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IFE-India Arrives as THE Wine Show

The 3- day food and wine show, IFE-India 2008 which closed on December 4 was a mixed bag but did announce it had arrived as the premium wine show in India with several participation at country levels and wine programmes that are bonanza for wine lovers and the trade, reports Subhash Arora

The common refrain from several food exhibitors at this show was, 'it seems to have turned into a wine show.' With participation by Italy, Sopexa, Austrade, New Zealand, UK, South Africa, California, Spain, Portugal, one did spot wine stands wherever the eyes followed. The show had more participation from wine companies which included Sula, Prestige (former TTG-importers of Torres), Opera Wines, and the regular participants, Champagne Indage.
 
Many importers were seen at the stands or the Guided Tastings at the show. Dharti Desai of Finewinesnmore and Vishal Kadakia of the Wine Park flew in from Mumbai specially to meet some of the participants. Sanjay Menon of Sansula also marked his presence.

Several Delhi importers including Mohan Bros., Aspri, Sovereign, Ace, Pearls, Amfora, Manash, Eppure were seen at various stands, several Guided Tastings and the Sommelier Competition. Mr. D K Raju of Wine legends who came from Chennai had pre-registered for all the five Guided Tastings. He was slightly disappointed though that many of their wines had won medals in the India Wine Challenge and yet no medals were given out at the Show. He hopes to take part in IFE next winter.

Ranjit Dhuru of Chateau d'Ori, Nashik made a flying visit to collect the Best Indian Red wine came specially for a couple of hours to personally collect the Trophy and look around with the possibility of participating next year when they get the excise license for Delhi.

One person who never fails to impress me is Rukn Luthra of Pernod Ricard's Nine Hills. The true passion for wine he has is evident by his presence at all wine events. He was seen spending a lot of time at the Show including the Guided Tastings.

Andrew Steele, the General Manager of Shangri-la who was one of the judges at the Sommelier Competition is another true wine buff. He spent a lot of time swimming through various stands and labels. Perhaps this was also the reason that his team was also seen enjoying the tastings.

Conspicuous by their absence were Brindco-the leading importers who did not even come to collect the trophy for the Best Red Wine, the Australian Shiraz 2006 Shaw and Smith imported by them. Global Tax Free also does not normally enter the show-grounds as the management does not believe in tasting or drinking the wines they sell.

While many of the food exhibitors complained of too many wine stands this time, here are the impressions from a few of them picked up at random.

Sula Vineyards

The Sula stand seemed to be the busiest in the Wine and Spirit section. Surely, Rajeev Samant would not like to believe it was due to the charming Swedish import, his international manager Cecilia Oldne who was seen behind her laptop, multi-tasking and tasting with the customers, and occasionally whip lashing the staff into action. She might not feel flattered if she knew that people were perhaps enjoying the tasting of their newly introduced India Wine Challenge Gold Medal winner Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top Champagne. Their Late Harvest Silver medal winner Chenin Blanc 2008 was seen converting many people to add dessert wines to their wine choice too.

Opera Italian Wines

It was a pleasant surprise to see the Opera stand and its progressive CEO Vikash Gupta, armed with cheese, crackers and his Bronze medal winner, Lambrusco sparkling red ('it is a pity we did not even know we had won this medal or we would have loved to sing and dance about it at the show,' he lamented), the Seal of Approval winner Sangiovese and the rest of his Italian wine harem was there to woo the F& B industry.

'I am so glad we participated in the show. This was our first attempt and now we know what to improve next year when we are sure to be present again,' he said. 'We have met many interesting people. I attended all The Guided Tastings and not only did I find them personally informational, interesting and of itnerantional standard like I have seen at Vinitaly, the ones on California, Australia and South Africa have opened my mind to the New World and soon we shall take a call on which new country to start importing from.' Currently, they work with 5 Italian wines; all under Opera label.

California Wine Country

One group that was not too happy about their location was California Wine Institute – more than 10 member-producers of which took part in a rather big stand. Said Eric Pope, Regional Director Emerging markets, who came as a representative of the industry felt that they had not been allotted premium space and was disappointed with the footfalls he thought might have been better.

It was perhaps also a factor that eight producers had cancelled out and with the empty stands, the visitors might have shied away. However, it was interesting to see unique wines from eight producers taking part in the Guided Tasting with a full house getting an exclusive taste of special wines with an explanation of the different regions by Eric who did a great job showcasing the regions, climate and wines from the Golden State.

Taylor & Shroff

UK based, positive thinking David Taylor who understands the value of such shows is already targeting revenue of Rs. 2.5 billion in his joint venture Shroff and Taylor with the pretty Nainaz Shroff as the Managing Director, was very upbeat on his secret-formula, high alcohol wines that one can drink even with cubes of ice without losing the flavour or face with spicy Indian food. Undeterred by the Mumbai mishap, and satisfied by the show quality and footfalls, he confirmed to delWine that they would take part in the show next year, and the ones after…

Austrade

Australian Trade Commissioner Michael Carter had taken time out from his busy schedule and was present at the Show, supporting the Austrade participants-even moderating a Guided Tasting session for them. He was extremely happy with the response, 'Next year we shall take part in a bigger way-but shall separate the wine companies and position them at the wine and spirit pavilion,' he told delWine.

Wines of South Africa

His South African counterpart Omar Jardine plans to go an extra mile. Though our participants have not been too happy with the number of footfalls, next year we plan to focus through a 'South Africa' pavilion to make our presence felt.

Keeping to their commitment to increase the business presence in India, he had the affable High Commissioner, Mr. Francis Moloi visit and meet not only all the producers but also made him sit through the whole Guided Tasting Session which the High Commissioner found extremely enjoyable, interactive and informal.' This reminds me of my student days when we used to love such sessions where we could drink quality wines without paying any money,' chuckled the witty Mr. Moloi while enjoying tasting all eight wines that included the iconic Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2003.

The Italian- Canadian Link

Luigi Primiani of Canada based Primeria Distributions International seemed to be a happy man. Representing Italian wineries including De Majo Norante which has been much written about by Robert Parker, and a Canadian beer company, Luigi has already asked Italian Trade Commission his desire to participate with them as well next year.

'Moreover, the Canadian Food Exporters Association has told me that an Ontario wine company is looking for representation like me in India.  Therefore, I may also be featuring the first Canadian wine in India.  Just as you say, the market is very lucrative. Hopefully business will come from the contacts I've made at this wine show,' he informed delWine.

Sopexa

The French export agency Sopexa has really become dynamic, open and aggressive after Loic Denneulin took over the charge as the India Manager earlier this April. Following the policy of catch'em young it organised several group tastings at its stand, especially for the hospitality college students. The stand was always buzzing with activity and 'is sure to be a hit again next year', says Loic, obviously satisfied with the tremendous response to the tastings.

The Fake Importers

It is unfortunate but true that a few fake importers cash in on the popularity of the show and the over-eagerness of producers to give away the samples with alacrity to them, who not only corner free samples on false pretence, but worse, give them false hopes of entering the market through them with non-existent facilities or infra-structure. Although many producers admit that this is an international phenomenon, it is sad to see it happen with no system in place of warning the producers that they are being duped.

And the Show will Return 

With the 'meltdown' becoming a cliché, it is anyone's guess about the immediate generation of new wine business. But there has been ample opportunity to showcase the sellers' products and a window has been provided by the show to foreign producers to survey the industry and establish contacts.

Mr. K V Rajeevan, CEO of Interads Montgomery Pvt Ltd. sums up, 'IFE India has been a successful show despite all the odds the country has gone through. We had several quality visitors from Retail & Hotel industry, besides key importers. key decision makers from Reliance Retail, Aditya Birla, Spencer's, Hotel Imperial, Hotel Maurya Sheraton, Shangri-la, Park were all there. It is now an established Food and Drink show, surpassing all other related trade shows."

Some participants would find the visit very fruitful in bringing them closer to the honey pot while a few would lament on the loss of time, money and opportunities.

We hope you are in the former category, if you were a participant. Surely, there was ample opportunity to learn and enjoy some of the fabulous wines if you are a passionate importer, producer or a wine professional as Rukn Luthra and Andrew Steele would tell you.

Subhash Arora

 

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