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City scope: a drop of Vindia

Charukesi Ramadurai in Bangalore

 

In the wake of yoga and satellite television channels showing Indian soaps, the latest thing to reach the mainland from India appears to be wine. Towards the end of last year, Bangalore-based Grover Zampa became the first Indian winery to export to what is the world's fastest growing wine market.

Most of the mainland's wine imports - about 2.5 million cases a year - come from France and Australia, and there are several popular local producers - after all, China has a winemaking tradition that is more than 4,500 years old. The country has become the sixth largest producer of wine in the world as well as the fifth largest consumer of it.

Ravi Jain, chief executive of Grover Zampa, sees this expansion as an opportunity for lesser-known wine-producing countries.

Admitting Indians themselves are less than savvy about wine - "we are where [mainlanders] were maybe 20 years ago" - he says, "The Chinese are travelling and experimenting with lots of new cuisines, including Indian. So we are hoping that they will also take to Indian wines well."

Grover (which became Grover Zampa last year, when it merged with Vallée de Vin, another Indian grower) was established in 1988 in the Nandi Hills near Bangalore. For now, the wines it exports to the mainland - a cabernet shiraz and a cabernet sauvignon - are available only in major cities, from select hotels and restaurants and in specialist shops, but colourful label motifs should help them stand out.

"For now, I see [Grover Zampa] doing well at premium Indian restaurants and perhaps in hotels which have a fantastic wine list, just for the novelty value," says Aneesh Bhasin, a sommelier and co-founder of IndianWineList, a marketing and events company in Mumbai.

Ruma Singh, president of the Bangalore Wine Club, sounds a note of caution, however.

"All Indian wineries are excited by the prospect of the vast Chinese market," he says. "But India has not yet reached the volume where they can export at competitive rates."

Bhasin, at any rate, has confidence in the quality of Indian wines. He took a couple to Vinexpo 2012 in Hong Kong and says the response was positive, especially from Benson Yan, sommelier at The Ritz-Carlton.

Other Indian wineries that export widely - but not to the mainland - include the popular Sula and the boutique Vallonne. Grover Zampa, meanwhile, also exports to Europe, Japan, Singapore and the Middle East and is eyeing up Hong Kong.

Watch out for those brightly coloured bottles.

 

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