Debjit Dasgupta, Country Manager, Ace BeverageZ Pvt. Ltd.

As the Indian custodian of Drappier, one of the top five champagnes   of   the   world, which  is  also  100  per  cent  organic (even   its   label   is   bio-degradable), Debjit   Dasgupta,   Country   Manager, Ace BeverageZ, knows very well the difficulties  associated  with  selling  in a price-sensitive market. He also is aware that champagne is popped only on celebratory occasions in the country, but it doesn’t stop him for pitching Drappier as an all-occasion beverage.

“The champagne is so elegant, yet complex, that you would love to spend time with it,” Dasgupta points out. “Drappier contains a very fine bubbles, comes with aromas of red fruits, and has a mild toasty mouth feel.” Unlike in the case of other champagnes, Drappier’s Brut and Rosé command the same price. It has been done to make the Rosé more accessible and grow the segment as well.

“We    are    doing    private    labels for   five-star   hotels   across   India,” says   Dasgupta.   “Recently,   we   did a champagne dinner at the Taj Falaknuma Palace, where renowned critics such as Jancis Robinson and Vir Sanghvi graced the high table. Today, Drappier is working with brands such as the Taj and Pullman. It is available in  leading  five-star  hotels  and  high- end restaurants too. We are also doing champagne brunches with top five-star hotels.”

Dasgupta   has   also   been   able to remarkably balance Drappier’s reputation with price points designed to “offer more diversity to the champagne list of any hotel”. His objective is to make Drappier the champagne that offers the best  price-quality  ratio.  He  explains that Moet Hennessy commands 80 per cent of the Indian market with Moet & Chandon,  Veuve  Cliquot  and  Dom Perignon, but the remaining 20 per cent is  divided  among  all  other  available brands and Drappier is among the top three by volume in this category.

Unlike his peers in the industry, Dasgupta doesn’t consider Indian sparkling wines to be much of a challenge   (“they   co-exist   because of their price points,” he insists). Similarly, he believes the market for prosecco and cava is growing because they retail in the Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000 range, whereas a bottle of non-vintage champagne is priced anywhere between Rs 6,000 to Rs 10,000.

What  Dasgupta  finds  heartening is the growing interest among people about  other  sparkling  wines  such  as prosecco and cava, thanks to hotels and high-end restaurants including these in their Sunday brunch packages. Today, hotels  and  restaurants  organise  wine appreciation classes for their clients and staff, and people outside the hospitality industry are increasingly attending wine knowledge certification courses.

The time is right therefore for Dasgupta to launch Cavicchioli, the prosecco brand just added the Ace BeverageZ portfolio. He expects to see Cavicchioli competing with Carpene Malvolti and Luna Argenta, and establishing “a decent presence in all top bars and restaurants”. The new entrant, he says, “will trigger a fair competition among the leading prosecco brands in the country.” But first, the trade must get more active in promoting sparkling wines in the same way as it pushes other alcoholic beverages, otherwise the end consumer will continue to be influenced by pricing or the recommendations of peers, or even by the way a bottle looks!

Dwelling on the subject of promotions, Dasgupta says promotions must start with  better  training  and  education  of hotel and restaurant staff “because they need to understand wines bet guests  do”.  As  facilitators,  Dasgupta  and his team conduct wine training and

“Promotions must with    better    tr and  the  educatio hotel   and   rest staff.   They   ne understand         w better    before guests  do.  Once staff  get  familiar wines, they will tr up-sell.”

wine tasting certification pro “Once the hotel and restaurant familiar with wines, they will t sell,” says Dasgupta. “We also wine appreciation classes for g that they know what they are b Champagne  will  remain in   the  sparkling  wine  cate because of pricing issues, it slowly but steadily dislodged sparkling    wines,    mainly    p “Lately,   a   lot   of   wine   lov switched from champagne to p says Dasgupta. “Even hotels a with  proseccos  because  the price is low and the volume of sales is phenomenal.”

The biggest challenges confronting the industry, however, is high burden of taxes and the inconsistency in central and state policies on alcohol sale and consumption. “It prevents us from being able to plan long-term, which is important for any business to run in a structured way,” says Dasgupta. “As a result of complicated policies, not many new importers are coming into this business

and  the  ones  who  are  around,  are groaning under financial burdens that do not allow them to experiment much with their wine portfolios, mix of labels and pricing.”

Despite some progress being made in certain quarters, the burden of taxes and the complexity of the excise rules, which differ from state to state, has kept the business artificially slow, and it is showing in the champagne and sparkling wine category too. Simplification of the rules and rationalisation of taxes alone can spur the trade.

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