A big name in the sparkling wine world – Chandon – arrived in style in India last year. Ruma Singh caught up with Gustavo Agostini, Winemaker and Sophia Sinha, Senior Marketing Manager, Chandon India to do a progress check.
Chandon was launched with a splash in India. Tell us a little about it.
Sophia Sinha: Ever since its inception in Argentina in 1959, the Chandon philosophy has been to marry the brand’s French heritage and savoir-faire with New World innovations and local character, ensuring the highest quality sparkling wine. Chandon was introduced to India in 2013 with two variants – Chandon Brut (INR 1450) and Chandon Rosé (INR1650). Our primary business objective then was to gain share of heart rather than share of market and give the consumer a world-class quality sparkling wine. The wines are created by an international team of winemakers and viticulturists led by Gustavo Agostini at our state-of-the-art winery in Dindori, Nashik, inaugurated in 2016. The winery was created at an investment of € 8 Million and currently has a capacity of 50,000 cs.
What is Chandon’s approach to the Indian market, where sparkling wine is still relatively new? Is Moet Hennessy India (MHI) catering specifically to Indian tastes? What is your approach to popularizing sparkling wine and how has the brand been received?
Sophia Sinha: It is unfortunate that the perception of Indian wines has only recently changed favourably. We have some great terroirs and beautiful grapes. It was only a matter of time before the nascent potential was tapped. As I said before, our endeavour at Chandon was to educate, familiarize and present options that are at par with what an average 25-40 year-old would taste when they travel anywhere in the world. Having said that, Chandon India is about building a culture of bubbles in the country. Coming from a great lineage, we had the confidence of having a great product. Chandon Brut is made with Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and a little Pinot Noir. Chandon Brut Rosé is made from Shiraz. While we formally opened our Visitors’ Centre in April 2016, we have been creating the wines at our own winery for the last 2.5 years. Today, we are listed across 21 cities in India and also available outside India in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal.
Gustavo Agostini: The story of Chandon in India is fairly recent one. Across the globe, the consumption of sparkling wines has been steadily growing year-on-year and India is no exception. The key factor for this has been consumer awareness and education. Having said that, the growth of Chandon can primarily be attributed to having a great product – we create our sparkling wines with grapes, like Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz, that work really well with the Indian palate. Young consumers have been very receptive to our wines.
You added Délice recently to the MHI portfolio. What was the reasoning behind it?
Sophia Sinha: A few weeks ago we launched Délice, made with locally-sourced Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay grapes. It is an irreverent expression that we believe is set to change the manner in which India enjoys its sparkling wines and wines. With a sweeter, more flavourful taste profile, this wine is targeted at consumers looking to drink something different than a typical Brut or Rosé expression.
Gustavo Agostini: After 2 years in India we could see we needed a new product to attract new consumers. Our endeavour was to devise a variant that was easy to drink, flavourful and could be had with a delicious Indian meal. The idea was to add a product to the portfolio which resonated with the modern Indian lifestyle.
Chandon Délice is a fresh and elegant product that brings together the citrus and floral aromas of our Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay grapes. On the palate, the wine presents a flavourful vivacity thanks to its pleasant acidity accompanied by a long, sweet and elegant finish.
How about some food pairings with sparkling wines?
Sophia Sinha: In keeping with its Délice-ious profile, we launched the wine in Mumbai through a creative collaboration with 7 of the city’s coolest chefs. Each of them presented their interpretation of Délice’s flavours, colours and Indo-French legacy and the results were pairings made in gastronomic heaven! From inspired Vada Pav to prawns infused with the tanginess of kokum, macarons with a hint of spice, Délice went beautifully with each dish.
How does it feel being the world’s 6th Chandon winery? Describe MHI’s future plans.
Sophia Sinha: While we are the 6th winery, we were actually the 5th market to have our very own Chandon! Each market is at different stages in the product and market life-cycle. We will continue to focus on all three variants, the implicit emphasis will be to innovate and wow the consumer through packaging, new consumptions methods and superlative experiences.