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New wine in a newer bottle

Here’s a surprising fact to mull upon as 2017 rolls in: India, which is considered to predominantly be a liquor consuming country, has a rather small share for the authentic wine segment. For the longest time, the figure was hovering somewhere around 0.15 per cent of the entire alcoholic beverage market.

But with prominent brands promoting and educating the Indian customers, the wine segment started seeing an upwards swing since 2001. Now, the wine market boasts of 0.35 per cent of the share. A major reason for this has been India being hyped as an important, emerging marketplace for wines.

In our own country, we have an optimum climate for grape cultivation, and our main wine-producing states — Maharashtra and Karnataka — are leading producers of world class, high-quality grape wines. When it comes to white wine varietals, successful yields include Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc, while the red varieties include the Red Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and the very popular Shiraz. The Spanish grape varietal of Tempranillo has also come up well in some grape growing regions of Maharashtra.

As far as expansion of the wine industry in India goes, experts are of the opinion that we’re seeing a rather interesting phase unfold before us, since the country’s in the middle of a vital transition. Back in 2014, our wine production hit a record figure of 17 million litres. In fact, in that year alone, our export sales rose 40 per cent year-on-year to reach a staggering $4.4 million in the first seven months! With our growing export sector, the domestic consumer market becoming steadily aware of the drink, and the industry support in wine-producing US, wines from India have the potential to be breakthrough competitors the world over.

Today, the wine share in urban areas like Mumbai and Pune are growing by 20 to 25 per cent. Interestingly, Delhi has shown a marginally higher growth rate of 27 per cent in the last four years since super markets have the permission to stock bottles.

However, not everything is rosy in this fairy-tale story of wine in India. The main hurdle in the country is for wineries to get into actual traders’ market, which typically has a liquor and beer promoting behaviour. Since the market normally beholds the rapid movement of liquor, beer and country liquor products, the investments for these products tend not to get blocked.

Wine faces the peculiar problem of having a good movement only in urban areas, where consumers are aware about wine-drinking culture. The remaining areas witness a rather slow growth as far as wine goes, compared to other alcoholic beverages.

However, with new varietals coming in, as well as growing awareness among consumers in India, wine could well capitalise on its popularity as more than just a fancy drink!
Girish is the director of Prestige Alcobev Pvt. Ltd.

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