Indians are well travelled and are now looking at wines beyond red, white and rosé. They’re now looking up the vintage, terroir, blends and so on and that’s why Abhay Kewadkar decided to launch his own brand producing handcrafted small batches of wine for the Indian tipplers, after working for more than three decades in the wine industry. His venture focuses on bringing to India a Grand Cru Class of wines under the umbrella brand Tetrad Global Beverages Pvt Ltd, alongwith partner Rishad Minocher and Joseph Andrade. Long-time friends and wine lovers, the Bengaluru-based duo has a carefully curated portfolio of wines under the Early Dark label, that has been produced in the celebrated vineyards of near Boudreaux in the Sud Quest region in France. These vineyards follow traditional winemaking techniques and use state-of-the-art equipment combined with a modern approach to winemaking. RITZ Magazine speaks to the wine aficionados on the making of the Early Dark.
- How did the idea of foraying on your own come about?
Abhay: Having spent my entire career in the wine Industry, from being India’s first Wine maker to being in a unique position to be part of the “Grape to Glass” and “Farm to Fork” movement, I felt it was time to create my own brand and business. I always felt consumption of wine in this country has not really grown the way it should have. One of the main reasons being the price a consumer is expected to pay for quality wines both domestic and bottled at origin brands. I have wanted to fill this gap for a very long time, and starting a brand of my own has always been an ambition. I started Tetrad Global Beverages with my long-time friend Rishad Minocher and Joseph Andrade.
Rishad: Abhay and I have been close friends for over 25 years and in many conversations (over a glass of wine or more!) we’ve talked about doing something about making wines more accessible. If I have learnt anything from my 40+ years in the food, beverages and hospitality business, its’s that wines in most restaurants and hotels are too highly priced, hampering growth. One cannot do much about the taxes and duties that alcoholic beverages are subjected to, but we felt that there must be something we can do to change the situation. While we decided to go ahead to put our business together, an old friend Joseph Andrade, who is a very successful entrepreneur and businessman, also agreed to come on board with us.
- Was getting into wines a natural progression after working in the wine industry for so long?
Absolutely, yes. Knowledge of wine making and tasting expertise comes handy while choosing the wines and brands for our company Tetrad Global Beverages’ BIO Imports business. The excellent contacts I developed over the years in global markets, especially in France, where I studied wine making, made the decision-making smoother in this progression. Cracking this now looks so simple given the way I received support and encouragement from the principals in France.
- What were the challenges? How did you overcome them?
The first challenge was to get a renowned wine maker in France to agree to bottle our own label. Another challenge we faced was that the volumes are small and importantly for Indian market there are special labelling requirements. There are minimum guarantees required to be given on volumes. Anne Arbeau, the fifth generation of the owning family of Vignoble Arbeau – my friend for the last 20 years, and her wine-maker brother, Geraud Arbeau, understood the issues of the Indian market and supported us to make and bottle our brand of “Early Dark” wines.
- What are some of the highlights of your labels?
The Alcoholic Beverage consumption habits of Indian consumers usually are that spirits are consumed in the latter part of the evening and beer normally in the afternoon. Consumption of Alcoholic Beverages is mostly as an Aperitif, so we wanted to give the message that wine can be consumed in the earlier part of the evening; this is why we have the “Early Dark” brand tagline as “It’s never too early”. The uniquely designed cat face is to create brand recall – “Early Dark” is when one’s feline nature comes out.
- How’re you different from your competitors around?
Our USP is the selection of the varietals and blends, as well as the aggressive price points for the given quality. For the first time in India we have brought in a varietal, such as Negrette in a blend with Syrah and Gamay. Where this blend stands out is that the Negrette is very aromatic and has a floral nose, much like Pinot Noir, but with a well-rounded structure and soft tannins coming from the Syrah. At a very good price point, this “appellation d’origine contrôlée” wine has been rated at 90 points by wine enthusiasts, which makes it a great buy. Other wines in the portfolio have also been chosen considering the varietals, price points and awards. We would like to educate our consumers that you do not need to pay a high price for good quality wines. We also exclusively represent two of the largest privately-owned wine companies of France, in India – Groupe GCF and Borie Manoux: The family-owned Groupe Grands Chais de France is the second largest wine company in France – producing over 1,500,000 hl of wine, with a turnover of over a billion euros, and global sales exceeding 44 million cases (9L). Based in Alsace, they own vineyards, chateaux, winemaking and bottling operations over France, in Germany, Spain, Hungary and now in China. Borie-Manoux is one of France’s largest family-owned winery and wine merchant groups. Founded in 1870, they own over a dozen Grands Crus and Classical Chateaux in Bordeaux and hold a pre-eminent position in their home market, exporting to around 90 countries. Philippe Castéja, Chairman of Borie Manoux, is currently President of the Conseil des Grands Crus Classés de Bordeaux.
- What are your future plans?
Currently the Early Dark portfolio boasts of a Reserve Range of three varietals and blends and a special Regional Range of another three varietals. The Syrah – Negrette – Gamay red wine in the Reserve Range has won many awards, that include being rated at 90 points by Wine Enthusiast, 86 points by Guide Gilbert & Gaillard, and a Silver medal at the Concours Elle à table. We have started our portfolio with wines from France, but we will add wines from other regions such as Italy, Spain, New Zealand and other countries in the coming months. We plan to expand our “Early Dark” portfolio as well. In the second phase, we will add speciality Single Malt, Whisky and Beer. We aim to become a Boutique Alco Bev importer and distributor company with a pan India presence.