Probably the largest wine importer is Aman Dhall of Brindco, who operates out of Delhi.
Aman's father Brinder Pal Singh has been a distributor for McDowells and the UB Group for many years, and Aman himself did a stint with UDV (the Johnnie Walker people) in London before starting-up a new company dedicated to import and distribution of alcoholic beverages.
Today Brindco (www.brindco.com) has a portfolio of nearly 1,000 wine labels from across the world.
Among the most notable are Benzinger, Caymus, Sequoia Grove and Kendall Jackson from California; Bollinger, Albert Bichot, Delas and Louis Jadot from France; Leeuwin, Cinkara and Wolf Blass from Australia; Allegrini, Gaja, Frescobaldi and Ornellaia from Italy; and Baron Phillippe de Rothschild (Chile), Rupert & Rothschild (South Africa), Codorniu (Spain), Montana (New Zealand) -- the list goes on and on.
Then we have Sanjay Menon of Sonarys (Mumbai) who has been importing wines for years, and has built up an enviable relationship with most of the star hotels around the country, and whose wine list reflects the preferences of his customer base.
Apart from an eclectic collection of Grand Crus from Bordeaux, Sonarys boasts of wines from Georges Deboeuf and Faiveley (France); Antinori , Gaja, Pighin and Tenuta San Guido of Italy (including the famous Sassicaia); Montes from Chile; and Robert Mondavi's wines from California.
Other big independent importers include Global Tax Free Traders Inc and Mohan Brothers (both in Delhi), RR International (Delhi and Mumbai) and Fairmacs (Chennai), all of whom have very respectable portfolios.
Then there are the global majors who have substantial wine interests -- only part of which are presently available here: Moet Hennessy, with a phenomenal range of premium wines that include their champagnes (Dom Perignon, Moet & Chandon, Veuve Cliquot and Krug), Australians (Greenpoint, Oxford Landing and Ironstone) and South Americans (Terrazas and Casa Lapostolle); Pernod Ricard/Seagrams with Jacobs Creek (both regular and premium); and UDV with Barton & Guestier and Blossom Hill.
Last (but not least) are a host of smaller importers who are reaching niche markets or bringing in wines from unexpected locations, for example Starex (Delhi) with wines from Cyprus and Bulgaria, and Echidna Wines (Mumbai) with some ultra-premium Australians -- and many, many more: one loses track.
What all this means is that the wine lists at hotels are getting longer, and the retail shelves more crowded: not a week goes by without yet another wine company launching its wines to a thirsty audience.
The range of wines available will no doubt expand even further following the spate of wine fairs in Europe (Vinitaly/Verona in April, the London Wine Fair in May, and Vinexpo/Bordeaux last week) that herald the arrival of the 2004 vintage -- annual jamborees that are the Mecca for the wine world.Of course, not all the wines are there on retail shelves -- blame our high customs duties (140-250 per cent) and the poor storage conditions prevailing for that -- but things will improve with the arrival of speciality wine shops that I hear are being planned for the metro cities. Cheers, Sante', Salut!