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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Wine war saga

New wine maker Renaissance will lock horns with the big three in the Indian market
Shailendra Pai, wine professional turned wine maker, believes he makes exceptional wine. With his Renaissance wines now on retail shelves and hotel menus across India, he is hoping that wine-drinkers will concur.
While some may say he has lost the first-mover’s advantage in the game (he will be taking on the three established leaders — Chateau Indage, Sula and Grover), Pai thinks his timing couldn’t be better. “The licensing climate is perfect in Maharashtra, and the market is growing at 35 per cent annually,” he says.
Even as Grover Vineyards’ Kapil Grover sounds a note of caution that the Nashik region has over-produced, Rai believes there has never been as much quality to choose from. “Today over 1,800 acres in Nashik are under wine grape contract farming, with several hundred acres being added each year,” says Rai, who currently bottles Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz Cabernet and Sauvignon Cabernet Classic. The wines are available in the Rs 419-480 range.
“We are in the premium segment precisely because we will never resort to using table varieties of grapes to produce fortified and port wines,” claims Rai. He dismisses any concerns on quality due to the fact that they have to resort to harvesting grapes from contract farms until 2007. “Every major wine maker in India has a certain proportion of his wines coming from contract farms. Besides, our contract farms follow our viticulture parameters. We restrict the yield from the average seven to eight tonnes per acre to five tonnes per acre, and ensure maturity of grape before harvesting, even if that means the recovery period is delayed,” says Pai.
Renaissance recently acquired 52 acres of land, which will be ready for harvesting in 2007. “We’ve set aside three and a half acres for experimentation with Pinot Noir, Merlot and Chardonnay,” says Pai.
Varietals and quality aside, there’s no denying that a successful wine brand is a well-marketed wine brand. And Pai is aware of that. “Wine makers are dumping wine on distributors under the guise of trade promotions. Our strategy is to choose large-scale but supervised consumer trials over trade discounts and dumping. Indian wine drinkers are extremely brand loyal, so we will work with our intrinsic quality and presentation to build top-of-the-mind brand recall.”
Pai is projecting revenues of Rs 3.2 crore in 2006-07 at the current production capacity of 200,000 litres-a-year. By 2009, Renaissance hopes to be producing over 500,000 litres of wine. Assuming, of course, the brand succeeds where several others have failed.
Pai’s not taking chances. He believes that a well defined target audience is the first step. “We’re targeting the 25-to-35 year old young executive for our Chenin and Shiraz. The Cabernet Classic is aimed at mature drinkers who’ve drunk over 200 bottles of wine, because it is a more complex wine,” he says.
With domestic retail barely off the ground, Renaissance is already processing enquiries from a UK based retailer. “We hope to be selling in the UK by September,” says Pai. However, exports will absorb only 25 per cent of total production. “I refuse to deprive my people of fine wine,” says Pai, confident he will not wind up like the 31 other registered wineries that few can name.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is indeed a matter of pride for the GSB Konkanis to know that one of us has ventured into this highly competitive business of wine making. We hope that Shailendra Pai's wines do prove to be the best in the country. God luck to him!