Sunday, 30 December 2007

Vijay Mallya wants to sell Indian wine in France

Vijay Mallya wants to sell Indian wine in France
27 Dec, 2007, 1335 hrs IST,M Padmakshan, TNN

MUMBAI: The Vijay Mallya-led UB group is in no mood to remain content with its acquisitions of spirit and wine companies abroad. It is now daring to do what the purists may dub heresy — selling Indian wines to the French.

Traditionally, the wines made in France set the benchmark for quality around the world. The standard of wines made elsewhere is determined by how close it is to the wines made in France. Mr Mallya is venturing into the world’s wine capital with products made from the grapes of Baramati and Nashik.

The group is also planning to export to the UK, a whisky drinking non-wine making country. It will try its luck in New Zealand also, which is among the new line of wine making countries.

“We will be able to begin our export of wines to these destinations by the end of February. We are looking at the variety and table wines for this purpose,” Vijay Rekhi, the second in command in UB group after Mr Mallya, told ET.

The UB group has already established a network in the UK through London’s 10,000 Indian restaurants, selling Kingfisher beer for over 10 years. The distribution network comes handy to sell Indian wines there. Also the network it has now accessed through the acquisition of Bouvet-Ladubay in France also will be used as a platform for selling Indian wines in Europe.

The wines being made for consumption abroad have not been christened so far. “We will give an ethnic name that reflects India’s tradition and culture to our export brands,” Mr Rekhi said.

Though all the Indian companies do export some wines abroad, they have not been able to make a mark, largely due to the absence of an effective distribution and marketing facilities. But a big group, touted as the No-3 spirit company in the world, which does not face the handicap of the small players, is expected to take Indian wines to places.

“The samples we have sent to these markets got encouraging response,” Mr Rekhi said.

Interestingly, most of the wine grapes used in India has its origins in France. The “noble” varieties of wines such as Chardonnay, Sauvignor Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier and Clairette etc, are the examples. UB, though No-1 in the spirit and beer market in India for over a decade was the last to enter the business of wine making in India. The Indian wine market which is about 200,000 cases a year was marked by mid-sized and small players, until two years ago.

The small size of the market must have been the deterrent for big players but then the global spirit and wines major Seagram now renamed Pernod-Ricard set up a winery in Nashik and produced wine with brand name Nine Hills.
The booming economy and the projections of growth are suddenly viewed as a platform for a colourful future for the wine industry in India. UB entered the scene after Seagram, by setting up a winery in Baramati and Nashik, two hilly regions in Maharashtra conducive for grape growing.

UB’s foray into the Indian wine market also coincides with its acquisition of Bouvet-Ladubay, a prominent wine company in France. The synergy is expected to work wonders for UB’s wine business.

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