It’s only when the Indian wine connoisseur can tell the Rioja from the Gaia, the Bordeaux from the Bouvet-Ladubay that an Indian wine company goes beyond the vineyards of Nashik, to the Loire Valley. The Loire Valley is France’s second largest region for sparkling wines. Abhay Kewadkar, chief winemaker and director of Four Seasons Wines, UB Group, talks to Mint about how the changing market for wines in India led to his company’s acquisition of the over 160-year-old Bouvet-Ladubay winery in 2006. Kewadkar was in the Capital earlier this month to talk about the increasing demand for foreign wine. Edited excerpts from an interview:
Tell us about the increasing produce of Bouvet-Ladubay wine since your group took over the winery.
Bouvet-Ladubay is an over 160-year-old heritage. They export 55% of their produce to 36 countries in the world. When the UB Group acquired it in 2006, they used to produce 3.5 million bottles, today they make six million bottles.
What type of wine does Bouvet-Ladubay produce?
Bouvet-Ladubay is known for its sparkling whites. In a blind tasting, they have been rated to be better tasting than some of the champagne houses. In terms of brand association, they are associated with art, culture, theatre and literature. Figures like Gerard Depardieu, whom one can say is a bit like France’s Amitabh Bachchan, made a wine label in association with Bouvet-Ladubay. They bring out a brut sparkling wine, there’s also a unique product called rouge, a red sparkling wine. This is a sweet wine meant to be consumed with desserts. Not made by too many other companies.
Do you think the average Indian is a mature enough wine drinker?
There is a big awareness of wine as opposed to 15 years back. We don’t come across a single banquet party or marriage reception where wine is not served. If you compare this with 15 years back, it’s a huge change. Although this remains mainly metro-centric, we are now putting efforts to ensure an awareness for wine in tier II and tier III cities as well.
How have you positioned your wine?
In India, we sell for Rs.1,800-2,200. We’ve positioned the wine in India as a celebration drink.
Give us an example of what kind of food pairings are possible with your wine?
Modern French cuisine, of course, is an obvious example. For instance, at a recent pairing, we paired our white with prawns with butter garlic sauce. Sparkling wine can be paired with any cuisine that is cream- or white-sauce based, anything that has an element of cheese. Which is why it’s a great match with north Indian cuisine, items like malai tikka or fish tikka. The acidity of wine cuts through the creaminess of the cuisine. Other items it can be paired with are grilled prawns, tandoori prawns, tandoori lobsters or even a lightly-spiced fried fish.