India’s most awarded wine producers and pioneers of wine-making – Grover Zampa Vineyards have recently launched a premium range of International wines under their flagship La Réserve label in collaboration with Chateau D’ Etroyes – an estate deeply rooted in the fabric of French winemaking. Under this partnership, the two novel additions – La Réserve Chardonnay and La Réserve Pinot Noir take pride in a rich lineage with ancestries from the Burgundy region, where special care is taken to ensure that the essence of each terroir is preserved and revealed in every bottle. The wines have been created with passion and veneration for tradition, boasting unique tangs that are sure to appease the Indian wine aficionados. In this interview, Jyoti Balani spoke with Vivek Chandramohan, Chief Executive Officer, Grover Zampa Vineyards, to understand the thought behind coming up with these wine scenarios Indian wine industry, plans, etc.
What was the thought behind coming up with these two new wines?
In March 2018, Chateau d’Etroyes, the Chalonnaise domain, with its 16th-century mansion and 49 hectares of vineyards, was acquired by stakeholders of Grover Zampa. The collaboration between the Indian and French teams resulted in creating a special cuvée, named La Reserve de Bourgogne, with the mission to help Indian wine aficionados discover the elegance and sophistication of burgundies, unjustly overlooked by foreign consumers. It is challenging, though not impossible, to produce good quality chardonnay and pinot noir in India. Therefore, the logical approach for us is to produce them in our newly acquired Domaine in Mercurey, where the terroir and climate will ensure their unmistakable taste of Burgundy, and then export them to India introduction to the ever-growing crowd of Indian wine lovers.
How has the pandemic affected the wine industry in India?
The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the world over the past few months. Wine distribution channels globally were subject to massive volatility, including mass shut-down of the on-premise stores in many countries. Many states implemented an additional covid tax to the extent of 70-85% over and above MRP. In markets where special duty was enforced during the initial stages, value wines started selling more. However, as the covid levy was withdrawn, premium wines were back on a gradual increase. Wine sales started picking up in markets like Karnataka, where relaxation was provided for retails to operate, and there wasn’t any additional levy of duty. Sales of super-premium wine were not majorly affected than others, although there was a slight decrease. At-home consumption has been the new going out for people, and hence we believe wine is the best companion for consumers post lockdown.
Online masterclasses, tastings, and vineyard tour has gained popularity and will continue in the post covid scenario. Consumers have also become mindful of their choices and prefer local premium wines over international wines.
Are these wines available all over India currently?
Currently, these wines are available in Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore in India. However, we are looking to make it available in other cities too. This majorly depends on getting the licenses and registrations in place.
What is the USP of these new wines?
The wines come from the domain, which dates back to the 1720s, and Grover Zampa, the pioneer of Indian wines. The wines were launched under the coveted La Reserve range, hugely popular among wine connoisseurs since its launch in 1998. The wines have the pedigree of one of the world’s most famed wine regions and are priced suitably given the Indian market scenario. Burgundy is known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. What will make this cuvée unique will be its readiness to pair optimally with Indian dishes (various curries for chardonnay, mild chicken masala, and chicken tandoori for pinot noir) while not compromising on its Burgundian typicality?
Do you have accommodation available at your vineyards? If yes, what is the future of wine tourism according to you? What kind of wine tours are offered there?
We do not have accommodation at the moment, but work is going on in our Nashik Winery, and we should be able to host guests soon. We only offer guided tours and tastings in Nashik and offer to serve delectable cuisine at our Bangalore winery.
Our future developments aim to transform the company into a multi-brand lifestyle business, increasing capacity, modernizing production, expanding the brand’s global presence, and making the processes more environmentally friendly. We plan to reach half a million cases in the next five years by reinforcing experiential marketing, increasing exports, and ensuring deeper penetration in existing markets.
Grover Zampa is one of the oldest winemakers and responsible wine advocates in India. We believe in constantly adapting to the new trends with innovation in our product offerings. With the onset of the coronavirus, there has been a rise in Ayurvedic remedies and herbal immunity boosters in India. This very thought helped us create One tree Hill Mulled wine, which has similar traditional Indian spice ingredients used to make kadha. The concept of mulled wine would be the best complement to the upcoming season of winter and Christmas festivities. There wouldn’t have been a better time to introduce this wine in India.
On introducing new technologies and newer methods, the company is also planning to buy clay amphorae to try some of the antique winemaking methods as utilized in Georgia. It further aims to introduce drones and high tech sensors in the vineyards. The drones will monitor a vast area daily, and their sophisticated equipment will help identify, early, certain diseases and measure other parameters. New sap flow sensors will help conserve water by allowing irrigation only when there is the right hydric stress level resulting in better grapes and less water wasted.
Having said that, our major focus remains on developing wine tourism in India. We are looking forward to welcoming wine enthusiasts and offer them a multi-faceted experience at our vineyards. Considering that, we have revamped our Bangalore winery to give our consumers an end to end experience of winemaking.
With these grand plans, GZV is also working on expanding its portfolio in India and overseas. The import portfolio will grow rapidly to include wines from other producers, strengthening our overall portfolio. Following the first step of a tie-up with Château d’Etroyes, in early 2019, we have started importing Burgundies made there under the La Reserve de Bourgogne (Chardonnay and Pinot noir) label.
Most importantly, GZV will continue its long tradition of making exquisite fine wines, and the new winery has already introduced 6 new wines and plans to introduce 4 to 5 more wines in the coming months.
Does wine drinking have anything to do with age or lifestyles or just personal tastes and preferences?
It’s a combination of both; as one evolves with age, tastes also evolve and become more mature. If the disposable income of the person increases, he progresses more towards discernment. This translates from drinking table wines to fine, aged, and reserve wines. It also depends on occasion as the same person might have table wine everyday and fine wine once or twice a week or, as a matter of fact, can also have a glass of sangria in a casual setup with friends or mulled wine. So wine drinking is certainly a combination of all the above parameters.
What’s the secret behind producing an excellent bottle of wine?
Many elements go into making an excellent bottle of wine, and it starts right at the vineyards with the choice of grapes and viticulture technique. Then one should have an experienced and skillful winemaker and the right types of equipment. The terroir, which is the climate, soil, complete natural environment, and winemaking techniques and vision of the winery, is essential to make an excellent wine bottle.
According to you, good wine is determined by its taste or harmony or flavor or ability to age, or simply if people like it.
Good wine is right for the occasion, comes at the right price for the buyer, and the above parameters. Certainly, a wine should be well balanced, should reflect the true character of the terroir and variety, and then it’s a matter of personal taste.
How do you think your new wines pair with Indian food?
The wines pair well with Indian food, and we have paired a few dishes as a recommendation to best enjoy the wines with, but the pairings can be extended to other dishes as well based on one’s palate. Here are the few dishes that we recommend.
With the La Reserve Pinot Noir, Indian Food: Paneer tikka, Chicken tandoori, Mutton kheema, Chicken Vindaloo, Vegetable Jalfrezi, Baingan Bharta.
With the La Reserve Chardonnay, Indian food: Amritsari Macchi, Malai chicken tikka, Prawn pakora, Aloo Tikki, Khasta paneer, Navratan korma, vegetable biryani.
Do Indian wines have the quality to be good investments?
Certainly, some of the Indian wines have the quality to be a good investment. Some of the wines from Grover Zampa’s portfolio, like the Insignia, Chene, and Vijay Amritraj collection, can be aged long. We are currently creating a wine library for this purpose wherein future consumers will also buy the same wines of different vintage and many past vintages. Its been only last 5 years that we have started producing some of these wine that can have longevity, so it’s a work in progress, but we are optimistic that these wines can be aged for long and as the Indian market evolve can be good for investments.