Asian Wine & Spirits Conference and Competition –the Silk route: Revival of the ancient trade passage

Guests at the AWS-the Silkroute Conference & Competition 2016,Fangshan, Beijing

The recently concluded 1st Asian Wine & Spirits Conference and Competition- the Silk route (10-12 October 2016) at Fangshan District, Beijing, China was attended by internationally renowned wine and spirits experts, judges and producers from around the world. While the conference covered an array of topics concerning the Asian region, the competition received entries from 700 wines and spirits brands from Asia and awarded only 175 with medals (10 grand prizes, 60 gold and 105 silver). Here’s a report.

The changes in the world economic order have over the last few years brought back Asia into the limelight. Once considered a big consumer market, Asia is now known for its high-quality local produce. That also includes the wines and spirits sector. While China is considered to be the 5th biggest wine producing country in the world, India has a range of fast-growing spirits brands including the number one whisky brand Officer’s Choice. The event AWS-the Silk route served as a melting pot of ideas and a perfect networking forum for the representatives of the Asian wine and spirits industry.

Speech at the opening ceremony

Reiterating my speech from the inaugural ceremony of the event, I feel that the event could effectively revive the lost trade passage between Europe and Asia by reconnecting the silk roads. It could certainly facilitate the exchange of ideas, technological know-how and highlight the benefits of trade between countries in the region.

Michelle Huang

A presentation on the liquor market in China at the opening ceremony by Michelle Huang, Euromonitor’s China division head kick-started the conference.

Sumedh Singh Mandla

Commenting on the event, Sumedh Singh Mandla, CEO, Grover Zampa Vineyards, India and President of the Asian Wine Producers Association (AWPA) said, “It was a very well organised event and the Wine & Spirits competition was professionally managed by Vinopres team. Overall, it provided me with a great insight into wine & spirits industry of several participating nations from The Silk Route. I am sure in the time to come, this will become a great platform for knowledge exchange between the Asian producers and international wine & spirits professionals”. His wines, Grover La Reserve 2014 received a gold medal and Vijay Amritraj Reserve Collection Red 2014 and Zampa Soiree Brut 2014 received silver medals at the competition.

Besides Grover Zampa Vineyards, India had a strong representation at the competition as companies like Sula Vineyards, York Winery, Charosa Wineries Ltd and the leading Indian spirits companies, Allied Blenders and Distillers, Wild Tiger Rum and Amrut Distilleries entered into the competition. (Click here for the list of winners).

Charosa Wineries Ltd. received two silver medals for Charosa Selection Viognier 2015 and Charosa Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2015. Parag Kamat, COO of the company was glad to receive the news and said, “Style and taste personified as one of the finest in the region, a proud moment for Charosa on winning 2 silver medals at this prestigious competition.”

Ahmed Rahimtoola, VP, Marketing, Allied Blenders and Distillers who presented a successful case study of the Officer’s Choice brand at the conference, shared his experience on building a mega brand and challenges and opportunities in the Indian Market. Sharing his views later he told Drinks & Destinations, “The AWS event was a great platform to learn and exchange ideas and information on the wines and spirits industry. Being from the spirits industry, I gained a lot of rich insights about the wine industry and its potential”.

Ashok Chokalingam

The internationally acclaimed Indian single malt brand Amrut from Amrut Distilleries in Bangalore sets a perfect example of creating a global brand. Ashok Chokalingam, Head of International Operations of Amrut Distilleries Pvt. Ltd. presented a session on ‘Make Local, Go Global’ highlighting the success story of Amrut. This event also served as a launch platform for two new Amrut expressions, Amrut Double Cask and Amrut Rye whisky. The second gold medal for India was reserved by the Amrut single malt (NAS) at the competition.

Rajeev Samant, Sumedh Singh & Kailash Gurnani at the Indian wines Masterclass

The prominent Indian wine industry representatives Rajeev Samant, CEO, Sula Vineyards and Sula Selections, Kailash Gurnani, Chief Wine Maker, York Winery and Sumedh Singh Mandla’s master class on Wines of India garnered rave reviews from the attendees. Besides presenting the journey of the Indian wine industry, issues and challenges, their unified voice addressing a common cause was one of the major highlights of the session.

Rajeev Samant

Sharing his experience at the event and his first trip to China, Head of Sula, Rajeev Samant said, “It was great to be part of the first Asian Wine and Spirits Conference. Amazing to see first hand what’s going on in this dynamic region where everything moves so fast and quality is obviously very much on the up! For me personally it was my first trip to China and that in it was eye-opening! Kudos to the organisers for this great event and hope to see it repeated in the future!” Samant also spoke about the potential of wine tourism in India highlighting Sula’s contribution at a session called ‘Oenotourism is the key’ led by Sarah Jane Evans MW.

Kailash Gurnani

The young and dynamic winemaker of York Winery, Kailash Gurnani also had his debut as an international speaker at this event. He told Drinks & Destinations, “It was very obvious that the entire vinopres team had put a lot of hard work behind it and it paid off. The event was very well organised and executed. The mix of people was very interesting and I’ve come back with many interesting ideas and concepts on how I can take my business forward.” He also emphasized on the significance of an event of such scale as a great knowledge sharing initiative that Asian wine and spirit producers could benefit greatly from in the near future. “I look forward to being a part of it year after year”, concluded Gurnani.

Other special guests from India were Subhash Arora, Editor of DelWine and Sonal Holland MW who were also invited as jurors for the competition.

Click here for the list of conference topics and speakers

Besides India, there were major representations from countries such as China, Japan, Philippines, Lebanon, Israel, Turkey, Armenia, and Georgia. (Click here for the list of conference topics and speakers).

Vinopres, the Belgium-based communication’s agency had organized the event in association with the China-based company, Beijing International Wine & Spirit Exchange and the competition was managed by Vinopres who have 23 years’ expertise in wine, spirits and beer competitions including names such as Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, Spirits Selection by CMB, Concours Mondial du Sauvignon and Brussels Beer Challenge. Baudouin Havaux, Chairman of CMB and MD of Vinpores said, “The Asian origin of products competing and profiles of the judges are what makes the competition unique and a world premiere. These competition results will reap huge benefits for a wide range of Asian wine and spirits producers and distributors.” Thierry Heins, Director of Spirits Selections and Manager for AWS –the Silk route assured Drinks & Destinations that the event will be back with a much better and grander look next year.


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