The fifth generation of the Torres family, Miguel Torres Maczassek took over as general manager of Bodegas Torres in 2013. This year, the company’s goal is to grow in value rather than volume, making wines that reflect the personality of each vineyard. Reva K Singh met him briefly during his stopover in Delhi en route to China. Here are excerpts about India and China from a freewheeling conversation.
How do you view the Indian market? Is this your first time in India?
I come to India every two or three years but this is my first visit to Delhi. I’d like to come more often. Despite all the difficulties of the Indian wine market we are here for the longterm and recognise its potential for growth.
What is your optimism based on?
There has been a shift in the consumption of liquor and it’s a trend that will continue. An increasing number of young people in India are interested in wine tastings and in discovering new grape varieties. In countries where alcohol is consumed and there is a tradition of drinking spirits, people eventually move to wine. Although it may be slow, the change will come. Very often, it’s women who are part of the change because they want to drink something that’s more sophisticated than whisky or beer, and then the men follow.
How good are the prospects for international wines in the Indian market?
The prospects are there but they could be much better. If you look at the figures, India is still only a market of 1.3 million cases, of which more than a million are local wines. This is very, very small for local production, considering how much consumption there could be. The market for wine is not growing as fast as it should although the Indian consumer wants to drink more and better wine.
Would it benefit the local market if the restrictions were relaxed and taxes came down?
To develop any category, it is always good to have experienced partners who help develop the culture around it. Consider China, for example. The Chinese government decided to drop taxes on imported wines some years ago and there was a dramatic increase in local production. Even though you might have thought this would effect the local industry, the reduction in duties actually helped to grow the market. Chinese local production has grown by 215% since 2001. Imports, of course, have also gone up. So it’s good for everyone.
Is Torres producing wine in China?
Torres is the second largest exporting company in China. We don’t produce wine but we collaborate with a local company to make better wine. The wine we make with Grace Vineyards is called Symphony Series which was praised by Jancis Robinson a few years ago as the best Chinese wine! However, it is not a commercial relationship and we don’t own any shares. Our main focus is on retail and we plan to keep developing this business in China in the longterm.
Is there any basis in the rumour that you may collaborate with a wine producer in India too?
Not at the moment, but we always like to keep a door open. Who knows what may happen in the future! Wine is a different drink than spirits. It is a cultural drink connected to gastronomy. Every chef should know about wine. We based Sergi Castro, a sommelier and communicator at Bodegas Torres, in India for a while. We have already invested in India with Prestige Wines and Spirits and share the same values.