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.