too much warning either. There you go, younew craft beer producer you, we’re not going to let you live your dream of being the next beer baron come true so easy. You have got to suffer just like the rest of us crabs despite your hard work and once in a lifetime idea.
I mean, some states have 70% VAT. That sort of VAT component has forced locals of that state to imagine that their glass of average red is Cru Classe Bordeaux.
What else can I share with you? Oh yes, imagine a world with all of the above,it’s not too hard. You’ve spent crores creating your product and countless hours fine tuning it to be right but you cannot let the world know you have a product to sell.
You can’t advertise wine and spirits brands in India. Sure, if you got the money you do mineral water with the same logo and brand name or even bettersell “cd’s and cassettes’ sort of surrogate branding but you cannot say hey, have you tried my wine on a mass scale. Honestly when truly was the last time you bought a cassette or a CD for that matter?
Then you have your route to market to contend with. The average wine shop might look like it’s a dead zone with a guy half asleep at the counter. But I got to tell you; they are not easy. They will squeeze you to a point where in some cases you actually pay them to sell your product. And if your product is wine, you’vegot it even tougher. Some restaurants and hotels will make your mind numb with their requests for listing fees and discounts.
Another case in point that recently created some havoc (there’s always something going on here) is that sales of wine were stopped in a particular state for about a month. Yes a month because they were debating changing some tax component that wouldchange the price of a bottle to the effect of Rs 1 per bottle. Can you imagine what the loss on sale is for a month for a brand?
State excise authorities will ask us to do label registration for wine and spirit brands once a year, this process takes some time. Some states are faster than the others and some take what feels like eons. Effectively you are not allowed to sell anything that is not already in the market till the process is complete. This could take more than a month sometimes. A month is 8.3% percent of our business year but no worries; our businesses only just support our lives.
The biggest challenge however, more than anything else is awareness. We just don’t know enough or anything on the larger scale. I have always believed that we in the trade have to look beyond supplying to an existing market but in fact we have to create a market. Like someone told me many moons ago, you cannot always preach to the converted. Therefore in the absence of advertising opportunities we rely heavily on experiential marketing and concepts that allow people to taste and experience. If they like it they will buy. At All Things Nice we pioneered the Indian Wine Consumer’s Choice Awards, Wine Week and Celebrating India’s Finest. We do whisky tastings and cognac evenings with ferocious intensity in numbers. We show people through experience the joys of pairing wine or even spirit with food. Conduct master classes on beer and in general constantly push the envelope on getting you to try different beverages.
I want to go on but I got to switch sides now and talk about the good stuff. There is a lot of it and a lot more of it to come. So much so that a lot of the troubles mentioned above are even accepted.
India’s 1.2 billion is thirsty for the most part. At every level of society you’ve got some serious thirst going on and it’s the beverage the industry’s job to quench it. Well someone’s got to do it, and that Ferrari is not going to paying for itself right?
More money in our pockets, many more people having travelled, people willing to try new cuisines and beverages and the Gods at Masterchef Australia have turned India’s upwardly mobile middle class into bastions of consumption. Single malt sales have gone through the roof,luxury vodka brands are increasing in numbers. Whisky and brandy sales will make your mouth water. Locally brewed craft beer sales have outfoxed any sort of projections and have attracted serious funding. Indian wine producers are seeing a steady increase in sales and so is wine tourism. With the quality levels of Indian wine at an all time high, I predict millions of people will get onto the Indian bandwagon very soon.
India will have another 100 million legal drinkers (age limit wise) in the next 5 years. 100 million is roughly 3 Australia’s my fellowpeople so the market potential is ridiculous. True a tiny percent of the current and the new 100 million people will be drinking the good stuff but that doesn’t mean that eventually they won’t.
It isn’t only about Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore anymore. Kolkatta has a fascinating wine scene that’s developing (all that maroo money), Hyderabad is taking to single malts and Gurgaon with its low taxes and duties is seeing incredible growth figures. Even sleepy Pune is throwing in some descent numbers.
Despite all the troubles, the wine and spirits industry in India is booming and once you know the rules and understand that they will be changed frequently and that you will have to adapt and you are able to see through all the complicated taxation policies you will find that there is a huge pot of gold at the end of the booze rainbow.
So go on take that sip, we really want you to. And now that you have heard a little about just how much trouble we go through to get it to you perhaps you will appreciate it just a tiny bit more
There’s something about modern cities in Asia that I thoroughly enjoy. There’s an infectious energy from the sheer number of people, and a beautiful mesh of traditional architecture, food and lifestyle, plus the best of western luxuries, brands, food and drink. Shanghai is no exception, and I have explored this massive city carefully over the last two years on two separate occasions. You can visit a ton of places over a two-day period (a lot of them are very close to each other) and getting around is incredibly easy, with every option of transport you can think of.
From the airport, take the Maglev, the world’s fastest train, to the centre of town at speeds over 400 kilometres per hour for the thrill and convenience of it. It literally takes minutes, for a distance that is otherwise is an hour or so away from Pudong.
You can’t visit Shanghai and not visit the Bund. It overlooks the River Huangpu in the district of Pudong, with its sky-kissing, futuristic glass buildings, including the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the Jin Mao Tower (what the locals refer to as the bottle opener building) on one side and old colonial buildings on the other. Both sides are equally eye catching in exactly opposite ways. The river itself is full of activity, with floating restaurants, cruise and cargo ships, all slowly moving along this ancient waterway.
Mr. & Mrs. Bund
When at the Bund, you have to visit Shanghai’s most famous restaurant — Mr.& Mrs. Bund, by Paul Pairet. This restaurant offers incredibly delicious French food, great cocktails and a brilliant wine and spirit list with a view of Pudong to die for — a glass of wine on the terrace here is pure bliss.
Interiors of Mr. & Mrs. Bund
Mr.& Mrs. Bund banquet
One floor above, on the terrace of the building, you have the Bar Rouge, which is a must-visit for some late night shenanigans. If you have the budget (approximately Rs 40,000 a head) you should definitely have the Ultraviolet experience. This restaurant is in a secret location and takes dining to a whole new level, using sounds, light and aromas to take you on a gastronomical journey like no other.
Food & Drink
Further down the road along the Bund is a high-end yet casual tapas bar called Unico, which I thoroughly loved. They have live music there and the food is delicious. I had the lobster with peanut oil, which has quickly become one of my favourite dishes of all time. I took a sip of their Malbec Cosmopolitan, which I thought was truly inventive, with a whole new take on how to enjoy Malbec.
Egg mushrooms and duck confit
Not too far away, in an area called Xintiandi, you will be spoilt for choice. This area is a little touristy, I must warn you, but excellent nevertheless. Head for a beer at the Pauline Bauhaus, or have a glass of vino at the wine bar right next to it for some ‘lucky’ red wine. The Chinese believe that the colour red is lucky and have taken to their lucky red wines with some serious aggression, so much so that now, in a relatively small period of time, they have become the world’s largest consumers of red wine. But I digress. If you want some live jazz, head to the jazz bar slightly ahead, or visit The Devil’s Share, for a range of whiskies as you watch the world go by down below. Try the famed Xiao Long Bao at Crystal Jade, and try to not burn your tongue. Oh, and if you’re looking for some seriously good steak, there is a spanking new Wolfgang Puk restaurant bang in the middle of this area. Connected here is Nanjing Road, famous for its shopping and underground markets. For world class shopping, head to Huahai (also known as the Paris of the Orient) for your fix of fashion and designer labels.
Black Cod Essential Soy
An area definitely worth a visit is the French Concession. I found myself on a road called Yong Kang Lu, that is lined on either side with what seems like hundreds of small bars and restaurants, with residential apartments above them. I don’t think I have ever seen anything like it before. Go down there in the early evening for a very slow drink , especially over the weekend, and take in its almost Goa sort of vibe. This place seems to be off the tourist map and is visited by tons of expats and hipster locals, who ride the most fabulous modified scooters on the planet. Shanghai is a serious food and drink town and you can have great food anywhere — I particularly liked Din Tai Fung, a chain of value for money restaurants that are scattered all around Shanghai and the rest of Asia. If you’re the adventurous kind, try the many street food options, that include duck tongue, insects, bamboo shoots and a variety of pork-based dishes.
Kung Fu Panda
Alternatively, it does not all have to be about food and booze. I would highly recommend visiting the Yu Yuan Gardens, with old King Fu Panda movie-like structures. You could spend a lot of time here walking around or you could head to one of the many tea spots and get a glimpse of what China was like eons ago.
Shanghai night life
Yu Yan garden
The City God temple is definitely worth a visit, and so is the Shanghai Museum for Fine Art Chinese Porcelain, if porcelain is your thing. The Urban Planning Centre shows Shanghai’s architectural plans in 3D for the next four years, and I would highly recommend a visit just to see the technology used here.
In Pudong, you could walk around the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and IFC Mall area and see swarms of people go from one place to another. The mall has a great number of restaurants on top, and some with terraces. You could sit there with your neck craned upwards and look at some of the world’s tallest structures around you.
All this, and I frankly haven’t even scratched the surface; I don’t think anyone could, even after living here for a year. I have to say that I love this city, and Shanghai has quickly become one of my favourite cities in Asia.
Indian wines are about to get a new lease of life. Major Indian wineries have decided to get together, through the newly constituted board of the All India Producers Association (AIWPA), to promote Indian wines in a big way via a promotional effort termed ‘Wines of India’.
Although the sector, which is over a decade old in the country, has been growing steadily, wineries have been feeling the need to push wines more aggressively and have therefore made the effort. This is perhaps the first attempt of its kind where players in a sector have come together to promote a product.
The objective is to tell consumers that Indian wines are good, says Yatin Patil, president, AIWPA. The effort which has already taken off includes the participation of around 12 wineries and hopes to include more wineries as more awareness spreads among consumers. The association has roped in wine and spirits consultancy All Things Nice to coordinate the ‘Wines of India’ initiative, to work with the wine companies both in India and globally. The firm specialises in luxury wines and spirits and organises over 500 events annually. The company works with large wineries and spirit companies and gourmet food companies, hotels and restaurants, and large corporates.
According to Nikhil Agarwal, sommelier and director, All Things Nice, most consumers prefer imported wines over Indian wines. However, consumers are not aware that some of the Indian wines are far superior to many overseas varietals.
“Our effort is to tell consumers to keep an open mind and also learn about Indian wines,” he said. “Moreover, while there are several Indian brands or varietals that consumers are familiar with, they also to know that there are many more brands which are just as good and there are several varietals that companies produce that have gone unnoticed,” he said.
In the next couple of months, some 30 events have been planned around this effort. A special logo has been created for Wines of India. wherein all the products by these companies are showcased to consumers through wine tastings, promotional events, samplings and trade shows.
The erstwhile Indian Grape Processing Board (IGPB) has been presenting Indian wines under a common umbrella of Wines of India during its export promotions in overseas markets through APEDA. The board has showcased Indian wines at Hong Kong, the UK, Canada and Germany in the past. This effort will continue in association with the consultancy and the association.
Patil says that although the effort initially includes top wineries of India including Sula Vineyards, Grover Zampa Wines, Fratelli, Charosa, Vintage Wines and York Wines, more wineries will be added to the list as the concept grows. “As of now, there are several wineries in the country that do not have a pan India presence. These are growing and are on their way to selling their products across India, ” Agrawal said.
* Major Indian wineries have decided to get together, and through the newly constituted board of the All India Producers Association (AIWPA), have decided to promote Indian wines in a big way through a promotional effort termed ‘Wines of India’
* Although the sector, which is over a decade old in the country, has been growing steadily, wineries have been feeling the need to push wines more aggressively and have therefore made the effort
Even while the Make in India Summit is underway in the city, the ‘Wines of India’, a unique initiative to support Indian made wine, both in India and internationally, was officially launched at an event held yesterday at the AKA restaurant in Worli Mumbai. What is indeed remarkable is that for the first time, wineries in India, keeping competition between them aside, have themselves come together to form a united body to present and showcase their products. Furthermore, the collective body comprises 11 wineries, each with a different heritage and background. These include the market leader Sula as well as new comer Soma Wines, some like Vallonne who have been in the market for a long time, family owned wineries like York Wines, and corporate backed wineries too.
Nikhil Aggarwal, sommelier and founder, All things Nice, who is passionate about all things wine, and especially about promoting a a wine culture in the country, has been chosen as Programme Director of Wines Of India. Aggarwal, through tastings and expert panels will determine which of the wineries’ products will be showcased by Wines of India, “based purely on the merit of the wine,” he said. “These were exciting times for Indian wines and each of the 11 wineries were doing something new, experimenting and producing good quality wines, with more kinds of wines being produced than ever before, wines that India can be proud of,” said Agarwal.
The seed to form such a body was first sown by Ashwin Rodrigues, Founder, Good Drop Wine Cellars. Speaking to Hospitality Biz, Rodrigues said that he was happy that after several meetings since last September, the wineries were convinced that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and the ‘Wines of India’ was finally born. He said that each winery faces similar issues and it made sense to work together. Rodrigues is very keen on sharing his enthusiasm for Indian wines with the Indian consumer and says that he works with the Indian palate in mind. He said he was sure that more wineries would become part of the Wines of India programme.
The evening saw one wine from each winery being presented for the tasting. These included Sula Brut Tropicale, Casablanca Rose Spumante from Good Drop Wine Cellars, Soma Chauvignon Blanc Gold 2014, Charosa Selections Suvignon Blanc 2014, Reveilo Grillo 2013, Nine Hills Chenin Blanc2014,York Rose 2015, Vallonne Syrah Merlot 2014, Fratelli Sette 2012, Myra Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 and Grover Zampa Chene 2012 .
By Odelle Amaral D’Silva
The good news is that India’s leading wineries have come together to support and promote Indian wine as one entity with the launch of the Wines of India programme. The aim is to stand together on an impartial platform and promote a culture of domestic wine consumption in India and overseas. Wines of India programme, a collective body set up by India’s 11 leading wineries, is the first attempt of its kind where players in a sector have come together to promote a culture rather than a brand.
This programme is an amalgamation of pioneers like Sula Vineyards, Reveilo Vineyards, Grover Zampa Vineyards, Fratelli Vineyards, Nine Hills with more recently launched wineries like Myra Vineyards, Charosa Vineyards, Vallonne Vineyards, Good Drop Cellars, York Winery and Soma Vineyards. Each winery in the Wines of India programme has introduced their own unique style of wine making, interesting grape varieties, technological innovation and marketing expertise.
Sommelier Nikhil Agarwal of All Things Nice, director of the Wines of India programme, is the chosen one to conduct retail promotions, consumer tastings, staff trainings and unique consumer experiences and media interaction as part of this initiative. At the first exclusive media interaction for Wines of India at Aka in Worli, Nikhil guided the audience through an interactive, structured tasting of 11 wines, one from each of the participating wineries.
Present at this fine wine gathering were Craig Wedge of Fratelli Winery, Clive Castellino of Charosa Winery, Ashwin Rodrigues of Good Drop Winery, Cecilia Oldne of Sula Vineyards, Kiran Patil of Reveilo Winery, Yatin Patil of Reveilo Winery and Kailash Gurnani of York Winery.
On a winter afternoon in January, about a hundred wine enthusiasts gathered at Sofitel, Bandra-Kurla Complex. Over hundred wine bottles, covered in aluminum foil to hide their labels, waited on a large table.
Each judge was given wine glasses and a sheet of paper. This was the setting at the tasting session before the fourth edition of the Indian Wine Consumer’s Choice Awards (IWCCA) 2016, in association with HT48Hours. This year, the IWCCA, which is the only Indian accreditation that focusses on Indian vintage wines and new launches in the market, received the maximum number of participants yet – 136 wines from 21 labels.
The wines were scored on three criteria: colour (1 to 3 points), aroma (1 to 7 points) and palate (1 to 10 points). The IWCCA invited opinions of consumers, the people who ultimately buy the wine, unlike international wine awards that invite professional wine tasters to judge their entries. “The awards should reflect the choice and preferences of the drinker in India. The event is also a platform for generating feedback for the wine producers in the country”, says Nikhil Agarwal, sommelier and CEO of All Things Nice, a wine and spirits consultancy that organises the awards.
The participating wines were picked and segregated into different categories on the basis of their style: sparkling, white, red and dessert. “The whites and reds were further divided on the basis of the grape varieties such as chardonnay, shiraz, merlot, chenin blanc and cabernet sauvignon,” says Agarwal. Total points for each wine were tallied and the top three wines, in each category, were segregated into gold, silver, and bronze winner categories.
A consumer tasting wine at the event. (Photo courtesy: All Things Nice )
And the awards go to…
• Soma Brut Cuvée 2014
• Casablanca Rosé Spumante 2015
• Nine Hills Chenin Blanc 2015
• Sula Riesling 2015
• Myra Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
• Charosa Pleasures Cabernet Shiraz NV
• Oakwood Reisha Grand Cru Reserve 2013
• Charosa Pleasures Sauvignon Blanc NV
• Sula Sauvignon Blanc 2015
• York Rosé 2015
• York Shiraz 2013
• Reveilo Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2012
• Charosa Selections Viognier 2015
• Reveilo Chardonnay Reserve 2015
• Charosa Reserve Tempranillo 2013
• Reveilo Nero D’Avola 2015
• Reveilo Merlot 2015
• Vallonné Reserve Merlot 2013
• Myra Reserve Shiraz 2014
• SDU Trilogy 2015
• Big Banyan Bellissima NV
• Good Drop Frizzano Semi-dry 2015
• Reveilo Chenin Blanc 2015
• Reveilo Grillo 2015
• Big Banyan Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
• SDU Deva 2014
• Myra Misfit 2013
• York Arros 2013
• Soma Sauvignon Blanc Gold 2014
• Vallonné Rosé 2014
• Reveilo Syrah 2015
• SDU Deva Syrah 2014
• Good Earth Basso 2014
• Vallonné Viognier 2015
• Reveilo Chardonnay 2015
• Reveilo Sangiovese 2015
• Big Banyan Merlot 2014
• SDU Reserva Syrah 2012
• Vallonné Syrah Merlot 2014
• Sula Late Harvest Chenin Blanc 2015
• Sula Brut Tropicale NV
• Myra Chenin Blanc 2014
• Reveilo Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
• Big Banyan Sauvignon Blanc 2014
• Myra Shiraz 2014
• Myra Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
• Reveilo Syrah Reserve 2012
• Vallonné Crimson Glory 2013
• Reveilo Late Harvest Chenin Blanc 2013\
Log On: To know more about the winners visit allthingsnice.in/iwcca.php
India’s leading wineries have come together to support and promote Indian wine as one entity with the launch of the ‘Wines of India’ programme. The aim of the programme is to stand together and promote a culture of domestic wine consumption in India and overseas. The Wines of India programme, a collective body set up by India’s 11 leading wineries is the first attempt of its kind where players in a sector have come together to promote a culture rather than a brand. Wines chosen to be part of the Wines of India programme have been selected on the basis of merit. The programme is an amalgamation of Sula Vineyards, Reveilo Vineyards, Grover Zampa Vineyards, Fratelli Vineyards, Nine Hills with more recently launched wineries like Myra Vineyards, Charosa Vineyards, Vallonne Vineyards, Good Drop Cellars, York Winery and Soma Vineyards.
Sommelier Nikhil Agarwal of All Things Nice has been appointed as the director of this programme who will conduct retail promotions, consumer tastings, staff trainings, consumer experiences and media interactions as part of this initiative.
India’s expanding wine industry is in the midst of a vital transition. With a rapidly growing export sector, expanding domestic consumer market and increasing industry support in major wine-producing States, the Indian wine industry has potential to be a global market competitor. Since the early 2000s, India has been hyped as an important emerging market for wine. The country has the optimum climate for grape cultivation and its main wine-producing states, Maharashtra and Karnataka, are leading producers of world class high-quality grapes. India also has made waves globally by winning awards at the renowned International Wine & Spirits Challenge and Decanter World Wine Awards. Indian consumers are now waking up to the true potential of Indian wine and recognising that quality standards and wine making styles are now on par with countries that have been making wine for thousands of years.
Food & Hospitality World