While Sula Vineyards is taking wines on-line and betting large on post-pandemic tourism, high quality management points with native partnerships are a hurdle, says model ambassador Grégoire Verdin
“Many people think wine is for the elite, that it’s complicated, and it should be paired with specific food. I’m here to say, ‘Forget about all that’,” says Grégoire Verdin, the worldwide model ambassador and Associate Vice President – Tastings and Marketing, of Sula Vineyards. He believes that wine is a beverage and “you shouldn’t feel any kind of pressure”. With the Nashik-based vineyard since December 2018, Verdin introduced his meals and wine business expertise of over a decade to guide wine tastings and coaching — each for F&B professionals and customers. “Consumer education is extremely important because wine is a vast subject. I have been in India for four years now and when I do consumer events, I see that people have a lot of questions,” he says.
Big on hospitality
Of course, this was within the pre-Covid period. The pandemic and ensuing lockdowns introduced issues to a juddering halt. “The pandemic has been tough on everyone; the F&B sector especially has been hit big-time. Our CEO Rajeev Samant and COO Chaitanya Rathi worked really hard to keep the employees and pay the bills,” says Verdin. While on-trade (eating places and bars) gross sales plummeted, the lockdown noticed an uptick within the variety of folks consuming wine at dwelling. In truth, 90% of Sula’s gross sales got here from off-trade (retail) in FY 21. The firm additionally moved most of its advertising and marketing actions on-line, together with tastings and coaching, and even performed a few digital wine dinners. At their resorts in Nashik, the meals and wine menus have been digitised and you’ll order wine instances in your cellphone.
Sula Vineyards not too long ago rebranded their Karnataka vineyard as Domaine Sula to distinguish it from the flagship vineyard in Nashik. “When it comes to growing grapes and making wine, the terroir matters — the sunlight, temperature, soil, rains, even wind. So by having Domaine Sula, we can grow different grapes or the same grape which will turn out slightly different from that in Nashik,” explains Verdin. Sula can be betting large on wine tourism, particularly in present occasions when you possibly can’t jet off to Bordeaux or Napa. While the Nashik vineyard has two keep choices, The Source and Beyond, Domaine Sula at present provides solely vineyard excursions, tastings, and eating, although plans are afoot to develop hospitality.
Quality management at TASMAC
Apart from pandemic-related points, distribution past Maharashtra stays a priority. “The big challenge is label registration. Policies don’t make it easy to register wines so we are doing it gradually,” says Verdin. In a primary for any Indian winemaker, the corporate partnered with the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC) in early 2020 to retail wines throughout the state. They at present supply seven wines, principally from their iconic manufacturers. “We have the Sauvignon Blanc, which has had good international recognition and the Brut Tropicale, a sparkling rosé that suits a lot of people. We have Dindori Reserve Shiraz and the versatile Riesling. You have different options, and you will definitely find something that fits your palate,” he provides. However, youthful manufacturers corresponding to The Source will not be out there as but, particularly The Source Grenache Rosé that has been significantly well-received. “For The Source, we are presently focussing on one or two states and then we’ll look to expand. We just need some organisation and we also need to see how the market is reacting.”
The TASMAC partnership additionally led to an unexpected aspect impact — the corporate began receiving complaints about high quality inconsistencies in wines purchased from TASMAC shops. “We are fully aware of the issue and, of course, you learn through experience. Availability [through TASMAC] was to start in February 2020 so we had shipped our wines in January. But then the lockdown happened and our wines were stuck in their warehouses, which led to quality issues because of heat damaging the wine,” explains Verdin. The firm has put course-correction measures in place — they are going to ship smaller portions of wine extra typically, and they’re working with TASMAC to enhance warehouse storage services.
The way forward for wine
Winemaking in India is just 20 years previous, a relative child when in comparison with different wine areas, each previous world and new. In that quick span of time, the business has grown in leaps in bounds, even discovering worldwide recognition — a few of Sula’s wines not too long ago received medals on the Decanter World Wine Awards and are additionally extremely rated by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. “Sula is currently available in 30+ countries though exports account for only 2% of our sales. What is important for us is to put India on the world wine map, because it has its own place, its own terroir, and its own style. I think the future for wine in India is beautiful and that’s something I’m confident about,” concludes Verdin.
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