Thursday, December 1, 2016

Changing Home but not the Hearth

Starting 1st December 2016 i.e. today, Guns 2 Gewürztraminer will move  to WordPress platform. It has been in the offing for quite sometime now but the effort being significant (of migrating 100- posts and megabytes of images, links etc) I really had to push myself hard to take this next step of blog evolution of today's times. But it is in no way taking away anything from the wonderful Blogger platform on which Guns 2 Gewürztraminer was born, as it is probably the most convenient choice for debutant bloggers who  can set it up at no cost and in a jiffy.

Needless to mention, this change is of home and not hearth, as the focus of Guns 2 Gewürztraminer will continue to remain Wine and Spirits.

Hope you will like the new endeavour. See you in the new quartiers!

Click Here to visit the new blog.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Clovis Taittinger's Indian Rendezvous

It’s the autumn of 2012. I, along with my co visitors am in the expansive conference hall of Comité Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), listening intently to a presentation being made by Philippe Wibrotte, in-charge for public relations at  the Champagne regulatory body.  A particular infographic catches our attention. It’s about the Champagne consumption statistics of the world where India is shown as consuming a mere bottle for 5804 people. Despite being aware of India's nascency as a wine market  and the overall population perspective with relation to such figures, we are still flummoxed to find the stark data looking us into the eyes.

Cut to the autumn of 2016. Clovis Taittinger is on his maiden official visit to India. His aim is to familiarize himself with the country and as he puts it,  “ hope to fall in love with India and Indians”.

Clovis Taittinger (centre right)  and Sumit Sehgal (centre left) in conversation with wine lovers in New Delhi

On a  two city business tour to Delhi and Mumbai, Clovis  personally carries a consignment of his single vineyard Champagne Les Folies de la Marquetterie to share with Indian wine lovers, which unfortunately gets entangled in the infamous Customs rigmarole. Nevertheless his other equally famous Champagnes do the rounds, including the ever majestic Comptes de Champagne. I have the privilege to share his table and interact with him first hand amid a well planned dinner at hotel Leela Ambience.

The two narratives above may appear contradictory, where on one hand the Indian market for wine looks anything but rosy and on the other, the scion of a famous Champagne house approaching the country with such interest. But one thing is obvious, the only way for the Indian market for wine is to go upwards!

Above and Below: When the Cellar at Leela Ambience were awash with Taittinger Champagne

Knowing Taittinger

Many Indians would recognize the Taittinger name instantly courtesy the sensation caused during its unsuccessful acquisition bid in 2005 by the beleaguered liquor baron Vijay Mallya. That happening however, remains a small detail in its rich history which goes back well into the eighteenth century.

Maison Taittinger  was established in 1932 when Pierre Taittinger, a Cavalry officer of the French Army returned after the first world war to fulfil his long cherished dream of acquiring Château de la Marquetterie, a military headquarters where he was posted during the war.  In partnership with his brother in law, he  bought the 1734 established Champagne business of Forest-Forneaux Père & Fils and laid the foundation of the Champagne Taittinger as we know it today. Over the next few decades Taittinger established itself as one of the region's leading brands, joining the Syndicat des Grandes Marques in the 1950s.

In and around Château de la Marquetterie during my Champagne Scholarship itinerary at Maison Taittinger

In  July 2005, the Taittinger family facing a cash crunch as a fallout of its rapid expansion initiated in the nineties,  had little option than to sell the business  to the American-owned Starwood Hotel Group- a happening that put the French wine industry in gloom due to apprehensions related to preservation of its French heritage. Thankfully, the despondency didn’t last long, as in May 2006, Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger of the third generation re-acquired  the business, putting the Taittinger family firmly back into the saddle.

In the present day, Pierre Emmanuel Taittinger remains the President of Taittinger Champagne, with his two children- Clovis  as the Director Exports and Vitalie, as Artistic Director. Taittinger champagnes are exported to 150 countries with their top three markets being the United Kingdom, the USA and Germany.

The Indian Market

Despite an encouraging growth rate in the past years (close to 20% annually) the Indian market for wine still has a long way to go before appearing as a significant dot on Taittinger’s  export map. Compared with India’s Spirits consumption which is the fifth largest in the world, the overall market situation looks even more paradoxical.  What then brought Clovis from across the oceans to establish contact with the country’s wine lovers?

Clovis says - "I agree that that the current Champagne and the luxury imported wine market in India is  relatively small, but at the same time it is very much alive and growing. I think that the current trade barriers prevent a greater number of people to enjoy and discover wines."

Coming specifically to his maiden visit, Clovis adds-  "More importantly than anything else, I really felt the love of your country and the people I met during this visit. I can’t be  happier than sharing with you our culture, experience and products." On investing further in India, Clovis is optimistic but practical - "Believing and investing in India more in the future is a great and fresh challenge. The complexity of the market nevertheless makes it more fun and exciting."

Clovis’ impression of the Indian market for wine echoes something similar to  what Miguel Torres (President Torres S.A.), Mario Piccini (Piccini Wines),Willi Klinger (Managing Director Austrian Wine Marketing Board) and Dr. Giuseppe Martelli (President, National wine Committee of Italy) opined when I met them on various occasions during recent times. It  is something that should enthuse the Indian wine lover-  all these global wine leaders see a lot of promise in India on the wine front, translating into a continuing and possibly an increased availability of their wines in the country.
This positive sentiment is also validated through trade forecast figures wherein the  IWSR report for 2012-2017 projects the sparkling wine consumption in India to double and  the overall wine consumption in the country to grow by 73.5% .

The current (Nov 2016) Taittinger portfolio   in India includes Brut (₹ 6,100.00) , Prestige Rosé (₹ 8,800.00) and their Prestige Cuvée- Comptes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs (₹ 21,500.00). Taittinger Nocturne Sec (17.5 g/l dosage) was part of the offering sometime back but was discontinued due to business considerations.

Prestige Wines and Spirits Pvt Ltd, the importers of Taittinger wines in India have indicated that they may be adding more Taittinger wines to their portfolio in the near future.

Elaborating on Clovis’ India visit, Sumit Sehgal, Director Prestige Wines and Spirits said " It was good to have Clovis in India for the first time. He has a lot of faith in India as a Champagne market in future and has been a great support in making Taittinger a popular Champagne brand in India. He is very positive about the country and wants to make the name ‘Taittinger’ synonymous to all kind of celebrations. His idea is to position his family name to be associated with happiness and joy rather than making it complicated for the consumers. We hope to get the similar kind of support and inputs from him in future as well."

Champagne lovers would welcome such a prospect with raised flutes.

(L) Clovis 'batting' for Taittinger
(C) Taittinger sterling silver cuff links that I received as gift during my visit in 2012 &
(R) Clovis is happy to pose with me showing off the cuff links during his visit

Thursday, October 20, 2016

10 Factors that made "The Fine Wine Fair" a Raging Hit

The past few weeks on Indian wine scenario were dominated by the hustle-bustle of one event- The Fine Wine Fair (TFWF). Organized by La Cave- a well appointed wine and spirits store in Delhi and Hotel Oberoi Gurgaon, the event was first of it’s kind in India with a galactic offering of hundred wines from eight countries. Subscribers could choose any 10 wines of their liking  and sample them alongside the gourmet pairings on offer.  TFWF promised to be a wine lover's delight and surely lived up to the expectations, as I discovered during my visit to the fair. Here’s looking at the ten top reasons that made the event a raging hit:

The French Bucket

#1. The Range 

That the offering was of 100 wines from 8 countries was already exciting, but it was the range of wines that upped the event’s USP. Included were several premium wines which would otherwise cost a bomb in  restaurants or even in retail for the lack of option to sample them by the glass. Here you could sample a Barolo from Marchesi di Barolo, a Sharis from Livio Felluga, Champagnes Bollinger, Louis Roederer and many others, all under one roof.

Italian wines at the Fair

#2. The Price

The rendezvous was available to subscribers in four time slots of two hours each. The timings were 12 to 2 pm,from 2.30 to 4.30 pm, 5 to 7 pm and 7.30 to 9.30 pm. The day/night slots were priced all inclusively at Rs. 1500.00 and Rs. 2000.00 per person respectively. With the same range of wines available in all slots, the deal was a steal,  considering that such a bouquet of wines in tasting measure is not available elsewhere in India.

#3. The Market Availability

All the wines on offer at the event are available in major cities in the Indian market, given  La Cave’s affiliation with the country’s most prominent wine importer, Brindco. One can easily revisit a wine that he may have liked in the Fair,simply by buying it from retail or visiting a restaurant serving it. This aspect projected the Fair as being meaningful rather than a silo-ed exercise.

The La Cave store in New Delhi

#4. The Backing

La Cave’s backward integration with Brindco not only ensured a vast repertoire of wines, it also ensured optimal quality of service due to the entire supply chain being in their control. It translated into the guests savouring the wines at their best.

#5. The Timing

Oct-Dec are the most pleasant months in India not only weather wise but also due to the festive season that starts from Navratris and extends till the New Year. TFWF was conducted on the weekend immediately after the festival of Dussehra when the festive fervor was at a high. Good attendance was a logical payoff of this timing.

These Rosé wines seem to be welcoming the Indian autumn

#6. The Preliminaries

Aided with an appealing social media  outreach, strategically embellished with details of premium wines in their historical perspective, the organizers were successful in attracting the right kind of audience to the Fair. It meant that only the audience who could appreciate the offerings, actually subscribed to the event, resulting in a high customer satisfaction.

#7. The Limited Gathering 

With the maximum number of tickets for a particular slot restricted to a hundred, the venue was never overcrowded. Apart from guest comfort, it facilitated calibrating  service requirements by the organizers. Honouring  timings for the respective slots  also ensured that the attendees did not have to wait even for a minute to avail the services ready for them in pristine glory.

The venue had ample space for ambulation

#8. The Goodwill

TFWF was not the first consumer outreach by  Madhulika Bhattacharya aka Madame LaCave. Ever since she opened the store last year, she has been conducting a string of thematic wine dinners called “Unwined by La Cave” engaging wine lovers in world class wine sessions. The goodwill generated by such proactive consumer engagements ensured that TFWF had a reasonable prospective audience even before its announcement.

Gourmet options: (L) Champagne Bollinger Brut with cheese and (R)  Banfi Brunello di Montalcino with New Zealand lamb

#9. The Masterclasses

The value added option of attending masterclasses conducted by respective producer representatives who arrived specially for TFWF, enhanced the charm of the offering. These masterclasses could be subscribed in advance by paying an additional Rs. 500.00 per person and afforded the participants a deeper look into the concerned wineries/regions.Hence the Fair also served as a fast track knowledge acquisition platform.

#10.  The Effusive Charm of Madame LaCave

Lastly but most significantly, it was Madame LaCave all the way as TFWF was entirely her brainchild. Madhulika Bhattacharya aka Madame LaCave was totally hands-on with the event, being on toes all three days, morning till evening- devoting personal attention to guests, leading a cohesive team and getting behind the counters every once in a while. It was a herculean effort in the Indian scenario and she pulled it off well.

Wine lovers in India are already thirsting for more!

How could one leave without raising a toast with Madame LaCave? Notice the Tuscan setting recreated in the background.