Uncorking a new era of wines in India

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The Indian mainstream press continues to capture the Indian wine revolution. Here the Times of India discusses the Indian wine market and how much it is expected to grow. However, even in ten years time the Indian market is projected to grow to 5 million cases as against China’s 50 million cases today.


Uncorking a new era of wines in India
Times of India
NEW DELHI: Of late, wine in India is bubbling. The industry is young, the market is strong and growing; labels are travelling overseas. Its bouquets are a sellout, and the industry has become a favourite accompaniment.
It may take a while for India to be on the table along side French and Californian bottles, but surely it has uncorked a new era that good wines, like the Chilean and Argentinean wines, need not carry a huge price tag.
During the late 1990s, when brands like Sula were being established, the biggest challenge before Indian wines was how they will fair in the global market.
In almost five years, they have been able to keep up with international wine challenge, albeit a few players. Having sniffed Indian and worldwide potential, a growing number of players have now joined the fray.
Indian wines, say experts, could be one of the next big things among the British wine lovers. UK-based Novum wines have started to import a range of labels from Sula. Yet, India has to go a long way in establishing as a serious wine growing region in the world. It is not even a tiny trickle in the $15bn industry.
The industry is growing at a 30% a year with only 3.5 million bottles drunk. Indian consumption is something like half a teaspoon per head against France’s 60 litres while Italy drinks 59 litres, Spain 37 and the UK 24 litres. It is expected to reach about 5 million cases in ten years as against China ‘s current 50-million case market.
Once dominated by a few vineyards, Indian wine industry has attracted more players. Most dominate the Pune-Narayangoan-Nasik landscape with Sula and Chateau Indage as chief producers. Grover’s is located near Bangalore. Even traditional grape growers have turned to winemaking with Vinsura, a new label in the shelf.
Kullu and Manali in Himachal Pradesh are being explored for vine grapes usually popular for their apples and apricots. Mumbai accounts for the largest wine market in India, followed by Delhi, Bangalore and Goa, which between them account for nearly 75% of all imported and premium wines.
Most of the sales of domestic cheap wines come from Goa which accounts for nearly 1500 cases a month. Red wines account for 39% and white accounts for 36% of sales and sparkling wines account for 7%.
Imported wines include about 18,000 cases of smuggled wines and “carry back” by travellers returning to India. French wines are still traditional favourites, but wines from Australia and California are strong popular contenders.
Recently, Chilean wines have done exceptionally well and it won’t be very late before it comes of age in India. San Medin’s Cabarnet Sauvignon from Chile is already a favourite among Indian wine drinkers.
The number of imported labels is increasingly visible on the Indian shelves. Jacob’s Creek, Tarapaca, Champagne Dom Perignon, Castel and Michel Laroche are now available in the shops of Delhi and Mumbai, more in Mumbai than in Delhi.
New Indian wine styles have been introduced like Indage’s Ivy range and Sula’s late harvest wine (ideal for dessert) called Chenin Blanc. Sula has also released its first reserve red wine, the 2003 Dindori Reserve Shiraz.
Importantly, wine makers in India are sensitizing government officials on the importance of wine and its drinking. A Joint Working Group within the Union Ministry for Food Processing has made a non-binding recommendation that wine and beer be given ‘preferential treatment’ for licensing of manufacture along with sales tax and import duty concessions. Wine is still clubbed along with other alcoholic beverages.
That the luxury of wine manners and the distinction associated with it is losing its flavour. More players who come into the market will add to democratization drive of wine drinking and the tastes associated with it. Sula has already set up a tasting room within its vineyard near Nasik.
And it conducts wine tours as well. Chateau Indage’s Wine Bar is right on the highway at Narayanagaon, an hour’s distance from Nasik, overlooking the vineyards whose menu tells you what you need to pair off with their range of wines.
Certainly, Indian wines and the industry have caught up with the style and fashion of the wine world and it is only a matter of time for it to come of age.

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