Are Indian wines ready to compete internationally?

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vineyard1aa.jpg If a perspective in Business Standard is to be believed, Indian wines need to do more to meet international standards. Australian wine technologist and viticulturist Diana Davidson expressed concerns over Indian wine and predicted that wine-makers from China, Argentina, Chile and South Africa could easily wipe out Indian wine from the international market. Do you agree?


Speaking at a workshop organized for farmers by the Indian Wine Producers’ Association in Pune, she said, “Some Indian wines are good but most are below international standards. This is because farmers do not have adequate knowledge about the variety of plants, the soil required, irrigation techniques and pesticides to be used in vineyards. Most grape growers use traditional methods of cultivation and non-existing wine-culture too affects the quality of wine production.”
The article reported that the Indian wine industry is worth Rs 1,000 crore and is expected to grow to Rs 4,500 crore by 2011. Since January this year, Indian wineries have produced 22.5 million litres of wine, which is exported to countries such as France, Italy, Germany, United Kingdom, Singapore and Belgium.
“The Indian wine industry has a huge potential to establish itself on the international map. However, it needs to catch up with the global wine quality and standards. If this does not happen, wineries from countries such as China, Argentina and Chile will easily wipe out Indian wine,” she said.
So what do you think? Is she being harsh on the local wine industry? Or is this to be expected given how young the industry is. Is India’s fledgling reputation for wine already in jeopardy? And does it have to do with just the quality of the wine produced or with the marketing of it too? Arguably, some wines like Grovers La Reserve 2003 and Sula’s Chenin Blanc have achieved both domestic and international fame. But are they the exception more than the rule? Tell us what you think.

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9 Comments

  1. I could not agree more with what Diana Davidson has stated about the quality of Indian wines.
    The wines made in India so far (barring a few exceptions) are actually made by people who have so far had the vocation of being grape growers. The end result is – watery wines lacking any structure or complexity; unpleasant aromatic balance; outright vinegary flavours!!
    I dont say that this has to be the future, this is however certainly the current state. I hope that winery owners will focus on the quality of the end product rather than on using their farm produce to make substandard quality of wines. Quality is always a result of improving upon one’s shortcomings, and I hope our winery owners are focussing on that.

  2. The Indian wine industry is not going to be a pushover, despite the predictions of naysayers. Like in other fields, tradition is already making way to new technology and scientific methods. A new breed of winery owners is making its presence felt. Our wines are already improving and sooner than later, you’ll hear a sommelier say, “I recommend a Vinchur Cabernet Sauvignon, sir”

  3. I don’t think Diana is being harsh on the local wine producers and even if we feel this way we should not take it in this spirit. The best way to counter is, to prove that we are second to none by producing good international quality wines year after year. Consistency and volume is the key. Having said this I think there is a lot of home work to be done. There are two ways we can approach the problem. One is concentrate on viticulture using modern wine making techniques like the new world wines have achieved and the second one is to manage farming and concentrate on wine making like the French do. In my opinion the first option is more suitable for us but we definately need scientific backup provided by agricultural research institutes and having in place a wine board that can regulate quality. Yes we are producing an occassional quality wine but we have a lot of question marks regarding consistent quality year after year. I recently tried a reputqed Indian Brand and was appaled at the quality, specially the red the aromas were virtually non-existant and there was a vinegery finish. The tannins were too harsh and it seemed agressive on the nose. The worst part is the brand is being exported to many countries and claimed by many as a good wine. Offcourse there are many wines produced in wine producing countries that have the dubious distiction of producing below standard wines. We do have wine growing belts in Maharashtra and Karnataka but to become an international player we should also closely look at other suitable regions from North, East, Central etc. It is rather too early to say that China, Argentina & Chile would wipe out Indian wines, if we play our cards right and a lot here will depend upon the state and central government’s role as to how committed they are to act as catalysts rather than directors. This is why the policies & tax regimes should not be discriminatory to foreign wines entering our shores because all they will do is help quality and volume rise. Positive Protectionisim helps indigenous industry grow but over protectionism helps only the boot-leggers.

  4. Despite having a few stars producing decent wines, by and large, most Indian wines are of poor quality.
    In addition to the growing techniques and poor distribution identified by Diana Davidson, I also blame the regressive tax regime, controlled distribution, and poor knowledge on our part.
    Without exception, all Governments in the union, Central or State, lump alcohol in to one bucket, and treat it as their favourite milking cow. A supposedly progressive state like Maharashtra imposes ridiculous local taxes on top of already ridiculous duties imposed by Government of India.
    This reduces competition and the incentive for either the wine maker and/or grape grower to improve their techniques.
    Controlled distribution by state agencies, whose warehouses, can at best, be described as pathetic and wretched, only adds to the problems.
    Add to this, a significant lack of even basic knowledge on wines on the part of us consumers. I have been to many events, where the white wine has been totally “cooked” thanks to poor storage in the distribution chain, yet many people were happily sipping it, just to be seen with a glass my dahling.
    Despite the politicians and their false pretences of caring for the industry, I am confident that Indian wine producers will improve, prevail and burst on to the global stage.
    The trigger required is Competition and for that duties and taxes need to be drastically reduced, if not eliminated.

  5. Stanley Pinto on

    There is no spectacular Indian wine. A few are good enough for casual quaffing, and consistency is an issue even with them. For example, a notable ‘Reserve’ produced in Bangalore, once not half-bad, is now headed single-mindedly and, it would seem irreversibly, south.
    The rest of our wines would seem to be made by table grape farmers scrambling up the value chain as quickly as they can to take advantage of a growing awareness of wine-drinking as a contemporary lifestyle thing. Or so their wines quite clearly “tell” us.
    The reality is that none of our wines, even those that have reached a certain tenuous level of acceptability, are likely to go anywhere further without sensible and sensitive legislation to provide the updraft they need. This is one wheel we cannot re-invent. You cannot dissemble a bottle of wine and reverse engineer it.
    The automotive industry is analogous. We produced laughable cars for decades, until the government jettisoned its myopia. Foreign technology was made feasible, thus improving the cars on offer. Simultaneously, banks were permitted to offer car loans to consumers. Demand immediately spiked; that made the market more attractive for foreign players, which further grew the market, and so the wondrous cycle continues.
    In the case of the wine industry, if the tax regimen were to be rationalised and wines made more accessible, consumption and consumer numbers would leap, international know-how would become viable, and so would investments in the business. That would improve quality which would encourage increases in consumption – and you have that wondrous cycle again.
    Ms Davidson is right: we do have the potential to make our presence felt in international markets. We just have to do it right. Until then, they have little need to humour rubbish.

  6. Having participated quite lengthily to a similar discussion thread on Magandeep Singh’s blog (where there were far more voices raised in defence of the quality of Indian wine), I will only make a brief comment here. As chairman of the India Wine Challenge and a number of other international wine competitions, I have absolutely no hesitation in saying that – as a whole – India is nowhere near ready to compete with the rest of the winemaking world (including less well know countries such as Uruguay and England). But there are exceptions (notably Sula Sauvinon and the latest Shiraz) and plenty of evidence of future potential.
    The issues that need to be addressed if India is to live up to that potential are the following:
    * Shift the balance of investment from table grape farmers(who know little about wine) and non wine drinking businessmen to people with a genuine interest and commitment to wine.
    * As Reva Singh, sensibly said in that other discussion, focus on introducing quality control at every stage or production, bottling, transport and storage, to eliminate the huge levels of inconsistency with which Indian wine is plagued)
    * Take a fresh look at the “what?”, “where?”, “who” and “why?” of much of the industry. Why Nasik (and why not more exploration elsewhere? (Just look at the range of regions that are being developed in other countries). Why focus on Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon? Who are the consultants that everybody is so pleased yo be using? Are they the ideal choice? Why be so enslaved to France? It is no accident that the tough words came from Diana Davidson, an Australian. If anyone is looking for good viticultural and winemaking advice in 2008, they’d be better advised to look at Australia (where there is wide experience of making wine in varied and difficult conditions) than France, where there is a tendency to try to produce Bordeaux – or whatever, irrespective of the local conditions.

  7. I am glad so many people in India have come out with such mature and experienced views about wine in general. Who says that we in India are not yet ready to decifer on what’s excellent, good, average or poor. Folks do you know that a lot of the wines now being sold under Indian labels are actually cheap bulk wines imported in a huge 25000 litres plastic balloon kind of a tank and bottled in India. These wines are being passed on as Indian wines. I am not touting that these wines are necessarily bad. However this raises two questions, over 30 per cent of the wines produced in wine producing countries are vinegry or unfit to drink these are used to make wine vinegers or discarded. When there are no quality controls there is a chance that such wines can make their way to our tables. The second issue is that a reasonable wine is being imported, bottled and put up as an Indian label which can be classified as a quality wine. Either way consumers are the loosers. In the first case you get a poor quality in the second case you don’t really know where your wine is coming from.

  8. I had an opportunity to visit vineyards and wineries in Nashik and Bangalore last March(I
    live in California and have over 25 years of experience at senior levels in the California wine industry).When you visit Nashik wineries
    thru dusty roads and rural settings,the first thought to a foreign resident would be how can these surroundings produce good wines….
    ….However, as I visit the vineyards and taste the wines, there is a great degree of originality and authenticity to the wines.Wineries like Chateau D’Ori,Sula(Dindori Reserve),Tiger Hills and Grover(in Bangalore) are producing extremely good wines …Because of the demand,there is a tendency to release them earlier than optimal…resulting in some bottles showing bottle shock and sulphite dominance… but overall the quality is way above par..The Sauvignon Blancs and the Chenin Blancs that I tasted were extremely good..
    As they say,move on India

  9. Atul Vijay Kukekar on

    After reading the article and knowing that the Indian market has huge potentials for wines in coming years is is this the real situation or just an statement to —.
    I belive that the real market what today is not growing,proper awarness and knowledge for fine wines is completely lacking among the Indian Masses. what seems the actual sales and craze for the wines is only about the imported wines among the Indians.
    Even if the Indian wines are available at the best competative rates then the imported wines they opt for non-Indian wines. this is because they dont know how far the wine industry is doing and who are the best producers.
    This mind set has to be changed by making aware that India too have the best wines which has international standards of quality.
    The real quality mark or set standards has to be done in Indian wine industry to grow the wine internationaly and localy.
    The lack of knowledge of wine labels has also being not given any due importance in Indian wine Market.
    People are reluctant to pay as much as amount demanded by the local Vendor for the imported wines no matter how the quality and who has produced the wines.
    In every aspect awarness for wines is very little and we talk about the growth which is not qualitative but only quantitative.
    This is dangerous for any kind of industry I suppose. Because the genuine wine makers may get paid less and other with low qualities would be paid higher prices and hence no value for thier money.

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