Indian Wines on Restaurant Wine Lists
While Sula has persevered over the years to become a household name when it comes to Indian wines, other Indian wines are yet to reach that status. They have also always been in the shadows on wine lists of stand-alone and hotel fine-dining restaurants. Why, you wonder? Sula’s Cecilia Oldne, Head-International Business & Global Brand Ambassador, Sula Vineyards says that it is all about consistency and quality which are crucial to build a reputation for a wine brand. Most Indian wine brands are young and are slowly achieving this, at the same time there are more imported wines available. Only in the last year there has been dramatic improvement in the quality of Indian wines.
Restaurants are conscious of the quality they are serving and there cannot be any compromises on that even if it means no Indian wines on the wine list. ITC Maratha for instance has 90-100 wines on their wine list of which 10-15% are Indian wines. The Table in Mumbai too, is known to have a good wine list and of the 60 wines 25% are Indian wines and that is a big thing, Gauri Devidayal, partner of the restaurant says that it was not a conscious decision since they believe that if it is a good wine then it deserves to be on the menu. However she adds that the pricing of Indian wines does act as a deterrent, “it is difficult to justify expensive Indian wines compared to entry-level imported wines. Indian wineries need to consider this and create a strategy accordingly.”
People are very cost conscious; with menu price for a glass of wine together with 10% service charge and 30% VAT it comes to a lot. Chef Sabyasachi Gorai, better known as Saby, believes times are a-changing as he quotes examples of the 2 new restaurants in Delhi NCR – Smokey’s BBQ and Grill and The Wine Company who have taken the lead in offering wines including Indian wines at retail rates. India is losing out on the larger story; from a global perspective no one knows India exists on the wine map. “Pricing for some of these Indian wines seem like an ego game where one prices their wine more based on the price of competition’s wine in an effort that people will consider their wines better,” Sonal Holland, Corporate Head for Wine & Beverage, ITC Hotels critiques. She backs it up with facts – UK, which is the 2nd largest wine consumer in the world, spends average 5 Pounds on a bottle of wine which is around Rs 500. India in comparison, with all the taxes and duties, has one of the highest average spends on a bottle of wine.
But considering that wineries import everything, starting from the machines to, until recently, even screw caps, together with training the locals and maintaining the vineyards 365 days, it is difficult to manage costs which affects the prices. For both hotels and consumer, prices are a very crucial factor, it is a business at the end of the day and everyone is here to make profits. “Wineries have to figure out ways to drive the cost structure down and create value,” concludes Vikram Achanta, Co-founder and CEO, Tulleeho.
Speakers were speaking at the 7th Food and Grocery Forum India on Factors Constraining the Increased Presence of Indian Wine on Top Drawer Hotel and Restaurant Wine Lists.