Elena Bortoletto of Donnafugata talks to Asmita Sarkar about wine entering the Asian market.
One of the primary cultures that Indian students and young professionals who live abroad bring back with them is their love of fine wine. While everyone loves food made by their mother, quality wines and spirits they have had are sought out on their return to India as well. And in the third largest liquor market of the world, where every year almost 20 million people enter legal drinking age, it is the young that a Sicilian wine brand is vying for.
“It is my dream that we serve Sicilian wine with Indian food. It is a misconception that Italian wine can only be paired with food from the region,” says Elena Bortoletto, export manager, Donnafugata.
It doesn’t hurt that the 1983 origin company comes with an interesting history that involves runaway queens. The name Donnafugata translates to fugitive woman or the woman who fled. The town has a castle with the same name. And one of the legends say that it refers to Queen Blanche of Navarre, widow of King Martin I of Aragon. The labels on the bottles are a work of art by the famed Stefano Vitale, who had designed the cover for Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.
It seems just like the drink, families that run wineries also get finer with each generation. The fifth-generation run family business has fresh and fruit wines that are accessible but premium and make for easy drinking. The bottles, which come with instructions, tell clearly that the white wine goes better with fruits and cheese while the red is meant for meat. The Anthilia made with peach and pear scents, is crisp and soft on the palate and is better served with fish or vegetables while the Sedara has a balance of red fruits and spicy flavours.
To ensure the wine quality, they harvest grapes by handpicking them for their Chardonnay, for which the fruits ripen the earliest. At their vineyard in the town of Ragusa they are harvested by night, when the temperatures are as low as 18-20 degree Celsius instead of the peak of 45 degree Celsius in the day. No chemical fertilizers or pesticides go into the grapes. Their focus has been on sustainability as well since harvesting at night saves electricity needed to cool down the fruit if it is picked during the day.
Bortoletto adds that the market in Asia is opening to wine while it was earlier dominated by spirits. China has wine bars in Shanghai and Beijing and with the opening of Wine & Spirit Education Trust, awareness has been percolating into the urban people. She also added that tourism to Italy has been the key to a growth in their market.
While an entry level wine is placed around Rs 700-1500, the Donnafugata is priced more than Rs 3300, which is definitely not an inaccessible mark for the upward moving Indian. It has already made inroads into key metros in the country and has been placed at well-known places like the Indian Accent. But they agree that to reach a new market of amateur wine drinkers, dinners and workshops that lets one experience the wine and how it should be had is the key.
However, they are in no hurry to see results since the normal turnaround time to see profits is five years. During that time, they hope to triple their sales.
Writer: Asmita Sarkar
Courtesy: The Pioneer