A first for India, tasting Bordeaux’s finest

ThumbnailsThursday was a historic day for the wine trade in India. For the first time, since it came into existence in 1973, the Union des Grand Crus des Bordeaux (UGCB), a collective of the top wineries of Bordeaux, presented their wines for tasting in the country, at the Sofitel in BKC. Though it was a relatively small group, comprising only 33 of UGCB’s 136 members, it was, as Rajiv Singhal of Group Ritu, the organiser of UGCB’s maiden India tour, accurately put it, “the first time that such a galaxy of wine superstars is visiting India. The scale and the sheer reputation of the wines that are being presented makes this a very important and special occasion for Indian wine professionals, hospitality industry and wine lovers.” Truly, never before has such a large group of top Bordeaux chateaux, accounting for so many of the world’s finest and most expensive wines, been present in the same room at the same time.

The 42 wines that were presented by the chatueax owners themselves came from the prestigious wine appellations of Pessac Leognan, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, Pomerol, Moulis en Medoc, Haut Medoc, Margaux, Saint Julien, Pauillac, Saint Estephe and Sauternes et Barsac.

All the wines were from the 2009 vintage which has been rated as one of the best vintages of Bordeaux in almost 60 years.

While the UGCB conducts trade tastings globally for its members, it has shied away from India, though French wines account for the highest sales by value. So what accounts for organising this tasting? Jean-Marc Guiraud, Director of UGCB explains the shift in perspective, “UGCB is a private body, belonging to the chateaux themselves. The function of the body is to organise tastings in the major markets. Every one once in a while we organise tastings in what we perceive as potential markets. India is a small market for us; it ranks only 61st amongst the markets for UGCB. We came here to see the response and gauge potential.”

Like Guirard, many of the chateau owners were extremely pleased with the response to the event by the trade. Christophe de Bailliencourt, the owner of Chateau Gazin, a small, but significant winery in Pomerol, was pleasantly surprised to find that many of the people he met were not only familiar with his winery but had also tasted his wines. Given the response, he was very hopeful that the event would be organised at least once in two years, if not annually, henceforth.

Unlike some of the other wine tastings held recently, there was a sizable representation of wine importer as well as several prominent Indian wine makers and producers, in attendance. The event clearly had wide-ranging significance not just for French and Bordeaux wines but also for the wine trade in India. According to Abhay Kewadkar, Chief Wine Maker and Business Head, United Spirits Ltd (Wines), “That the Grand Crus, the super premium wines of France, thought it was important enough to come to India and do a tasting like this, is a very positive sign. It only confirms the potential the wine industry has for the future.”

Published Afternoon Despatch & Courier, Monday, May 28, 2012

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