Abhay Kewadkar is the respected and recognized as a first Indian Wine maker for the commercial winery after the Indian Independence. After passing out B-Tech in Chemical Engineering in 1982 from Laxmi Narayanan Institute, Nagpur, Maharashtra state, he falls in love with wine making, he joined Chateau Indage Limited in 1984 after having introduced with Chateau Indage Managing director Mr. Deshmukh. He quickly learned the Sparkling wine making process. At one point he impressed the management by identifying five different blends of sparkling wines out of 200 bottles in a blind tasting. Mr. Rafael Brisbois from Champagne Piper Heidesiek winery admired his work and with in two months he has been sent to Champagne Piper Heidesiek winery, France for further study in wine making process.
After Piper Hidesieck ended Technical Collaboration (1988) with Chateau Indage, Mr. Abhay continued as a Wine Maker for them from 1988 – 1990 as a Chief Wine maker but still making Sparkling wines. Chateau Indage decided to make only sparkling wines at that time.
In 1990 Grover approached him to join for their Bangalore unit; he joined Grover Vineyards to expand the knowledge of still wine making. In 1990 Grover has just planted 3 acres of French Grapes at Nandi Hills near Bangalore but without winery, license and marketing team. In his 16 years of venture with Grover from1990 to 2006, he created the vineyards virtually from the scratch, now Grover has 300 acres of vineyards, with full fledged winery and create complete marketing and distribution channel for them. Now Grover sells their wine for advance compared to any other winery in India. They make now 1 million bottles of Export quality Premium wines only. They sell 18% of their wines sales to France and also in other European countries and USA. He gained such an experience that he can convince the quality of the wine to anyone. Even he goes to market, given them wine tasting training and educate them.
New Challenge with UB Group: He feels, the current market of 8 million cases of Indian Winery industry has tremendous potential growth (Compared to 125 million cases of liquor and 100 million cases of beer). He felt that he wanted to get more serious, bigger and internationally exposure. He decided to join UB Group after getting invitation from Mr. Vijay Rekhi and also having meeting with Vijay Mallaya in France. He is now Senior Vice President and his role is Head of Winery Division and Cheif Wine Maker.
UB’s wine venture is big bang approach. UB is starting separate winery division called UNITED VINTERS LTD. UB purchased Bouvet Ladubay winery from saumur in loire valley, France (15 Million Euro) Bouvet Ladubay is producing 3 million bottles of Sparkling Wines. The specialty of Trisor sparkling wine is fermented in Oak Barrel before going to 2nd fermentation in the bottle. UB is also opening a very big vineyard in Baramathi near Pune capacity to produce 5 million bottles, this new vineyard mostly will play major role with in 3 to 5 years from now, and initially it will introduce common wine varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Some of them will be Oak Barrel toasted Reserve varieties.
Also UB is in the process (fairly in advance stage) of buying vineyards in USA, South Africa and Australia. UB has already 60% of the alcohol market share in India. With already established distribution and marketing channel, UB is going to import several wine varieties of wine from aboard to cover wide range of market segment (including expensive boutique segment) and also planning to market deep in to the smaller cities. The existing wine companies are now concentrating only big cities like Delhi, Goa, Mumbai and Bangalore. UB is looking to play major role in India as well as internationally in the wine market.
The bouvet, Trisor White and Red sparkling wine will be available in all the Major cities in India from November 3rd week 2006.
Abhay’s future planning:
Educate the consumer to choose and differentiate appropriate wines, wine style, create wider consumer bases, good quality wines with a reasonable price to the customer. He believes offering good quality wines will produce good consumer base and market also. Buying power of young generation in India is very high. If you offer them good wine for the reasonable price then the market will be very successful.
He believes UB entrance in the wine market will give good pressure to other vineyards in India to improve in quality and marketing skills. Wineries do not have any marketing skill then they have to depend on the other companies to market their products. He does not believe other vineyards will have serious problem because they are not going to fight for the same pie. Every vineyard in India will have the own market segment. We have lots of room to improve. Indian wine consumption is improving very fast and it will never come down. Currently the consumption of the wine is very low and even small change in the % will give very big market potential.
Abhay’s vision is also planning to develop and introduce new varieties of wines in India in the future like growing pinot noir grape variety in Himachal Pradesh state.
He would like to see Indian government should allow advertising in the media for the wine. Also all the state government should follow like Maharashtra to reduce the excise duty. Currently Maharashtra state government classified the wine industry as Agro Based Industry and no excise duty for Domestic wineries in that state. He feels 75% of Indian population lives in Villages and these kind of Government support will he helpful to formers due to they are depending directly or indirectly on the agricultural industry
Abhey’s favorite Indian Wines: Grover’s La Reserve is blend of 80% Cabernet 20% Shiraz, French oak barrel toasted. Complex, Vanilla aroma, fruit of the wine perfectly harmonized the hint of spice adding to this complexity, on the palate good concentration supple tannin with integrated oak tannin. Ideal food Tandoori Lamb (Rag) Lamb chops with light pepper sauce.
Sula’s Dindori Shiraz is very bold, very strong fruit and strong oak. This American oak toasted big bodied wine, good concentration of tannin, though it is not as supple as La Reserve, very bold wine, enjoys this wine with spice cuisine with mutton Raan josh. Spice Kerala chicken or meat prepares, steaks with pepper sauce.
Omar Khayyam sparkling wine of Chateau Indage, fruity, balanced acidity of wine refreshing and firm. Quit supple on the palate. Enjoy as welcome drink for an aperitif.
Sauvignon Blanc of Grover and Sula: Very strong varietals on the nose, Grover is as strong as nose but goes on the palate acidity is goes very well, strong lingering sensation in his mouth. Some times Sula has inconsistency.
Favorite Foreign Wines: He likes strong red and tannic wines from France. Among them Haut Brion . Pinot noir, Opus one from California. Howling Wolves Chardonnay and Grenache Australia, (not expensive in India, around Rs. 1500 per bottle), Pommerol(Broadax) Merlot. Michel Rolland (35 euro) bon Pasteur merlot. White pouilly fume Sauvignon Blanc, La Doucette (25 eruo) Sauvignon Blanc. Penfolds Chardonnay (Australia), Burgundy’s Chablis, Cambria (appellation) Viognier wines. Ice wines. Grande Dame champagne.
Congrats! best wishes for you new venture at UB. Abhay Kewadkar is the Person to watch for incase he decides to have his own Vineyard.