India is associated with many things it has offered to the world, from dynamic spices and its sumptuous cuisine to entertaining Bollywood films. More recently, it has been adding its speciality wines to this list.
The relatively young wine-producing country is well on its way to make the world fall in love with the Indian grapes, with the likes of Wines in India. The company’s co-founders – Nilesh Kamble, Mayank Gupta, and Chris Holland – have been on a mission to prove that India truly is a producer of world-class wines. Since 2019, the trio has been curating their portfolio of premium quality wines under the expertise of the sole Master of Wine in India, Sonal Holland.
‘iGlobal’ got in conversation with business partners, Nilesh Kamble and Mayank Gupta, based in Portsmouth, to find out what makes the Indian grape ripe for the UK market and beyond, and also to shed some light on the fast-growing wine market in India – which they are determined to put on the world map.
Business enthusiast Nilesh moved to the UK from Mumbai to pursue an MBA at Coventry University. While dining at his partner Mayank’s restaurant, Darbar in Emsworth – on the south coast of England, he observed that an Englishman was so impressed with the Indian wine he had tasted that he bought the entire crate of 12 bottles.
At that very moment, Nilesh conceived his business plan: “I felt like it was a good opportunity to sell Indian wines because people aren’t aware that India can manufacture good wines.”
Upon researching the market for wines in the UK over the next eight months, Nilesh found that the island nation stood as the sixth largest wine trading country and ranked second for its consumption of wine in the world. These statistics were all the proof needed for the trio to kickstart their shop in the UK.
Vinification processes have existed since ancient times and have undergone technological transformations over the last decades. Most of the wine-producing countries tend to emphasise on mechanically produced wine.
In India, winemakers have stuck to adopting the native methods of hand-picking the grapes and handmaking their wines. Additionally, the ideal geographical topography of Nashik in Maharashtra and Bengaluru in Karnataka, with its higher altitude from sea level and perfect climatic conditions, favour the production of wine.
One of the perks of Indian wines is its specificity to the Indian palate. The Wines in India motto being: “Which grows together, goes together”.
Wines in India offer foodies of Indian cuisines the real pair of Indian wine with Indian food. To popularise this combination, Mayank explains: “I have changed the wine menu to Indian wines in my restaurants.”
The land of hard liquor has its younger generations fancying wines, with metro cities in India opening their gates to wine clubs and more and more people educating themselves on wine. “People are looking at wines not as an alcoholic but as a prestigious drink. Wine is good for health as well,” says Nilesh.
As per his analysis, “The average wine consumption per person in France or Italy is about four to five bottles in a year. In India, it was one teaspoon per person 10 years ago, but it is gradually growing nowadays. By 2025, the Indian market will build a business of around 2.5 billion dollars.”
Mayank adds: “More companies are making their wines in India now. The wineries we are working with are not very huge and 90 per cent of what they produce is entirely consumed by the Indian market.”
After his retirement as a surgeon for the National Health Service (NHS), Mayank decided to pursue his other passion, food. “In Portsmouth, there are no Indian restaurants that serve authentic Indian food.” To fill this gap in authenticity, Mayank started his chain of restaurants called Darbar in the coastal town of Emsworth and Thyme & Chillies in Chichester.
Restauranteur Mayank reveals the mediocre quality of Indian wines that were being imported into Britain in the past. Thus, adding to the misconception of Indian wines and impacting the perception of the British people.
“We have picked only the best 20 wines from our partner wineries,” he says.
Nilesh says that they have been introducing all kinds of grapes from Sauvignon Blanc to Shiraz.
Wines In India have been working with six premium wine labels in India, namely Charosa, Good Drops Wine Cellars, Reveilo, Fratelli, York, and Vallonné.
Nilesh adds: “Good Drops Wine Cellars are well known for their sparkling wine, which will go well with the summer heat.”
With the team focusing on on-trade and off-trade prospects in the UK wine market, they have been channelling their spectacular wines throughout the country.
“We want to cater to the people who really understand good quality wines at wine societies and wine clubs,” says Gupta.
The group will be seen participating in the London Wine Fair, to be held virtually next month.
Besides targeting supermarkets and restaurants, Nilesh says that their team has been relentlessly pursuing customers through social media platforms.
Enotourism is a popular form of indulging in the wine experience around the world. Wines in India are actively planning to stretch the concept of wine tourism in India. They intend on opening Indian vineyards to social media influencers and wine connoisseurs to familiarise themselves with the Indian wine-making processes.
Nilesh is hopeful: “Once the travel restrictions are lifted, we would be organising trips to our vineyards.”
The sole purpose being to import the best wines from India, Nilesh notes: “If your product is good, then it makes it easier to sell it.”
They have showcased their Indian wines at Waitrose & Partners, Wine Monkey, Winebound, The Grape Slayer, Diogenes the Dog, Darbar Emsworth and Thyme & Chillies.
Mayank adds: “By the time our first batch of wines landed in the UK, it was January 2020. We had just started settling down and trading when the Covid-19 outburst began. We weren’t able to introduce much due to the lockdown.”
Despite not being able to spread their wings during the pandemic, they pride themselves as the first Indian wine vendor of the popular British supermarket chain Waitrose & Partners. “They have selected our wine from Vallonné, called ‘Anokhi’ which means unique. It is a 2016 reserve,” Nilesh reveals.
Lately, people have been increasingly receptive to upcoming wines from newer regions. Gupta comments on how the quality of Indian wines has improved in the last 15 years: “We have the potential to compete with French and Italian wines.”
With the aspiration of becoming a pioneer in premium Indian wines in the UK, Nilesh declares: “We still have a long way to go. Most of the people readily prefer European wines and India is still at the bottom of the graph. We have a big scope in this market.”
The current focus for Wines in India is to capture the UK market and then expand to Europe.