Can Moët’s Chandon challenge the status quo in India’s wine market?

Moët Hennessy has released two locally made sparkling wines, Chandon Brut and Chandon Brut Rosé, in India. How do they stack up?


The Chandon Brut and Chandon Brut Rosé wines cost Rs1,200 and Rs1,400, respectively, in India.
The Chandon Brut and Chandon Brut Rosé wines cost Rs1,200 and Rs1,400, respectively, in India.

New Delhi: In the so-called whisky capital of the world, if there is one drink that hasn’t quite lived up to its potential, it is wine. Out of the 1.2 billion population of India, only one-two million are estimated to consume wine, according to a study by consulting firm Technopak Advisors Pvt. Ltd.

The study pegs the overall Indian wine market at 975,000 cases, or about Rs.175 crore at wholesale prices, and growing at an annual avearge growth rate of 20-25%, making it one of the fastest growing alcoholic beverage segments.

To tap this potential of the Indian market, Moët Hennessy, the world’s biggest champagne house and part of French multinational luxury goods conglomerate Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, announced the release of two locally made sparkling wines, Chandon Brut and Chandon Brut Rosé, earlier this year, its first launch of made-in-India brands in the country.

The wine market in India can be broadly divided into domestic and imported brands, which account for 70% and 30%, respectively, according to the Technopak study.

Made in Nashik, Maharashtra, from locally produced grapes, and released in October, the wines cost Rs.1,200 and Rs.1,400, respectively, a lot cheaper than Moët Hennessy’s signature brands, but a little costlier than their nearest Indian rivals.

Sula, which has a dominant share in the Indian wine market, sells its Rose Brut Sparkling wine for Rs.980. The cheapest foreign-made Moët Chandon Brut Imperial Champagne retails for Rs.5,940 in New Delhi.

While all champagnes are sparkling wines, all sparkling wines are not champagne. That name is reserved for wines produced in the Champagne region of France.

Right now, Chandon’s two made-in-India wines are available at select retailers in Mumbai and New Delhi. They will be released across the country through 2014.

The first Chandon estate was opened in Argentina in 1959 when the brand was looking to produce sparkling wines outside the Champagne region of France. It has since started operations in California, Brazil, Australia and China.

One thing is for sure. The company is not new to developing markets. But what brings it to India?

Says Gaurav Bhatia, marketing director, Moët Hennessy India Pvt. Ltd, “Since its inception, the Chandon philosophy has been to marry the brand’s French heritage and savoir-faire with New World innovations and local character, ensuring the highest-quality sparkling wine.”

“India is a young and vibrant market with one of the youngest populations in the world. The introduction of Chandon in India this year comes at a time when the Indian consumer is increasingly embracing an international lifestyle whilst taking pride in all that is Indian.”

“There is a vast population of young Indians, 25- to 35-year-old men and women, who aspire to consume luxury as they get older. With Chandon Brut and Chandon Brut Rosé, we aim to democratize bubbles,” says Bhatia.

Sumedh Mandla, chief executive of Grover Zampa Vineyards that makes Zampa wines, concurs. “The wine consumption pattern in India has changed and consumers have a portfolio to choose from. International brand awareness has also helped the Indian consumer,” says Mandla.

According to the Technopak study, while the global per-capita consumption of wine is estimated at 4 litres per annum, the Indian figure stands at 4.6 millilitre (ml), according to government estimates. According to industry estimates, the per-capita consumption has gone up and is estimated to be 9-10ml per annum.

Mandla also says that the entry of foreign wine makers in local production highlights the potential that exists in the Indian wine market. “This will lead to healthy competition and shall help further improve quality of Indian wines,” he says.

“The launch of Chandon at the current price point of is going to expand the wine market,” says Adrian Pinto, senior manager, wines, Pernod Ricard India, which sells the Nine Hills wine brands, adding: “not just the sparkling wine market, but the overall wine market in India by introducing more consumers to wine drinking.”

Pinto says the Indian wine market has already gone through a shake-up, with the new entrants “fully aware of both the pros and cons of setting up a wine business in India and Indian consumers are more knowledgeable than ever before, recognizing quality and what they are willing to pay for it.”

“Never before has the launch of a new domestic wine brand seen so much anticipation and created such a buzz. It is a game changer that I predict will get other international brands to follow suit,” says Nikhil Agarwal, sommelier and director of All Things Nice, a wine and spirits consultancy.

The two variants have lived up to the hype that was created before their launch, says Agarwal, adding that the quality of the wines will only get better with the time.

Moët Hennessy was one of the first companies to notice India’s growing love of wine. The company first decided to launch the Chandon brand in the country in 2009, followed by years of research and development in understanding soil types and climate, meeting with grape growers and understanding consumer preferences, says Bhatia.

“After conducting several oenological trials, Tony Jordan (the former director of wine making at Domaine Chandon Australia) defined Nashik as the ideal location in India.”

There were, however, several legal hurdles in buying land and then there were high prices to deal with. So the company decided to rent a vineyard. It invested in a state-of-the-art greenfield winery in Dindori, a subregion of Nashik, that will be operational by the first quarter of next year. Grapes are sourced locally. It is currently operating out of its neighbour’s facility.

The Chandon Brut is an assemblage of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The wine has a bright and fresh fruit bouquet of citrus blossom and green apple, with hints of tropical fruits and vanilla.

“Chenin Blanc is the main variety used in the Chandon Brut and is well suited to the growing conditions found in Nashik as the variety has high fungal disease resistance and the ability to retain high acid compared to other varieties,” says Kelly Healey, resident winemaker, Chandon.

“When picked at the right time, it offers abundant fruit characters, often contributing to front-palate fruit weight. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir play an integral part in the blend by fleshing out the mid-palate with fruit weight and lengthening the wines impression in the mouth.”

Chandon Brut Rosé is made from Shiraz and Pinot Noir.

So while the elite might stick to the “real thing” from Champagne, the target, for the company through the locally made Chandon is the ambitious working middle class for whom sparkling wine has an aspirational value.

And for the consumers, “they finally get to drink high-quality sparkling wine with ‘Chandon’ on the bottle for one-fifth the price”, says Agarwal of All Things Nice.

Tasting Notes:

Chandon Brut

Appearance: Straw yellow with flashes of green and a fine persistent effervescence.

Aroma: A bright and fresh fruit bouquet of citrus blossom, green apple with hints of tropical fruits and vanilla.

Palate: The front palate is soft with generous primary fruit characters and well balanced acid. Aging on yeast gives a creamy textured middle palate complexed by vanilla and toasty notes, that extend to a lingering, crisp dry ‘‘Brut” finish.

Grape composition: Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Chandon Brut Rosé

Appearance: Vibrant rose gold with hints of pink peach skin and a fine persistent effervescence.

Aroma: Ripe cherries and pink grapefruit tones with subtle hints of guava and rose petals.

Palate: The flavour evolves gently with mouth-filling small red fruits. Soft citrus tones keep the middle palate fresh and balanced with good acidity. Aging on yeast gives rich, creamy texture and persistence to a crisp ‘‘Brut’’ finish.

Grape composition: Shiraz and Pinot Noir

More From Livemint