|Once again, there’s hyperbole about the potential of the Asian wine market and specifically the opportunities in China, Russia and India. Officials in Hong Kong expect wine imports into Asia to touch $1.5 billion by 2017. Yes, we do have over a billion people here in India but that doesn’t mean everybody is going to become a wine drinker.|
How much India will contribute to that number is an open question. In fact, China with its deeper association with wine is more likely to become the largest consumer of fine wine.
An example of this growth story is an Economist magazine article that discusses the en primeur wines and how prices for the 2006 vintage are skyrocketing thanks to buyers in Russia, China and India. The article highlights Chateau Lafite-Rothschild who’s prices are $4,900 per case up from $1,760 three years ago. Lafite has a special status in China and even though the Parker ratings are a relatively low 90-93 points this year that hasn’t slowed demand. In fact, the Liv-ex 100 index, which charts bottled wine prices has outperformed global stock markets. The year to date change on it is an increase of 9.5%. The reason for this? The magazine says its because of new buyers in China, Russia and India.
But where are the new buyers? Are they truly in Russia, China and India? We know for a fact that China is a huge market for Bordeaux producers and increasingly Russia too. China currently imports around $200 million worth of wine in comparison to India’s paltry 210,000 cases of imports which probably equates to a few million only. Needless to say, the future size of the Indian market for fine wine is an open debate. There’s certainly the buying power, but how many people will care to invest in expensive Bordeaux wines is hard to know.
I suppose only time will tell. What we do know though is that more Indians are drinking wine everyday both Indian wine and foreign. The wine interest doesn’t seem to be waning anytime soon and with each passing month more foreign winemakers seek to enter the Indian market to compete with the Indian players like Sula, Chateau Indage and Grover Vineyards. This all bodes well for the Indian consumer as it’ll mean more choices, better prices and more opportunities to enjoy the pleasures of wine.
Now if only the government would do its bit to make wine more accessible from a pricing standpoint. Otherwise, it’ll be left to the Sommelier India readers outside the country in cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, London, New York and San Francisco to be the ones who enjoy the wines the most. They’ll probably be the only Indians drinking fine wine en masse too.