Indian woman wine producer gets President’s Award

An Indian NRI of Hyderabadi origin has been selected as one of the 15 recipients of this year's coveted "Pravasi Excellence Award for the Year 2005". Owner of Chateau Gamage in Bordeaux, Usha Rao- Lavie joins a select band of PIOs (persons of Indian Origin) that includes Farid Zakaria, editor of Newsweek, USA, Jean Paul Virapoulle, a French senator and Abdool Raouf Bundhum, Vice President of Mauritius.

Addressing the valedictory session of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2006, the President Dr. A.P.J.Abdul Kalam expressed the hope that the next, fifth wave of PIOs who have historically moved across globe, will be to outer planets like Mars. He was referring to the current wave as the fourth wave of skilled Indians seeking opportunities and challenges in the USA, Canada, English speaking European countries and West Asia.

In a sense, Usha Rao defied the norms outlined by the Indian President. Born to a Hyderabadi father who had migrated to Singapore at the age of 20, her journey to Bordeaux had been fascinating but circumstance-dictated. After marrying a Frenchman she had moved to Congo where she worked in an oil company for 10 years. When the husband decided to move to Bordeaux, the mother of three in a true ‘Bhartiya Nari' style was obliged to join him in a country where she was quite alien to its work culture.

In order to pass her time and gain a basic knowledge about wines, she joined Bordeaux Institute of Wine. She chanced across Chateau Gamage while visiting several châteaux as a part of the learning process about viticulture and viniculture. The owner of the 200,000 bottles-in stock wine, with no client to sell to, was going bankrupt and keen to sell out. She took the opportunity and took the plunge.

That was in 1992. She worked her way around from a desperate situation of no sales to where she is now exporting to several countries including Canada, USA, UK, Belgium, China and Sweden. She produces reds, white as well as Rose` wines some of which won Gold Medals in 1992, 1994. The 85-acre Estate is a few kms South of St. Emilion in Bordeaux.

I believe, one will be hearing a lot about the only ‘Indian' wine producer from Bordeaux.

Subhash Arora




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