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Smartbuy Business Line



Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A U T O |


French Reverie

Renault Fluence driven

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WHAT’S HOT this week

Team Smartbuy Editorial Anushya Mamtora

Ketaki Bhojnagarwala

Mahananda Bohidar

S. Muralidhar

Design Bryan Gaughan


Net for your telly Iomega ScreenPlay DX HD

Advertising Contact R. Diwakar

Web Advertising Contact N. Amarnath

This unique media player from Iomega allows you to stream music, movies and videos straight off the internet and on to your telly. DLNA certified, this media player can stream anywhere in the house. An HDMI cable means you can watch your vids in high-def, and a full QWERTY remote helps you browse easily. The media players are available with or without storage. An external hard drive can be hooked up to it via the USB ports, so you can watch your own content as well. 1TB: Rs 12,999; 2TB: Rs 14,999; TV Link (without storage): Rs 8,999

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Cover photo: S. Muralidhar

MSI CR460 The new 14-inch (LED display) notebook from MSI runs on an Intel Core i5 processor and features a 720p webcam. For an improved multimedia experience, you are offered an in-built SRS PC Sound system and MSI’s exclusive Cinema Pro technology. If you prefer a bigger screen when you watch HD films, the CR460 comes equipped with an HDMI slot for connecting to televisions or projectors. Rs 29,999

For work and play Fujitsu AH530 The latest in Fujitsu’s LIFEBOOK series, the AH530 is powered by Intel Core i7 processors and AMD Radeon graphics. Running on the Windows 7 Professional OS, this glossy notebook is ideal for working professionals. A 15.6-inch, 16:9 HD LED backlight LCD, as well as Blu-Ray drive, HD audio and 1.3-meg webcam make it media friendly. Rs 61,860



May 18, 2011

Wireless tunes TDK WR700 These wireless headphones from TDK give you superior sound without the hassle of cables. Plugging the transmitter into your audio device is all that’s required. The headphones feature dynamic channel selection, and have ultra low power consumption. It requires 4 AAA batteries, two in the transmitter unit and two in the headphones, which provide 40 hours of juice. The headset is compatible with any media device with a 3.5mm headphone jack. Rs 6,900

A brand new view VU LED-32K16

Hum along in your Hummer! Pioneer DEH-6390SD The brand new device to adorn your car is a CD Receiver with a large 2-Line LCD display so you can have a clear glance at the menu. On a sleekly designed panel and a 7-Way Rotary Commander you can quickly scroll through your media to play on a long drive. The receiver also allows for external connections like an SD Memory Card slot, USB Direct Control for iPod/iPhone and enables playback of various audio formats such as iTunes AAC/ Mp3/wma. Rs 8,990



May 18, 2011

With a brand new 32-inch LED TV, VU offers you theatre-like experience right in your living room. The telly also has an USB port which you can plug in an external storage to view JPEG images, watch movies and listen to music. The display also has an HDMI input for Blue-Ray DVD players and A/V receiver as well as a socket to plug in your headphones. Rs 28,990

TELLY talk

Putting together your own smart TV



May 18, 2011


here’s a new wave of so-called “smart TVs” in the market, offering Internetconnected features and digital media streaming. But do you really need to spend so much money? Tech companies have been trying to get into the living room for years, and failing for the most part. That’s because everyone’s been trying to make the TV more like a computer, breaking the one-way flow of content and adding more options. As it turns out, people don’t really want that. No one wants to wait a minute or longer for a TV to boot up, then select a user profile, then deal with a bunch of notification messages, then jump through a tangle of menus before reaching the show they want to watch. If you bought an LCD TV any time within the last five years, chances are it’s in perfectly good condition. If you’re thinking of an upgrade, it’s only because you’ve been convinced or seduced by advertising and shop displays. All these new “smart” features fall into two main categories: accessing digital or online media, and using social networking or apps through the TV. The first set of functions can be added on with one or more of the variety of devices we’re talking about. We’ll take you through the whole range of options, starting with the cheapest and ending with the most indulgent. Smart TVs will no doubt change. For the second set? You’d probably be happier with a phone or tablet in your hands than pulling up Facebook updates for the whole family to see anyway! The choice is yours, but we’ve got the pros and cons of each listed right here.

Basic DVD Player A DVD player that can handle digital files is basically the cheapest way to get digital content playing on your TV. Most budget DVD players now come with USB ports and support the playback of digital files from pen drives. These are effortless to set up and use. Moving further up the price ladder, most Blu-ray players include networking capabilities and can handle media streaming around the home. Price: Up to Rs 4,000

USB media receiver A number of brands sell tiny devices that connect to your TV and allow you to play digital files off USB pen drives or hard drives. The more expensive varieties can handle HD video and high-quality sound as well. Examples include WD’s WDTV, Amkette’s FlashTV, Asus’ O!Play, etc. The higher end models include network connectivity as well as USB, which is where the fun comes in. Network streaming becomes amazingly easy, and it’s even possible over Wi-Fi Price: Rs 4,000-7,500

Media Storage Hub Previously the domain of ultra geeks, media hubs are becoming more common now. These essentially combine the functions of a USB media receiver with a built-in hard drive and media server capabilities in addition to mere reception. The

advantage is that you have your entire collection accessible in one single box, rather than having to browse over a network and deal with configuration and laying wire. These usually come with 1 or 2 TB of storage space, or in some cases, make you supply your own hard drive. Some of the better known manufacturers are Xtreamer and Popcorn Hour Price: Rs 10,000 onwards

Game Consoles Modern game consoles, namely the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, both come with networking capabilities and can receive streamed content from home media servers. Both also include online services including Facebook and Twitter, which actually makes a bit more sense since text input is a bit easier using the game controller. They also have USB ports and can directly play most audio and video formats. The PS3 has a rudimentary Web browser, and the Xbox can stream live TV from a Windows PC if you use its Media Centre features. This is a good option if you want to play high-def games anyway or just have an additional TV in the bedroom, as you get extra functionality in the same box and don’t need to mess around with multiple wires and remotes. Rs 15,000-22,000

Laptops Want the ultimate in flexibility? Just plug in your laptop, netbook or PC and you’ll never have to worry about which file formats are supported or whether you can add more storage in the future. In addition to simply watching your digital files on what is effectively a giant monitor, you can organise your entire media collection in one spot, use the same machine to download and stream whatever you like, browse the full Web and use other online services, and even play 3D games from the comfort of your sofa. You’ll need at the least a wireless keyboard and mouse, though several combo products exist just for the purpose, such as Amkette’s Wi-Key. However you’ll have to contend with all the downsides of running a full-sized PC, such as ensuring you have the right software updates, antivirus protection, etc.

Connected TVs One step away from full-fledged smart TVs, Connected TV was last year’s buzzword. These are sets which have USB and/or network ports, which act exactly like built-in media receivers. Only the highest end ones come with LAN ports (or rarer still, Wi-Fi) that let you run the standard media sharing and DLNA functions. Some even used the Internet connection to display weather, stock updates, and other such widgets. If you’re an enthusiast who loves movies and TV and you’re buying a TV anyway, it makes complete sense to go for the top-end models that offer today’s best features. But if not, there’s no need to buy the upgrade hype—just choose from any of our listed solutions and wait for the real killer apps to be launched. CHIP



May 18, 2011

Gadgets Galore Amkette Flash TV Simple, portable and inexpensive, though limited in flexibility and overall functionality. Good - Plug in your pen drives and watch movies on the big screen. You can even carry it around while travelling. Bad - No online features, no HDMI. Your mileage will vary when it comes to the more exotic file formats.

Sony PlayStation 3 Young folks would probably like to have a game console around anyway– the other features are a welcome bonus Good - It’ll be right at home in most rooms and the cost isn’t unreasonable anymore. Lots of functions for your money. Bad - The game controller might be a bit awkward and it won’t be the best way for grandma to browse family photos.

ZOTAC ZBOX ZOTAC offers a variety of models with various levels of capabillities, including Blu-ray and USB 3.0 Good - They’re tiny, look great, and don’t consume much power. You can’t ask for a simpler HTPC setup. Bad - You’ll have to deal with the "features" of a PC, including viruses, driver error messages, and possible crashes.

Xtreamer Pro This heavy-duty player is practically a super-optimized computer in itself. Geeks will be more than happy. Good - Massive storage potential and media server functions, designed solely to satisfy your appetite for digital media. Bad - Slightly over the top for most casual users, and it’s a bit expensive, being a specialized device.

WD TV Live Hub Perhaps the best balance between cost, storage, simplicity and functionality. Good - 1 TB of built-in space, beautiful interface, unobtrusive and easy to set up. Plus, all the online features of the Live. Bad - Control is a little difficult and it’s easy to get lost in the menus, but those are minor niggles with a superb product.

Samsung Smart TV Expensive, but impressive. You’ll have access to a wide range of services that Samsung will no doubt keep updating. Good - It’s a great-looking highend TV with the potential to reduce a ton of clutter no matter where you install it. Bad - Bragging rights don’t come cheap, and who knows what features nest year’s killer high-end set will offer?

SOUND bytes Blu-ray surround sound systems come in all shapes and sizes, from cheap oneboxers to decadent separates that attract coos of delight from everyone including your credit card provider. All-in-ones should offer better VFM and easier setup than separates, although arguably not quite such good performance Feature packed Samsung C6730W Samsung’s 1,330W, 7.1-channel system includes a sleek Blu-ray receiver that boasts super-sharp HD images and attractive tallboy speakers with stylishly ripped-open innards. Audio quality may lack the clarity and control of the Oh and Onkyo systems but it’s no sonic slouch and the spec sheet is a home cinema A to Z – DLNA networking, USB playback, wireless rear speakers, built-in Wi-Fi, dual HDMI inputs and extensive format support – the only thing missing is 3D. For ease of use and breadth of features the C6730W is great value. Love: Generous feature list. Decent picture and sound performance Hate: Not 3D-ready Rs 40,000

Performance points Harman Kardon BDS 800 This Harman Kardon kit is reassuringly expensive, with slick design and performance to match. The BDS 800 offers clean, crisp HD audio with 65 watts per channel and tight bass from the 200W sub; the reproduction of audio detail shames cheaper systems. The HD visuals from the Blu-ray drive are similarly awesome. Concentrating on performance the BDS 800 offers little in the way of extra features beyond a USB port – there’s no media streaming, web access or HDMI inputs. You do get really great surround sound, though. Love: Highly impressive performance and build Hate: High price, no HDMI in Rs 90,000

Won’t le hang

Budget buy Panasonic SC-BTT350 This 1,000W, 5.1-channel system plays 2D and 3D Blu-rays with pristine picture quality and streams media wirelessly from any PC – albeit via a dongle.



May 18, 2011

This material is translated or reproduced from T3 magazine and is the copyright of or licensed to Future Publishing Limited, a Future plc group company, UK 2011. Used under license. All rights reserved

It also offers online content, with YouTube and Picasa widgets on VieraCast. There’s a built-in iPod dock, plus an SD card slot and digital audio input. There is however no HDMI and sound quality is disappointing – sharp, shouty and lacking in bass punch. The basics seem to have been overlooked on this budget system and you won’t exactly fall in love with its clunky, boxy looks either. Love: Plenty of bonus features, 3D-ready Hate: Unappealing looks, mediocre sound Rs 26,000

Back to basics Teufel Impaq 3000 Teufel’s first Blu-ray system is a curious one with a surprisingly light spec list. There’s no media streaming, internet access or 3D. Instead, what you pay for is the robust quality and design of the 5.1 speaker system and connections, including two HDMIs, a USB port and iPod dock. That’s no bad thing in theory, but the Impaq doesn’t deliver performance. The 600W speakers occasionally sound harsh and the 150W subwoofer is too overpowering for them. These are flaws for which even the brilliantly crisp Blu-ray pictures can’t quite compensate. Love: Build quality and design, dual HDMI inputs Hate: Harsh sound, lacks modern features Rs 45,000

Top of the line

Onkyo BD-SP308, TX-SR608 and Oh by Tutundo And now for something completely different… We’ve teamed the mind-bogglingly pricey Oh by Tutundo 5.1 system with the more reasonably priced Onkyo SR608, an AV receiver with six HDMI inputs, and the BD-SP308 Blu-ray deck. The Oh’s five 80W, mic-stand-like speakers and beefy 200W sub suck every bit of detail from the SR608, providing detailed, powerful and finessed audio that all-in-one systems simply can’t compete with. The price tag reflects this, clearly. Love: Remarkably good sound and picture quality Hate: Bothersome price Onkyo: Rs 42,000; Oh: Rs 4,20,000

Accessorise: One For All Xsight Plus Add an AV receiver, 5.1 surround sound speakers and a Blu-ray player to your existing TV setup and what you get is a large collection of remote controls. Cut down on the coffee table clutter with One For All’s Xsight Plus, a universal remote that supports up to 12 devices and makes control easy with a 1.44-inch, high-res screen. Rs 4,000

eave you ging Smartbuy


May 18, 2011

AUTO focus

Carte blanche with the Renault Fluence

S. Muralidhar he French are back! More specifically…after a rather tenuous first attempt Renault is finally set to re-enter the market with a slew of new cars in the next two years. The first to be assembled and rolled out of its joint production facility (with Nissan) is the new Fluence. The Koleos sports utility vehicle will be the next to be launched and the really locally produced cars will all come later. I drove the new premium sedan Fluence from Chennai to ‘Le’ Pondicherry to truly experience the French flavour of the new offering and here are my first impressions about the car. The question uppermost in my mind was – Will the new Fluence be able to colonise the premium sedan market?

T Design

Renualt (pronounced Ren-o) car design can be a bit offbeat often. But it is also a company that has won accolades for many of its car designs. While buyers in India might find some of the company’s other cars to be a bit odd, the Fluence will not be one of them. Designed and developed for emerging markets in Asia, the Fluence has a certain universal appeal to its design, sitting alongside characteristic French flair in its lines. Like the current Toyota Corolla, the Fluence outwardly also seems like a car whose design is oriented towards being more practical rather than fancy. A tall stance, a raised body with good ground clearance, 16-inch wheels and simple straight lines mark the exterior of the new Fluence.

Large ‘peeled-back’ headlamps, a thin strip of a bonnet grille and a deep scooped out depression on the bonnet slab are what greet you at the front of the Fluence. Together with the front design, flared out wheel arches and a high shoulder line give the Fluence a visually robust profile. The high shoulder line hasn’t however restricted the glass area because the prominent arch of the roofline means that there are full-sized windows that lend an airy, well-lit feel to the interiors. The rear of the Fluence is the more attractive and well-proportioned part of the car. There is the prominent Renault logo with the Fluence badging positioned at the centre of the boot lid. Attractive wraparound taillamps adorn the side panels and extend onto the sides of the boot lid. The boot itself offers a sumptuous 530 litres of storage space. Though the Fluence’s C-pillar is chunky and the shoulder line also gradually rises and merges into the boot, there is still ample rear visibility for the driver thanks to the large rear glass.



May 18, 2011

Interiors Renault has chosen to load the interior of the Fluence with interesting additions to capture the interest of the potential buyer in the segment. The car with the most novel interior in the segment currently is the Honda Civic. Offering some special treats to the demanding Indian buyer, Renault has chosen a beige interior colour theme and an all-new digital instrument cluster, both of which will be India-specific features. Short overhangs and the choice of a platform that allows maximising the wheelbase have meant that it gets to be at the top of the heap in this parameter with a wheelbase measuring 2,703mm. This has also enabled Renault engineers to get a lot more space optimisation inside the passenger cabin. With segment-leading width and a claimed highest in the segment rear knee room, it is fair to say that the inside of the Fluence feels more spacious than the competitors in the segment. Flat door panels and Compact, but comfortable seats add to the feeling of space. The dashboard features a simple layout, which is not really Spartan, but feels like it exudes a bit of European minimalism. The petrol variant of the Fluence has been given the beige and black colour theme, while the diesel gets a black and dark gray interior. Apart from the all digital instrument cluster, there is also a centrally positioned information display which is mounted at the top of the dash. Dual air-conditioner controls and the compact CD-radio player have been neatly integrat-

ed into the dash. There are brushed aluminium inserts on the steering, door handles and aircon vents surrounds. There is also a strip of wood trim insert on the dash in the petrol variant. The centre console houses the start stop button, the gear stick shift and storage spots. While the petrol engine variant is offered with leather seats, the diesel engine variant is offered only with fabric upholstery. In fact, the diesel variant has quite a few other options that too have been stripped off (compared to the petrol variant) such as the electrochromic rearview mirror, rear sunblinds, rain sensitive wipers, cruise control, rear parking aid etc. Some of the novel additions to the interior include the smart card type key combined with the start-stop button, the funky music system controls on a chunky appendage positioned conveniently behind the steering wheel and the digital instrument cluster and info display.

Performance The Fluence is being offered with two engine options – a 1.5-litre diesel engine mated with a six-speed manual transmission and a two-litre petrol engine that has been paired with a CVT automatic transmission. It is immediately obvious as to which of the two will be the more popular choice. The diesel will tend to have a distinct edge over the petrol despite considerable equipment missing in it compared to the petrol. It also need not be a deterrent for buyers to know that the 1,461cc diesel engine in the Fluence is the same block from the Logan dCI. Though it shares the same geometry, the engine has been completely reworked and retuned in the Fluence.

The diesel mill now produces a beefier 240 newton metres of torque at 2,000 rpm and a peak power of 106PS at 4,000 rpm. There were initial reports that talked about the diesel engine lacking adequate low-end torque, but during my test drive I didn’t miss torque availability in any gear. There is a bit of perceptible delay in turbo assistance, but that is only at really low engine rpm levels. The diesel engine is refined by the yardsticks that would be applied to a mill in this segment. Inside the cabin, NVH levels had been contained to low levels, but the only intruding, slightly annoying interference is the whine of the turbo and a bit of wind noise that seeps through at three-digit speeds. The wind noise intrusion was lower in the petrol variant. The six-speed manual gearbox that the diesel engine is offered with is a slick shifting unit. The slotting is just right neither too prominent nor too soft. The shift stick has also been positioned right, but, though the throw is neither too short nor long, it can be a bit of a stretch, when in 1st, 3rd or 5th gear, for a few drivers. The 1,997cc four-cylinder petrol engine generates a class-leading 137PS of peak power at 6,000 rpm, and the peak torque of 190 Nm kicks in at 3,700 rpm. There is adequate power from the engine for some spirited driving and the engine is quite refined in the NVH department too. The only dampener for buyers who are involved and looking to drive the car themselves may be the CVT II automatic gearbox that the mill mated to. Despite being a CVT shift times are a bit slow and can be laborious at times of need like an overtaking manoeuvre. The only saving grace is the six-speed manual mode that be selected by shifting the stick to the left and choosing in +/- mode. In this mode the engine is more willing and can

be coaxed to work in rhythm to the driver’s needs. The driving position in the Fluence can be chosen thanks to tilt and telescopic steering adjustments. One other plus is the availability of a dead pedal even in the diesel variant. The rated fuel efficiency of the diesel and petrol variants of the Fluence is 21.84 kmpl and 13.42 kmpl respectively.

Bottomline Some of the points that I felt might put off potential buyers include the fact that though the Fluence has been developed for many varied global markets, there are still some traces of the left-hand drive orientation in the car. For example, the bonnet release lever is located under the dashboard on the passenger side. So, if you are stopped at a security check point and asked to pop the hood, you’ll have to step out. The turn indicator stalk is also located to the left of the steering column, though it has become quite a regular feature nowadays in many imports and locally produced cars. Aside of all these points, Renault will have a bigger task cut out for itself in trying to reach out to the brand conscious car buyer in the premium sedan segment. The choice of the car in the Fluence is right, but Renault must now set about rectifying any misconceptions buyers might have about the quality and reach of the brand. Considering the fact that the diesel variant is missing quite a bit of equipment, my guess is that the two variants (offered with only one trim level each) will be priced very close to each other. My guess for the price would be about Rs 12 lakh.

Photos: S. Muralidhar

From top (clockwise): Beige colour theme makes the interior look more airy Card-shaped smartkey is a novel addition The 2-litre petrol engine tightly packed in the boot area digital instrument cluster gives quick access to information and is pleasing to the eye at night Automatic gearbox stickshift with manual mode Another novel feature are the music system and Bluetooth controls right behind the steering wheels



May 18, 2011

MELANGE luxury redefined Baroque wears Prada! With curves, friezes and bas-relief effects, this Minimal-Baroque in white and blue is sexy, especially with the arms sculpted into rococo curls. Available: Sunglass Hut stores Rs 23,210

For those who love the curvy ‘X’ front, Tabitha from Tom Ford is stylish in its shaded violet frames. Available: Select lifestyle and optical outlets Price on request

Aqua blue –amethyst with lilac faded lenses and two-toned frames, this one from Vogue is a must have for the young and the chirpy. Available: Sunglass Hut stores Rs 4,580

This is for the biker in you. Oakley’s Ducati Juliet is a 25-piece blend of X METAL and art with a sculptural metal frame and Hydrophobic permanent lens coating to keep the grime away. Available: Sunglass Hut stores Rs 25,350

The latest from Maui Jim is its MauiFlex collection with alloy frames for featherweight flexibility and glare protection tech to keep the sun at bay. Available: Select eyewear outlets Rs 14,400

Another one for the sunny days, this violet Just Cavalli sunglasses is light weight with little suds in the relief with the logo engraved on the arms. Available: Select lifestyle and optical outlets Price on request



May 18, 2011

PREMIUM interiors

Summer styles to beat the heat


he onset of summer might spell simmering weather, but is always associated with everything fun. For most of us, our happiest memories as children are associated with summer hols. The ‘nimbu paani’, tree houses, mango milkshakes, unlimited afternoon games with friends… This summer, let’s go back to those days of absolute freedom by bringing back the true summer spirit. Here are six ways to stay stylishly cool and quirkily colourful this season.

When the heat sizzles and lethargy sets in, it is also uplifting if we shed off all that is unnecessary. Strip things bare and sort out the clutter. It’s a great time to give in to every artistic pleasure or indulgence you wanted to pursue. Chase those art classes or pottery making sessions. Unusual objects give inspiration and you can create some lovely craft pieces to do up your homes.

Welcoming guests Foliage frolic

One is always short of storage in modern apartments. But guests during summer vacations are no surprise. It’s ideal to keep everything in place in your guest room, like creating a welcome space for them… a mini-home away from home. Use pretty cupboards and stock them with bed and bath linen, candles and teatime paraphernalia. Add a bedside table lamp, especially if your guest is fond of reading.

Summer is all about moisture and hydration. Nothing freshens up a home more than flowers and plants. Fill foliage into any unusual container and bring them into shelter on balconies and indoors. Rajnigandha or yellow roses for simplistic style; or an over-the-top arrangement with trailing pink bougainvillea flowers. You can also bring in some greens, like large banana leaves placed in giant glass bottles or jars, aloe vera and also hang money plants upside down for a different touch.

Food for thought Then of course, is the challenge of making food appetising in the sweltering heat. Tasteful and cheery cutlery makes a world of difference. Many people create snacklike meals for summer dinners, presenting food gorgeously to shake off the languor. Pick and mix food from all parts of India and take a lesson from other tropical lands. Make a Burmese khow suey, Asian-style bite-size meals or Spanish tapas. They are appetising and palatable in their small portions served on appealing colourpop ceramics. Better Interiors

Treat the kids During summer vacation, you can be sure that your children’s friends will be hanging out at your home. A clever way to keep them out of the heat is to make their room a real summer retreat. Push the beds against the wall, and turn them into ‘loungey’ divans. Throw around lots of floor cushions with low tables.

Indulge in art



May 18, 2011

Floor talk If you want a change from tile and wood floorings for your brand new entertainment room, take a peek at IDUS’s new range of leather flooring. Though it’s high maintenance, it can elevate your interiors up a few notches. Available at IDUS, New Delhi. Rs 700 per sft onwards

Book addicts The Great Eastern Home has introduced a neat pick of book shelves for those who love to hoard on books and display them. Crafted in Burma teak wood with elegant carvings, these shelves are available at its store in Mumbai. Price on request

Classic twist Black and white strips of leather with teak legs and accents, and drawers lined in ultra suede… PortsideCafe’s Hughes Road Chest from its latest range is a perfect addition to a contemporary living room. Available at its stores in New Delhi, Mumbai and Pune. Rs 1.24 lakh

Solid look! Italian furniture brand Riva 1920 has launched its exclusive solid wood furniture collection in India. This Natura Table designed by the Creative Group is made of whitened brushed oak with base in painted iron. The range also includes beds, cabinets, chests, racks and more. Available at Zolijns, New Delhi. Price on request



May 18, 2011

TASTER’S choice

Trophy wines, bigger the better John Mariani onnoisseurs - very rich connoisseurs - will pay big bucks for a case, even a bottle of a rare wine. But the biggest trophies at wine auctions are the so-called large format bottles. At last year’s Auction Napa Valley, an eight magnum bottle of Colgin Cellars’s Cariad, with dinner for six, went for $250,000. Owner Ann Colgin then offered to replicate the lot for four bidders to bid $250,000 each. This March in Chicago, Hart Davis Wine Company auctions sold a single imperial of 1982 Lafite-Rothschild for nearly $42,000. The appeal of these bottles is clearly their impressive size: a magnum holds two regular, 750 ml bottles; a jeroboam, four; rehoboam, six; an imperial or Methuselah, eight; on up to a Nebuchadnezzar, 20. An added virtue is that these bottles are said to age more slowly because of the ratio of wine to oxygen in the neck. “People who entertain a large group frequently favour big bottles out of convenience,” said Peter Meltzer, auction correspondent for Wine Spectator and author of “Keys to the Cellar: Strategies and Secrets of Wine Collecting” in a phone interview. “In the fine wine auction world, sales of large format bottles are considered a reflection of the economy. “When times are good, people won’t hesitate to uncork a big bottle, but during a recession they scale back on purchasing them. When the economy improves, they can either drink up or re-sell the bottles.”


Added Glamour This assertion is backed up by Piero Selvaggio, owner of Valentino restaurant in Santa Monica, CA, where he cellars 75,000 bottles, with 250 of them in large formats. “When the economy was booming, I once sold a Nebuchadnezzar to a party,” he told me, “but the recession has blunted that kind of extravagance. These days some customers want to bring their own big bottles, and I charge a $50 corkage fee.” For the most part large formats are made by the most illustrious Bordeaux and Burgundy estates, which usually grab the highest auction prices. A few California cult wineries also make some big bottles, in most cases donated to charity auctions. At restaurants, large bottles create a more celebratory atmosphere at the table. “I tell my customers that a magnum is an ideal size when dining with six to eight people,” says Linda Gerin, Partner and Wine Director at Restaurant Jean-Louis in Greenwich, CT. “One bottle is not enough and as long as you’re having two, uncorking a magnum has a real glamour about it.”

High Rollers In fact, big bottles can be the most sensible way to go for certain celebrations. “Las Vegas is the perfect city for large formats,” Jennifer Eby, Wine Manager at Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare at Wynn Las Vegas told me. “We serve our food family style, often to large tables, and I suggest a large format as being easier and more festive.” Asked about what wines freebie-loving high rollers order, Eby said, “The hotel wants to look after those guests and they drink whatever they want, but they really don’t take advantage by ordering big bottles. Our Asian guests



May 18, 2011

Beverage launch

Photos (back page): NewsMarket

Photos: Bloomberg

Sexy toast! Piper-Heidsieck gives its Champagne Cuvee Brut bottle a stylish new look by collaborating with fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier. To be unveiled in Cannes, France, the bottle oozes oomph in a new design inspired by French cancan, featuring latex and fishnets. Available from May in the best bars and restaurants, it will be served in a black-tinted champagne Coupe and an ice bucket, also draped in transparent fishnet.

almost never do and tend to be very modest in their consumption of wine.” The more dedicated to stocking huge cellars a restaurant is, the more large format bottles it will carry. The cellar at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago holds more than 130 large formats, including one of only five imperials ever made of Penfolds 1990 “Grange.” At Valbella in Riverside, CT, Wine Director Nick Zherka offers a Methuselah of Richebourg, Domaine de la Romanee Conti 1996 for $22,000. When I asked if that was negotiable, he said, “Well, maybe $21,000.”

Birthday Boys For the individual there are big risks in buying big bottles as investments. Rarely would the investor get a better price re-selling to a wine store or restaurant - and then only in a state where it is legal to re-sell wines. Auction houses post estimate prices at the going rate.

Crucial for the seller, says, Meltzer, is that “whatever you do, you must keep the wines in a professional, temperature controlled facility, so that an auction house can vouch for how it had been stored.” There’s no real way, shy of opening and tasting them, to know if the wines will be sound in years to come, or if in vertical vintages, any one of them may have gone bad. Which is why so many large format bottles are just sold and re-sold and never drunk at all. In which case, you are selling an artifact, not a work of art. It makes more sense to buy a big bottle at a retail store for a special occasion, as I did when my sons were born, in 1980 and 1985 respectively. I put the bottles away for their 21st birthdays, when the magnums made quite a splash. Rarely had I enjoyed a wine more and it was money very well spent. (The author writes on wine for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)



May 18, 2011

Remy’s Cannes’ version Remy Martin’s VSOP special edition for Cannes Film Festival is this exclusive champagne. The ‘Very Special Old Pale’ bottles have been individually numbered and is elegantly designed with gold lace, against a background of brilliant black. Available at Delhi Duty Free for $60 per litre bottle.

Smartbuy issue dated May 18, 2011  

Smartbuy issue dated May 18, 2011

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