Domaines Baron de Rothschild (DBR) wines was born on 6 August 1868 when the firm’s patriarch Baron James de Rothschild bought Château Lafite, one of the four wine-producing châteaux of Bordeaux.

The family-owned DBR now controls about 1,200 hectares of vineyards across geographies.

Michel Negrier, export director at DBR, spoke with Mint Indulge about the company’s presence in India and the growing demand for wines. Edited excerpts:

Tell us about the brand and its history.

The legacy comes from Château Lafite. Lafite was one of the four wine-producing Châteaux of Bordeaux originally awarded First Growth status in the 1855 Classification.

It was purchased by the Rothschild family (Baron James de Rothschild) in 1868. Since then, the family has done tremendous work to keep intact the quality of Château Lafite and taken it where it is now—one of the best Bordeaux wines in the world.

What you have to understand is that the top quality Bordeaux are the ones that can age a long time. For 10, 25, or even 50 years, and still stay full-bodied and aromatic. This comes from the quality of the soil and the terroir. The soil in the region is great for the cabernet sauvignon grape, and the red cabernet sauvignon is known for its ability to maintain the structure and body of the wine for a long time.

In Bordeaux, the cabernet sauvignon grape grows in the Pauillac region. And this is exactly where Château Lafite was created.

Why are you in India?

It is a logical step for DBR to be a part of the Indian wine market. We have no options other than to be in India. Indian travellers are coming back and demanding our wines. We are exporting our wine to 70 countries in the world across continents and the Indian market is now ready for our wines.

There is a lot of interest and, surprisingly, many people know about our wines. So we should be here. Though the market is riddled with high customs and taxes, which prevents majority of the people to be able to afford premium wines. But that is something we can’t help. So we have to stay strong and wait for the time when the taxes will come down. We have long-term plans for India.

How long have you been in India? What has the reception been like?

We have been here for around three years and the reception has been good. Though the numbers are low because the distribution is very small. This is because distribution comes with market demand and, right now in India, there is more demand for the Indian wines, spirits or beers that are cheaper, compared with the more expensive, and higher quality international wines.

How many bottles or cases are you selling in India right now?

The numbers are small. But we are not after numbers, we are here to educate people about our wines. We have to be present here. Numbers are secondary and they will follow. In terms of growth, we have grown three-fold in three years, but the volume base is still very small.

Which are the biggest markets for you?

In Asia, China is our biggest market. In global terms, Asia is growing fast along with South and Central Americas.

Do you think wine as a category is becoming more accessible to even non-specialist drinkers? Especially in new markets?

In my experience as a traveller, I can say that wine is gaining turf. Take for example Brazil. They love their white spirits, beers and cocktails. But, in a while, they gradually start moving up to wine. They upgrade to Chile and then Bordeaux and gradually to Lafite. So wine as a category is expanding. Also, when you try one wine, you want to discover other wines from different regions. And that is why we are happy that people in India are at least drinking wine, even if it is Indian. We know our turn will come.

What tips would you give to an amateur wine collector?

The first thing to take into account is when do you want to consume you wine?

Immediately or, say, you want to buy a wine at your marriage and keep it as a gift for your wife at the 25th anniversary. You need to know how much time a wine needs to mature before collecting or enjoying it. If you keep a wine in the cellar for longer than it takes to mature, you will ruin it. Similarly, if you open it too young, it will not be ready.

So the time when you want to drink your wine is the first thing to be kept in mind while starting a collection. There are wines for every occasion—one that is a daily drink wine and then there are wines you save for a special occasion.

The second thing is the budget. Wines that can be kept longer in the cellar come at a premium.

These are the two tips to be kept in mind while building a collection. Then you can experiment across categories and upgrade to different regions.

What do you drink when you don’t have a good bottle of wine around?

If I am with friends enjoying an evening and we end up going to a bar, I choose a nice single malt.

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