The Four Seasons Juggernaut

Alok Chandra, independent wine consultant, talks about the Four Seasons family.

In 1987, when I was with the Corporate Planning Cell of the United Breweries Group, I wrote a memo to VJM (as Dr Vijay Mallya was known internally) to the effect that “UB is #1 in Spirits, and #1 in Beer – Wine is a category that will emerge, and we should be #1 here, too”.

The proposal was prescient but premature, and bore fruit only 20 years later when the spirits division of the UB Group, United Spirits Ltd. or USL, set up Four Seasons Wines Ltd at Baramati, some 80 kilometres south of Pune. This JV between USL (51 percent) and local farmers (reported to largely be the family of Baramati politician Sharad Pawar) involved a massive investment (reportedly Rs 50 crore) for a chateau-style winery complete with luxury suites, a swimming pool, and gourmet kitchen, et al amidst 300 acres of vineyards.

Within three years of its launch in 2008, Four Seasons wines have become ubiquitous: you find them in all major hotels, bars and restaurants in every big city as well as at the airport bars in Bangalore and Hyderabad – and are the only Indian wines in the duty free shops in India. Of course, their presence at all major retail ‘wine’ shops is a given. I have forecast elsewhere that in 10 years, Four Seasons will be the market leader in wines in India: given the distribution muscle and deep pockets of USL, there is no reason to think otherwise.

The wines themselves are all from the ‘noble’ French grape varietals – those launched initially were:

Four Seasons Cabernet Sauvignon: Classic blackcurrant & berry aroma, with smooth tannins and a full-bodied mouthfeel.

Four Seasons Shiraz: Raspberry aroma with some spice and smoke with a complex palate and good finish.

Four Seasons Chenin Blanc: Pale lemon yellow, with aromas of lemon and apples and some guava and a crisp yet off-dry taste and finish.

Four Seasons Sauvignon Blanc: Pale yellow; very aromatic, with notes of tropical fruits and herbs and a dry, crisp, yet balanced taste.

Four Seasons Blush: an attractive salmon-pink colour; very floral nose and off-dry taste that is quite refreshing.

Subsequently, they also launched a Merlot and a Viognier; of note are the two ‘reserve’ wines that have been matured in imported oak casks:

Four Seasons Barrique Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: A deep dark red colour presages the complex aroma profile, buttressed with oak and vanilla, and a smooth rich taste.

Four Seasons Barrique Reserve Shiraz: The 10 percent Cab and 3 percent Viognier in the blend result in a heady and smoky aroma, complex but smooth taste, and long finish.

The regular wines are priced within the range of Rs 500– Rs 550 per bottle (except in Bangalore, where they cost Rs 582– Rs 637), while the Barrique Reserves are Rs 750– Rs 800 (Rs 900 in Bangalore).

This is good stuff, which will keep improving as the vines (and the wines) age, and are well worth trying.

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