By Sourish Bhattacharyya
AMAN DHALL is acknowledged, even by his business rivals, as the emperor of the wine business in India. When the Modernite with the right degrees from Boston University and now Stanford tentatively launched Brindco International at the turn of the millennium, with a wine list that would make him laugh today (I remember Aman trying to talk me into believing that an American plonk named Franzia was the best in the world!), he was taking on the might of Mumbai’s Sanjay Menon, whose Sonarys Co Brands was the leading wine importer with all the prestige brands in its portfolio.
It’s been 13 years since the day I met a very respectful Aman at The Imperial’s coffee shop, only because the French Embassy had organised a junket for columnist and former editor Malavika Sangghvi, pastry chef and BBC2 cookery show host Roopa Gulati and me to visit vineyards across France. Today, Aman is the unchallenged leader of a market that is crowded with small and big importers.
He has worked very hard to grow the business, not only for himself, but also for the industry, and it has given him his market leadership position. There was a time when Aman and I have been kept waiting outside the offices of the top honchos of Bordeaux, despite calls made in advance by our influential mutual friend Mark Walford, and then cursorily taken on a winery tour by their minions. Today, the same honchos are falling over each other to stay on Aman’s prized portfolio.
I have been waiting for Aman to find his place in the wine sun. He has finally found it in the Wine Who’s Who published in its latest edition by the influential French magazine, Paris Match. Aman is the only Indian on the star-studded list and he stands out in the group picture, which we will publish shortly, with his trademark white turban. He’s in fact in the company of the guardian angels of many of the prestige wines he imports.
The wine world stars sharing the spotlight with Aman are mostly from France, as would be expected from a who’s who prepared by a proudly French magazine. Some of the others featured on the list are: Marcel Guigal of the Rhone Valley wine house that bears his family name; Corinne Mentzelopoulos of Chateau Margaux; Philippe Sereys de Rothschild of Chateau Mouton Rothschild; the famous flying winemaker Michel Rolland (who’s better known in India for his association with Grover Vineyards); Pierre Lurton of Cheval Blanc and Chateau d’Yquem; Pierre-Henri Gagey (Louis Jadot) and Olivier Bernard (Domaine de Chevalier), presidents of the unions of wine producers of Burgundy and Bordeaux respectively; Melanie Tesseron of Chateau Pontet Canet; Christian Lopez of Chile’s top-selling wine, Vina Concha y Toro; Jean-Michel Cazes, boss of Pauillac’s Chateau Lynch Bages; Patrice Noyelle of Winston Churchill’s favourite bubbles, Pol Roger; and Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger of the champagne bearing his family’s name (and which Vijay Mallya bid for, only to be rebuffed by the French government).
Finding a place on this privileged list is not easy. Aman has got it because the wine world looks up to him as the key to the Indian market.