Friday, April 18, 2014

Lift off: Russian Spirit and Kruto, 2 new vodka brands launch. Tulleeho's Sweta Mohanty was there, to taste and compete.

I was invited to this launch a couple of days back at this quiet little joint at Bandra by the name of Nom Nom. A new vodka launch had got me excited, so I was at the doors of Nom Nom bang on time.
I was greeted by Neha Kapadia, Director MIRSpirits and Mahesh Chauhan, Founder Member, Salt Brand Solutions
Neha Kapadia

Mahesh Chauhan
We were all seated at a long table for the tasting, and to kick things off were given a beautifully designed handout.

Mahesh was at his wittiest best and started for off the conversation by saying “do you want me to take off my shirt??” While we looked on and were trying to figure out what he meant, he immediately explained – Isn’t that what you see in all Vodka promotions. Foreign ladies, skimpily clad girls ……… we do not want that for our vodka. We want it to stand out because of its taste”. Point taken Mahesh!
Neha and Mahesh were of the opinion that their vodka is all about taste. And they don’t need to have skimpily clad girls to promote it.
Mumbai is the 2nd city after Goa in India where they have launched. Russian Spirit as we were told uses golden wheat from the ecologically pure soil of Ukraine. It is 15 times distilled and undergoes a pure gold filtration to get the smooth finish. This is supposed to be drunk “Neat” as a sipping vodka. Here we did a comparative tasting with Grey Goose, Belvedere and Absolut. How it went, we leave it for you to taste and decide!!! Russian Spirit is competitively priced at INR 3200 in Mumbai.
Russian Spirit

Very interestingly the Russian Spirit tagline says “Introduce Yourself”, which to some might sound arrogant because it means the person drinking has to introduce himself/herself, as the vodka needs no introduction.
Nom Nom’s food was yummy…… My favorite out of the lot was Wasabi Prawns & Mushrooms and Crab Meat Sushi. A must visit to Nom Nom for everyone.
Kruto, the other vodka is priced at INR 1800/- in Mumbai and is 9 times distilled. The tag line for Kruto says “Chase Me”. This one is being promoted as a cocktails base. And they had some interesting cocktails like Guava Island (Kruto + Tabasco & Worcestershire + Lemon Juice + Green Chilli) and Bitter Sweet (Kruto + Orange Juice + Lime Juice + Lemonade + Angostura Bitters)

Kruto and Russian Spirits

When MIR Spirits had sent the invite, the first sentence said there would be a surprise element to the event. We had nearly come to the end of the evening and I was wondering where the surprise was and as if reading my mind, Neha announced an impromptu Cocktail competition, in which you had to make your own cocktail and name it too.
I volunteered to go first!! Something that I don’t do often….. Can you guess why I did it this time??
·      Kruto – 60ml
·      Kiwi – Muddled 
·      Lime Juice – 10ml 
·      Sugar Syrup – 10ml 
·      Tabasco – 4 to 5 dashes

Method: Shake and Strain into a salt rimmed rocks glass filled with Ice. Garnish with a Kiwi Slice.

Have you still not guessed why I volunteered to go first? :p

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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Tulleeho Wine Academy in conversation with Simon Cant, Wine making ambassador, Asia for Penfolds Wines

In the Australian outback, a dry day is not to be trifled with. Dry days however have a wholly different meaning in India, and unfortunately we’re on the verge of what turned out to be a historic elections to decide who would rule Delhi. And although we’re meeting in The Leela Gurgaon, the bar is still off limits, as we’re within striking distance of the Delhi border, and Delhi’s running scared of Gurgaon’s pernicious influence on its sobriety. Something which needs much explanation for Simon Cant, the Asia Pacific wine making ambassador for Penfolds wines. So the upshot is that the most we get to fuel our meeting is  water and hey wine is 85% water so its close!

Simon Cant
I start with a soft ball for Simon to lob out of the park.

Q. Penfolds is associated with the Americas Cup, via it’s sponsorship of Team Oracle, which mounted a historic turnaround (Team Oracle won the last 8 races to come from behind and win). Some comments on the same and your thoughts on beating the Kiwis.

A. Well I’d like to start by saying that we definitely didn’t do anything to inflate the bank balances of the Kiwi sailors!. As a sporting turnaround this was one of the most amazing comebacks I’ve seen though. As a brand association the Americas Cup is a great fit for Penfolds. Sailing is an old sport with a lot of innovation, and it’s the same with wine making, a centuries old art, in which there’s been constant innovation.

The audience for sailing, which is definitely a luxury sport and the Penfolds customer set also overlaps, so the association makes perfect sense. I might also point out that there were Kiwis on both teams!

Q. Penfolds has a massive portfolio. What’s the focus for India?

A. At the entry level, the Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet and  Chardonnay. Up the scale, the Bin 407 and the Bin 389. Down the road we would love to hear about serious wine drinkers in India with 6 bottles of The Grange (one of Australia’s most prestigious red wines and a National Trust -heritage listed wine) in their cellar. We’d also love to see some of our premium wines in an Enomatic (a device used to serve and dispense wine). We put the Grange in an Enomatic at the Grand Hyatt in Djakarta and sold 20 bottles in the first month.

Koonunga Hill Chardonnay
Bin 407
Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet

Q. That brings me to the subject of the Penfolds re-corking clinic (The Penfolds Re-corking Clinics offer the owners of Penfolds red wines which are 15 years and older the opportunity to have their wines assessed by a winemaker, and if necessary, opened, tasted, topped up and re-capsuled on the spot.). How does that work?

A. We just held our first re-corking clinic in China. We’ve found that typically it takes between 8 to 12 years in a market before we do a re-corking clinic there. The first 1 or 2 are typically more events to make people more widely aware of the service we offer. Since we’ve started this service in 1990, we’ve re-certified more than 120,000 bottles globally. This is applicable for any Penfolds red wine, from the Koonunga Hill upwards. If required, we open the bottle and top it up with a little bit of the current vintage (2008). The amount we top it up with is around 15 ml, so there’s no major impact on the wine.
A re-corking in progress for a bottle of The Grange

Q. Does Penfolds have any wine investments outside Australia?

A. No we’re unashamedly 100% Australian and in fact Penfolds is a national heritage icon of South Australia.

Q. Penfolds has been with several owners over the years, how does it feel now to be part of a large wine conglomerate like Treasury Wine Estates, which is one of the largest wine companies in the world. And how does it work as regards competition with other sub-brands in the Treasury portfolio in local markets, like Lindemans, Stags Leap or Beringer.

A. First off, it’s good to be owned by a pure play wine company but still be able to operate independently. There are wonderful benefits to be a part of such a large organisation. Two major benefits, we have a global sales force and secondly, we are able to make rapid technological advancements in the winery. Also to a large extent, most of the wine labels have their own unique offerings and distinct positioning. We’d like to believe that some brands are more equal than others though, and that we’re one of them!

Q. Last Question, what’s your desert island wine?
A. Penfolds St Henri. wonderful as a young wine, wonderful as an old wine, and a counterpoint to Grange, which is a wonderful concentrated wine. A bottle? Not enough. Maybe a jeroboam or two.

St. Henri Shiraz, Simon's desert island wine