By Sourish Bhattacharyya
INDIA'S first brandy made 100 per cent with grape spirit is ready for release. It is the baby of Remy Sula, a joint venture between the Paris-based ninth largest spirits company in the world, Remy Cointreau, and Nashik's Sula Vineyards, the producer of India's largest selling wines, which is led by the Standford-trained engineer and wine pioneer Rajeev Samant.
Remy Cointreau, headed by industry veteran Rukn Luthra in India, is famous for its cognac Remy Martin (and the ultra-exclusive Louis XIII) as well as the champagnes Piper-Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck, the mid-market brandies St Remy and Metaxa, and the triple sec, Cointreau. The brandy, whose grapes are being sourced locally, is being produced at Century Wines, Baramati, under Remy Sula's supervision.
Sources close to the development say the brandy will be released only after Remy Cointreau's experts give its their thumb. The other whisper is that the company is lobbying for an excise duty reduction on grape spirit in view of the high cost of production.
|The next time you visit Sula Vineyards, you may|
be able to ask for a snifter of brandy -- made
100 per cent with Indian grape spirit. Image:
Courtesy of Virgin Atlantic blog
In India, brandies made by multiple local players have a minuscule quantity of grape spirit; the basic ingredient is extra neutral alcohol (ENA) produced out of molasses, which, in fact, is at the core of most Indian-manufactured spirits, starting with whisky. Media reports peg the price of ENA at Rs 20 per litre; that of grape spirit is Rs 400 per litre. It's seriously expensive to produce brandy with grape spirit, which is why the Remy Sula product may be deserving of excise duty exemption.
The Remy Sula partnership was first off the ground when the Government of Maharashtra allowed the production of grape spirit some time back to insulate farmers from the economic setback they suffer in the years when they have excess production. Wine grapes have no other use. The demand for grape spirit therefore may provide farmers an incentive to step up their production levels.
The launch of Remy Sula's first Indian grape spirit-based brandy will mark the entry of yet another important international player in the domestic wine and spirits market. Seagram India, the local arm of the French alcobev multinational, Pernod Ricard, set the ball rolling with its Nine Hills wines made in Nashik, and Moet Hennessy India most recently launched its Indian sparkling wine, Chandon, in Mumbai and Delhi to lend some sparkle to the jaded market.
Brandy, incidentally, is big business in the south, which consumed 99 per cent (Tamil Nadu alone cornered 60 per cent) of the 45-plus million, nine-litre cases of the drink released into the market in 2012. That's a substantially bigger market than wine. Remy Sula, it's apparent, wishes to gain the first-mover advantage with an Indian brandy that is produced just the way it is supposed to be. The move will give the alcobev industry an additional push to achieve higher production levels and penetrate the domestic market deeper than ever.