Aug 02: It might be the successful Fratelli (brothers) effect that has made the Gurnani brothers Ravi and Kailash, partners of York Winery in Nashik, team up with the two partners of the Mumbai-based software company that designed the Indian Wine List to bring out a new wine labeled as Four Wise Men, introducing a blend of two oak barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon that has been maturing for the last 3 years, writes Subhash Arora.
Although the raging trend in the wine industry is to add cheaper ‘Port’ wines in the Rs.140-160 a bottle segment in their portfolios with Sula leading the trend and Grover, Four Seasons, Fratelli, Vinsura, Luca and even York Winery entering the segment with a G-9 to quench the wine thirst of novices looking for affordable liquid, the domestic producers are also trying equally hard to test their own capabilities to produce and market super premium quality wines like Rasa (Sula), Sette (Fratelli), Limited (Big Banyan), Four Seasons (Barrique Reserve with plans to introduce the double Barrique Reserve soon) - all selling at around Rs. 1000 and more.
Gurnani brothers Ravi and Adelaide-qualified winemaker Kailash, partners of York Winery near Sula winery in Nashik, have teamed up with Aneesh Bhasin and his partner Shiladitya Mukhopadhyaya who have jointly developed the smartphone app Indian Wine List, to create and jointly own the label Four Wise Men. ‘We selected two of our barriques in which the 2009 Cabernet had been maturing and blended the wine to make the ‘Two Barrels Reserve’. The total wine available for sampling and sales would thus be 450 liters or 50 cases and will be retailed at Rs.950 a bottle.’ This small quantity is not going to create tremors in the industry but Ravi Gurnani is quite excited about the project. ‘This will not only help us push the bar a notch higher-our reserve sells for Rs.850 a bottle; it will also help us move upwards in the quality chain’.
Ravi is quite aware of the fact that the profitability will improve only with higher ended wines and hopes that this will help expand the market of fine wines too. Having made the wines for Turning Point, Mandala Valley in Karnataka and the soon-to-be-released bubbly Domain Chandon, Ravi is quite comfortable in dealing with such partnerships. Clarifying the methodology he says,’ it will remain a low volume wine and we shall always take two barrels for the blending-we are planning for Cabernet or Shiraz as varietals right now’.
So is it positioned to compete with the likes of Sula Rasa, Four Seasons Barrique Reserve and Fratelli Sette? Ravi laughs and says, ‘we cannot compete with Sula, but yes, we are positioning Four Wise Men in the same segment. Sette is in any case too expensive to compete with these wines’. Coincidentally, I met Aneesh at the Fratelli winery a year-and–a-half ago when we tasted the Sette from the first barrel with the winemaker Piero Masi.
Selling 50 cases would not be a problem, being a very small number. The real test in marketing will come when more lots of 50 cases are released in the market. The Indian consumer has not reacted very favourably to higher priced wines thus far unless there is some USP, though in the medium term this effect is bound to occur when people learn to appreciate the complexity and age-ability of wines matured in oak, coupled of course with better wines made from better quality, low yield grapes.
Good Earth winery entered the premium segment with aplomb but does not seem to have climbed the heights it hoped to by selling wines at a premium (the inactive Facebook page of the company since August 2012 is indicative of the current status). The immediate problem at the Rs.1000 level wines is that there are a number of imported wines also available in that range. Even though a majority may not be as fine as our Indian wines, the ‘imported’ tag becomes a USP that cannot be ignored.
The wine is to be released in Mumbai in a week’s time and will also be available at the cellar door at around Rs. 850, after a discount of 10% like all the York wines. Although York is planning to enter the Delhi market with their wines during the next month of so, it is unlikely that they would introduce this premium wine due to excise registration and excise charges.
It will be interesting to see how far and fast the Four Wise Men move ahead in the world of fine Indian wines.
Tags: Fratelli, York Winery, Nashik, Indian Wine List, Four Wise Men, Rasa, Sette, Piero Masi