Recently GZV secured significant funding led by Singapore-based wine investor Ravi Viswanathan. We spoke with him to see which new horizons this hefty infusion opens up for GZV, known for bringing premium Indian wines to ever growing circles of Indian and foreign wine aficionados.
Viswanathan, the aim is to transform the company into a multibrand lifestyle business, increase capacity and modernise production, expand the brand’s global presence and make the processes more environment-friendly.
The biggest new project is the construction of a new winery in scenic Nandi Hills, which will house state-of-the-art production facilities as well as a wine tourism oasis. Viswanathan is excited about the prospect as the existing facilities in Karnataka are overloaded and the area itself is becoming more and more industrialised rather than agricultural. “Our current Bangalore facility is the oldest one in India with a lot of equipment and technologies being outdated and a design which does not integrate the new ideas about winemaking,” he explains. “Despite that, the wine produced there is still the best in India,” he adds.
Bringing in the latest technologies available in the world, most of which will be completely new to India, will serve the same goal of improving viticulture and winemaking, such as the introduction of ovoid cement tanks. As of now, most Indian wineries use stainless steel tanks. These huge metal tanks are significantly cheaper, but the cement ones provide an improvement in quality and energy consumption that is worth the investment. Their unique shape allows natural convection to occur, thus removing the need for manual stirring (“batonnage”). Also, cement has a porous structure that enables the exchange of micro quantities of oxygen between the wine and the environment without additional devices.
It will employ a gentler, less interventionist approach to winemaking, relying on natural gravity to move the wine from the press to the fermentation tanks to storage tanks and ageing barrels without the use of pumps.
“The new design will be very “green”, using solar panels to minimise electrical consumption and employing a thorough waste and effluent treatment plant as well as recycling,” Viswanathan elaborates. The new four million litre winery will be located in the picturesque Nandi Hills, a popular January-March 2019 Sommelier INDIA 19 tourist area, in the middle of a 50-acre vineyard.
Another novelty brought to India will be foudres, huge wooden vats which can contain up to 5,000 litres and more. These gigantic barrels are typical of the Jura region and they help ensure a better ratio of wooden surface to volume of liquid for a less oaky taste. And these barrels can last a lifetime.
Another important aspect of the new winery development will be focusing on wine tourism. The estate will welcome wine enthusiasts, offering them a multi-faceted experience: three restaurants, offering affordable world cuisine as well as fine dining, will satisfy the most discerning palates.
Grover will also buy clay amphorae to try out some of the antique methods of winemaking as done in Georgia. Another first is the introduction of drones and high-tech sensors in the vineyards. The drones will monitor a vast area on a daily basis and their sophisticated equipment will help early identification of diseases while measuring other parameters. New sap flow sensors will help conserve water by allowing irrigation only when the hydric level in the soil is stressed, resulting in better grapes and less water wasted.
A wine museum will help curious minds to get acquainted with not just the history of wine but the chemistry behind it and the role wine plays in art and literature. Small cottages will provide rustically cosy accommodation, but with all modern facilities. This wonderful wine adventure will be complete with unique features, namely: a wine library with its collection of the older vintages, movie theatre, luscious wine spa for those keen on vinotherapy, swimming pool, cooking classes using the vegetables from the estate’s organic garden, and art performances and fashion shows in an outdoor amphitheatre.
Along with these grand plans for its home turf, GZV is also working on expanding its portfolio both in India and overseas. Imports are projected for rapid growth to include wines from other producers, thus strengthening the overall portfolio.
Most importantly, GZV will continue its tradition of making fine wines and the new winery is looking at introducing 15 to 20 new limited edition wines, which will come from specific plots in the vineyards. These will be sold exclusively in the winery shop or served in its restaurants.
The first step is a tie-up with Château d’Etroyes (See article in SI Issue 3, 2018), following which in early 2019 GZV will start importing Burgundies made there under the La Reserve de Bourgogne (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) label. Another important step was taken at the most famous wine auction in the world, the Hospices de Beaune Wine Auction which took place in November 2018. GZV bought three barrels of 2018 vintage (each containing approximately 300 bottles) – two of red Beaune Premier Cru Cuvée Guigone de Salins and one of white Meursault-Charmes Premier Cru.
GZV has also added to its portfolio the Four Seasons winery. This relatively new (10-15 years’ old) domain, produces wines of a very different style from the “French” influence that can be easily tasted in GZV’s current premium wines. The newly purchased estate comes with a real, though modernised, castle near Pune, where the company plans to develop wine tourism with 28 suites for guests and full recreational facilities.
Viswanathan shares his excitement about the vintage, “2018 is a fantastic year and the Hospices de Beaune have one of the most renowned vineyards in the world, so we have high hopes for these wines. It is the first time an Indian company bought anything at this prestigious auction where the proceeds go to charity. It is very difficult to produce good Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in India due to our much hotter climate, so these wines will be a welcome addition to the GZV range. We plan to bring them to India before the 2020 festive season.”
“The Charosa winery, whose famed wines have a pronounced new world taste, is also being added to complement our multibrand portfolio”, Viswanathan shared. “The current Nashik winery will be revamped with tourist facilities such as F&B, spa, sports activities, wine museum, et cetera and around 50 to 70 rooms will be available before the next festive season in 2019. It is just two hours from Mumbai and located at the top of a hill with magnificent views. Visitors will be able to enjoy limited-edition estate wines in a boutique winery setting with terraced vineyards – affording a truly unique experience.”
GZV has also acquired the chic and trendy Myra brand, which will focus on the younger generation of wine-lovers. And to cap it all, in order to secure grape supplies for its future growth, the company is in the process of acquiring another 400 acres of land, beyond what is in Four Seasons and Charosa, as well as tying up with more contract farmers to buy the grapes needed for its five wineries.
Investing intelligently makes for a bright future. GZV shows how it’s done.