As the hype surrounding the Bordeaux ‘11 en-primeur settles down & life is back to normal, the Asian wine events’ calendar has been abuzz recently. India’s addition to this calendar comes across as a refreshing development.
From Hospice de Beaune wine tasting a few months ago to special winemakers’ dinners in the recent past, India seems to be finally catching up on the wine scene. And while people experience scorching heat here with the onset of summers, the wine environment last month also got a few degrees hotter. The Union de Grand Crus de Bordeaux with a delegation of 33 leading chateaus, for the first time conducted an exhibition & tasting last month, in Mumbai and Delhi, arguably the leading markets for wines in India (Bangalore was given a miss). The wines in question were from the 2009 vintage. The Bordelais after proving their dominance in Hong Kong and mainland China now seem focused on the Indian subcontinent. Organised by Group Ritu, the event had an impressive turnout of members from the hospitality industry, wine importing firms, journalists and wine educators and enthusiasts.
Although the exhibiting chateaus represented a small part of the total UGCB membership, the event featured prominent names such as Chateau Figeac from St Emilion, Chateau Lascombes from Margaux and Chateau Gazin of Pomerol while Chateau Doisy Daene represented Barsac (one of the five communes of Sauternes). The Chateux owners, many of whom were on their maiden visit, were enthused by the response received over the two days of interactions and tastings. “India with its aware consumers and a rising population that can afford a lifestyle that features wines such as ours, is potentially a very interesting market for us”, said Christophe de Bailliencourt of Chateau Gazin, who is already present in India. The fast increasing wine consumption and production is a positive trend, de Baillencourt added.
Given the natural inclination of the Indian palate towards sweeter things, more Sauternes participation could have been interesting. As Jean-Jacques Dubourdieu of Chateau Daisy Daene pointed out, “it was interesting to see that the Indian palate likes sweeter wines even more than China and Japan, our leading Asian markets.”
Tip for foreign winemakers: promote your sweet wines, if any, and it could be a good strategy for entering the Indian market.
But does such an event help the cause of Bordeaux wines in a relatively small market such as India? Where popularity is concerned, Bordeaux wines are already held in high regard among the wealthy Indian individuals particularly for investment purposes. The image of French wines in general, is also quite positive and names such as Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux are not unknown. Thus, spreading further awareness and making patrons shouldn’t be too hard for these leading chateaux owners, something that they have already done in neighbouring China. Moreover, the enterprising Bordelais with their wide network of merchants and marketing capabilities, have ensured visibility of their wines here albeit in small numbers.
The initiative by the dynamic UGCB (they went to Brazil in March besides travelling worldwide every year), is a step in the right direction at the right time. It could well provide a first mover advantage in an emerging market such as India. Following in UGCB’s footsteps, one may expect similar bodies from other countries & regions, to test waters here in the near future. At the same time, they would also be hoping for relaxation in taxes from the Indian (and state level) government and ease of operating in the administratively complex market that India poses to be. In this regard, the India-EU Free trade Agreement negotitations are being closely looked at by professionals worldwide. If the proposal of a massive duty reduction on fine wines goes through, we might experience a gold rush of sorts here soon.
Whether or not the rule is passed, the Bordelais remain undeterred, and would like to return again, said Sylvie Cazes, President of UGCB. She thought it was a worthwhile effort and would come back with intentions to further strengthen the market for Bordeaux wines in India.