Big-Ticket Indian Presence At Wine For Asia 2005

The country's top wine importers and restaurateurs are part of Indian Wine Academy 's delegation to the wine exposition that has established Singapore as Asia 's Wine Capital, writes Sourish Bhattacharyya

For the second time this year, the Indian Wine Academy is leading a national delegation of wine importers, restaurateurs, bar managers and key members of the Delhi , Mumbai and Bangalore wine clubs to another significant wine exposition. The show is Wine for Asia 2005, which may not have the cult status yet of Vinexpo 2005, the Academy's first port of call this year, but which promises to confirm Singapore 's position as Asia 's Wine Capital.

In his message to the delegation, Singapore's High Commissioner in New Delhi, See Chak Mun, said: "Singapore should offer attractions for Indian wine exporters and traders to seriously explore business and trading opportunities. ... I take this opportunity to extend my best wishes for the visit to Singapore and heartiest congratulations to the Indian Wine Academy for the beginning of an enduring business partnership with Singapore."

The significance of Wine for Asia 2005 (Nov. 10-12) for India is far greater than it may appear. For the first time in the country's history, India has a dedicated pavilion at an international wine fair. The two important participants are also India's two major wine producers from the western state of Maharashtra – Chateau Indage, the company that started it all under Shyam Chougule's visionary leadership at Narayangaon, and Sula Wines, whose 30-something owner, Rajeev Samant, quit a Silicon Valley job to pursue his dream of putting Nashik on the world wine map. The Indian pavilion is strategically located right next to those of France and New Zealand .

Maharashtra, by the way, is the home state of India 's Agriculture Minister, Sharad Pawar, who has been lobbying strenuously for delinking wine from other alcoholic beverages for policy and taxation purposes.

As would befit the occasion, the Indian Wine Academy delegation consists of the movers and shakers of the Indian wine market. For starters, there's Samant, who's will announce the entry of Sula into the Singapore market, after being warmly received in San Francisco and winning Liz Hurley's approval in London .

Then there's Abhay Vyankatesh Kewadkar, the man who has turned Michel Rolland's vision into a delicious reality at Grover Vineyards. Samant wears two hats, that of wine producer and importer (his impressive portfolio includes Champagne Taittinger and Two Oceans ). Kewadkar, too, is a great believer in multi-tasking – he's a wine-maker and a sommelier who's equally famous for being an energetic wine educator.

The delegation's other members are:

  • Sanjay Menon, a pioneering wine importer whose company, Sonarys, is one of the two biggest players in the field in India ;

  • Rukn Luthra, General Manager (Brand Development), Seagram's Pernod Ricard India, who plans to engage in serious wine shopping in Singapore, because he's looking at beefing up his company's portfolio, whose big-ticket label is Jacob's Creek, with big names from Italy and California (Luthra's company, by the way, is all set to be the next big wine player in the country ;

  • Naresh Uttamchandani, whose company Sovereign Impex, with its determined promotion of Valdivieso, has put Chile on the Indian wine map;

  • AD Singh, India's most innovative restaurateur, whose Olive chain has expanded to Bangalore after completing five very successful years in Mumbai and earning a well-deserved place for its Delhi outlet in Conde Nast Traveller 's list of 60 new hotspots in the world (fittingly, Singh, whose intelligently priced wine list is a model other stand-alone restaurants look up to, is going with his top managers);

  • Rishi Raj Singh, Delhi's most sought-after bar manager, who sits on the panel that oversees the corporate beverage acquisitions of ITC Hotels, one of the country's top three chains with eight luxury hotels and many more second- and third-rung properties (Singh's hotel, ITC Maurya Sheraton, recently unveiled an ambitious wine list with a selection that balances the Old and the New World); and

  • Alok Chandra, a long-time alcohol industry consultant and founder-president of the Bangalore Wine Club.

Interestingly, a Venezuelan diplomat, besides two Swiss and German nationals residing in Delhi , are also members of the delegation. Reflecting the cosmopolitan nature of the Indian Capital, they are active members of the Delhi Wine Club.

As many as 400 exhibitors – more than double of last year's participation – from as many as 22 countries have taken up 5,000 sq. m. (up from 3,000 last year) and are bringing over 50,000 bottles of wine to make the event Asia's biggest single platform for the global wine business. The exhibition is being organised by Singex Exhibitions with support from Wine Resources, a corporate consultancy set up by the wine writer, Malcolm Tham.

The other big attractions include a tasting of the 2001 vintage wines of six chateaux guided by Ch'ing Poh Tiong, publisher of The Wine Review , and another tasting of the winners of Decanter's World Wine Awards 2005

The presence of 14 country pavilions at the event is also a marker of the importance the international wine world is attaching to the Asian market, which is expected to grow by 20% per annum in the five years ending 2008.

Significantly, though 70% of the participants in this year's Wine For Asia are new, at least 120 of them – that is, half of last year's participants – have come back. The Aussie presence, as was to be expected from the largest exporter of still wine to Singapore , has a substantial presence with 28 exhibitors.

Singapore , whose wine imports breached the S$100-million mark in January-September 2004, up from S$76 million in the corresponding nine months of the previous year, will be represented by 25 wine distributors and importers.

There couldn't be a better venue for Asia to come together and raise a toast to the wine world.

* Click here to check out the other articles on Wine for Asia 2005

* Click here to read the complete text of the Singapore High Commissioner's Message to the Indian Wine Academy




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