Wine at The Claridges

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Catering to wine lovers in the capital city, The Claridges, New Delhi, is set to introduce a new range of organic wines. Judith Scarione, resident sommelier, The Claridges, New Delhi, talks about the Indian wine industry, the new trends and the challenges restricting the market By Saloni Bhatia

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Judith Scarione

Wine as a product is finally starting to develop its consumer base in India with more people willing to experiment with the drink. While India as a market has huge potential to grow, the real question is whether the supply meets the demand. The Claridges has been offering fine dining options through its five restaurants and will continue to enhance consumer experience with the introduction of new organic wines this month. Speaking about the organic range, Judith Scarione, resident sommelier, The Claridges, New Delhi, says, “The new set of organic wines has been sourced from some families in Europe. This is not the first time that organic wines will be brought to the country since upscale hotel chains are already serving them. However, our wines will be at lower price points while retaining the good quality.”

Scarione moved to India in 2014 to pursue her love for yoga and discover a completely different culture. After exploring the country as a tourist, she resumed her work in the industry by leading the wine division at The Claridges. Speaking about her experience in the India market, she says, “The alcohol market in India is a bit complicated as there is no direction to where the industry is headed. The sudden changes in the rules and regulations restrict us to make decisions or be flexible in our work. Thankfully, The Claridges as a brand focuses on product quality and overcomes all these hurdles to maintain it.”

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Adding to her comments on the New Delhi market, she informs, “The major factors that hinder growth in the Delhi market are delays in custom approvals and licencing. Around 40 per cent of liquor bars are awaiting their licences, despite filing their paperwork on time. Delay to get the imported wines through customs also degrades their quality by the time they reach Delhi.”

Potential in the market

The F&B curiosity among consumers  is growing. Thanks to the television shows and internet, people are more aware about the ingredients that go into a dish. At the same time, the beverage segment has also slowly matured. As the consumer base for wine drinkers increases, the supply should match the demand. But, there is huge dichotomy in what the people want and what the government is giving them, adds Scarione.

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When asked about what is the differentiator, she says, “The star is always the product and service. Where there is good food matched with enjoyable wine, the customer always comes back. One should keep these aspects in mind while serving a customer.”

Understanding the consumer

20161130eh09Talking about the increasing number of wine drinkers, Scarione, opines, “One doesn’t need to know the technicality of wine to enjoy it. While some people are curious to try new things, they hesitate to ask the details of the product and end up buying the cheapest or costliest bottle of wine. Wine drinking is still considered a foreign concept and wine- a luxury product. India is a growing market, but it still hasn’t matured to the stage where people show keen interest to know the product.”

Commenting on recent trends, she remarks, “It is way too early to talk about trends as the market is too young for wine drinkers. While the market is potentially big, the supply is low. If the taxes were lowered and there aren’t too many restrictions on importing, the market could grow at a faster pace. If we could bring in more variety of wine at a competitive price, we could attract many more customers to the wine culture.”

The latest addition of organic wines will offer a variety in taste and originality. Apart from these wines, The Claridges offers a range of wines from  Australia, South Africa, France, Napa, Italy, Spain, America and India. The wines are divided at the restaurants according to customer’s choices and preferences. As some of the wines are not available due to constraints, Scarione makes the best efforts to put an interesting choice on the menu for guests.

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