Brian Yost, vice-president, Restaurant and Beverage, Marriott International, says, New World wines from countries such as Chile, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and parts of the US are often better bargains than Old World wines from many of the countries such as Italy and France.
He suggests selecting wines produced in the less publicised production areas such as Sancerre in the Loire Valley of France or Primitivo from the Campania region of Southern Italy.
Mr Yost recommends buying wines from these regions that have been bottled in 2001 and 2002, which will ensure fresher, more enjoyable wines. Another suggestion for choosing wines is to look for lower priced ones from producers of expensive varieties. Examples of these, says Yost, are Penfolds of Australia, which makes the high-end Grange wine. The company also offers a line called Penfoldss Rawsons Retreat. The family that makes Grand Marnier has a winery in Chiles Rapel Valley called Casa Lapostelle. Both vintners use their extensive knowledge to make lower priced wines along with their more upscale versions.
Says Aman Dhall, executive director, Brindco Ltd, which is one of the biggest wine importers with over 22 brands and over 300 labels: Earlier Indians used to take only Old World Wines, now they are also apprecaiting the New World wines.
Moet Hennessey has launched 24 wines this year. These include three varieties from Argentina under the brand name Terrazas, four varieties from Australia under Cape Menteele, four varieties from Australia under Oxford Landing, two varieties from Chile under Casa Lapostolle, eight varieties from French Burgundy under Antonin Rodet and two varieties from New Zealand under Cloudy Bay. These wines were launched in Mumbai and Delhi with the prices at Mumbai ranging from Rs 1,000 to Rs 3,000 a bottle.
Says Ashwin Deo, managing director, Moet Hennessey, It would be too early to say how much the sales figures have been impacted since we have launched the wines recently. We have now spread to other cities such as Calcutta, Bangalore, Poona and Goa. We will be able to assess the growth of our wine sales from new launches next year only.
Sula Vineyards, too, sells a number of imported wines. Saying that that earlier French wines used to be the most sought after, Rajeev Samant, founder and managing director of Sula Vineyards, adds: But now Indian wine drinkers realise that they are getting value for money in wine brands like Hardys and Two Oceans. Today, Hardys of Australia is the largest selling wine in Maharashtra. Besides, a lot of Chilean, South African and Argentenian wines, are gaining popularity because they offer value for money, are easy to drink, more acceptable to the Indian palate and go well with Indian cuisine.
Mr Samant adds that earlier the Old World wine producing countries like France, Germany and Italy were high on popularity. In recent times, it is the New World wine producing countries like Australia, South Africa and Chile that are sought after.
The bottled imported wines from Sula include Sattori Merlot, imported from Chile and priced at Rs 450; Pacifica, a coastal chardonnay white wine imported from Santa Barbara, California at Rs 474. The other imported wines include Hardys Stamp of Australia, which is imported from BRL Hardy of Australia, the worlds largest wine company. These include Riesling Gewurztraminer, Rs 676; Chardonnay Semillon, Rs 676; Cabernet Merlot, Rs 692; and Shiraz Cabernet, Rs 692. From Portugal there is Taylors Port, the worlds finest wine. These include Taylors Select at Rs 1,294, Taylors Late Bottled Vintage at
Rs 1,807. From South Africa there are premium wines produced by Distell. These include Two Occeans Chardonnay at Rs 655, Two Occeans Sauvignon Blanc at Rs 655, Two Oceans Pinotage at Rs 688, Two Oceans Shiraz at Rs 688. From Spain, Marques De Caceras, a white and a red wine, are imported. These are Vendimia seleccionada 1999/2000 at Rs 1,293 and Vintage 2001/2002 at Rs 918. (These prices are applicable to Mumbai only and are without tax).
Cobra Beer, another brand, offers imported wines, too. Launched in 1999, General Bilimoria Wines were inspired by Lt General FN Bilimoria who commissioned his son Karan, the founder and CEO of Cobra Beer, to find a wine to complement spicy food. Following a worldwide search, he found something very speciala Merlot and Terret-Sauvignon from the renowned Languedoc region in the south of France. The 1998 vintage was a phenomenal success, selling out within months of its launch and since then the portfolio is being expanded regularly.
Karan Bilimoria says that it is quite difficult to estimate which wine brand sells the most as the market is still in its nascent stage. A lot of the products come through the unofficial route on account of the import duty being a staggering 260 per cent.
He adds, The Indian brands such as Sula, Chateau Indage and Grover wines are selling more on account of the huge price differential from the imported wines, though.
A major player in the market is the UB group. A company spokesperson reveals that the company is now focusing on brands from four different companies, under the umbrella of McDowell International Brands Ltd (MIBL). The first company being the Grands Chais De France (GCF) Group, which is one of the leading French wine and spirit producers. JP Chenet, their flagship brand, has become the best selling French wine brand in the world and is currently the groups brand leader.
A slightly less expensive French wine called Baron D Arignac manufactured by the GCF Group is also a part of the MIBL portfolio. MIBLs portfolio also boasts of fine wines from the Beau Rivage range, manufactured by Borie-Manoux, one of Bordeauxs oldest and most traditional wineries. Additionally, the portfolio includes an excellent Italian Sparkling wine called Riccadonna President Brut manufactured by the well-renowned company, The Campari Group, which is one of the worlds leading alcohol and beverage companies. Californian wines called Golden Gate are also part of the portfolio.
The company procures its wine mainly from France and the US. The Campari Groups sparkling wine Riccadonna President Brut comes from Italy. The prices are between Rs 500-1050 at retail. At present, approximately 70 per cent of the imported wines into India come from France. It seems that most Indian consumer have maximum confidence in French wines. However, as the wine culture continues to grow the New World wines seem to be coming to the forefront as well.