Is it really all doom and gloom for wine lovers in India?


wineculturecartoon.jpg“I cling to the belief that there are good times ahead for wine enthusiasts, but from what I hear these are sad days indeed for our young wine culture,” writes Reva K. Singh in her Editor’s Note. “Illogical, contradictory and vague government regulations have sent the industry into a tailspin.”

I’m told containers of wine and luxury foods worth millions of rupees have been turned back or are languishing in our ports waiting for clearance. The root of the problem apparently is the heavy-handed strictures of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
But it’s not all doom and gloom for us wine drinkers. After all, wine shops haven’t downed their shutters and it’s still possible to plan wine dinners and enjoy a meal with a glass of good wine at a restaurant. The Sommelier India Wine Circle is doing well and organised a spate of high-end wine dinners recently.
Many prominent international producers are staying the course and continue to export to India. I read an encouraging report the other day in the international wine press expressing confidence in the Indian consumer and Bordeaux-based American négociant, Jeffrey Davies who runs Signature Selections is actively looking to expand in India.
“We’re sifting through the current wine & spirit importers and distributors to figure out who’d be the best fit for our range of wines,” Davies asserts in the article, “Fine Wine Trade Eyes Up India” in The Drinks Business.
He believes that as Indian consumers learn more about wine, starting with drinking our own wines, the Indian wine market will continue to grow. What’s more, he thinks others in Bordeaux feel the same way.
“With the tremendous slowdown in China, and a certain slowdown in America, they’re looking to other markets within the BRICs. Russia’s having embargo troubles, so India and Brazil are becoming areas of interest.
Let’s hope our monumental import restrictions and complex procedures don’t dampen his spirits (pardon the pun), even though Davies knows what he’s up against.
“The current duty situation is a limiting factor, and I don’t think it’s going to change any time soon,” he acknowledges. “We ran some cost analysis and found that a wine that left Bordeaux at say €5 ended up on a retail shelf in India at €25.”

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