Winemaker David Rowe joined Indian Food Company in summer 2006 and soon enough, Vin & Vouloir wines found themselves in the winning list at India Wine Challenge 2007. This British winemaker, settled in wine country Bordeaux, enjoys the challenge of working in India, a new entrant on the world wine map.
Maharashtra is great for growing grapes, concedes David, yet a lot of work needs to go in at the vineyards to get the grapes that make great wines. Though production of table grapes is much higher than wine grapes, it is imperative to source the latter for winemaking. ‘Given the scarcity of wine grapes, unless a winery has its own vineyards, the current practice in India is to blend table grapes and wine grapes,’ informs David. Sourcing grapes is the first of the challenges, no doubt.
‘I am using only wine grapes,’ he reports, which shows through in the quality of his premium wines. He goes a step further and has a special selection of yeasts, a different one for each grape variety, imported from France.
Once the grapes, yeast, and winemaking itself is taken care of, the bottles are imported from France. No second hand bottles will pass the David test!
Nurturing the V & V brand of wines with the very best, this winemaker is not interested in bulk wines: ‘I refuse to blend from other wines.’ Buying bulk wine and then blending and bottling may be a new trend in India, according to David, but he keeps to his own methodology of winemaking from scratch.
The vineyards are where it all begins. David is looking forward to improvement in viticulture practices and increased wine grape availability. Mercier, a French company is now collaborating with Indian Food Company Pvt Ltd on this front, informs David.
‘It is easy to build a winery and import equipment, have a very good winemaking facility. But for good wine you need good grapes’ he summarizes. ‘Improve the quality of grapes.’ Viticulture is the cornerstone of the Indian wine industry. Scarcity of wine grapes results in cost escalation, which then makes winemaking a costly proposition in India. David who is also an ex-editor of UK’s leading wine magazine Decanter, says that increasing wine-grape production will make Indian wine pricing competitive in the international market.
‘Compared to most winemaking countries, the cost of grapes is high in India,’ says the winemaker. Now that certainly is a chief reason for high MRPs. Illustrating the current gap, David says, ‘I can buy red wine in France under 60 cents.’ Where as an Indian wine is nowhere less than $10 a bottle. ‘Grapes are available at up to Rs 40 a Kg,’ says David. Cost reduction is inversely proportional to availability and cost of grapes.
That was about pricing. Coming to market prospects, he enlightens that quality consciousness and competitive pricing (which begins at the vineyards) is the mantra for a larger demand in the export market. The local market is also seeing a steady rise.
V & V’s vintage 2007 -- Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin, Rose, Shiraz and Cabernet are in the market, and doing well, given the increasing number of converts to the wine-lovers’ club. ‘There is an explosion in wine drinking in India. There is a lot of interest in wine. People are much more knowledgeable about wine,’ shares David. And, for his favourite wine? ‘I love Shiraz wines from France, Indian and Australia,’ admits the winemaker. ‘The Indian Shiraz is closer to the French, than Australian Shiraz’ he adds.
Well, yes, wine consumers are growing in India, therefore, wine production has to take the cue. It is difficult to sell abroad with such pricing. So what does the winemaker prescribe? ‘Control grape quality. Wineries should try and have their own vineyards, then cost of production comes down.’ And consequently pricing…
Though, new in the league of wine producing countries, India has much to offer wine lovers across the globe, feels David, who spends a lot of time in India. He knows the potential, but pricing has to be worked out before Indian wines make it big in the international arena.
Special report for indianwine.com Venki & Anisha Sharma