In High Spirits

Updated: Nov 9 2003, 05:30am hrs
It's celebration time for the Indian wine industry. Both Indian and imported wines are growing at an impressive rate of 20 per cent every year, according to a survey conducted by Rabo India Finance Private Ltd some time ago. Out of the 35 lakh bottles consumed, 28 lakh bottles are from Indian suppliers and the rest by imports, elaborates Sonal Shah, director, Food and Agri Business, Rabo India Finance.

And indications are that the growth rate may not only be sustained, but it may also get increased. The inference is evident from the fact that Indian manufacturers are expanding as well as launching new labels. They are targeting both Indian and foreign markets.

Wining And Dining

Wine always tastes better at the right temperature. For wine to be appreciated, it is essential that it should produce a sensation of freshness in the mouth. This will vary depending on the colour and type of wine.

Sweet or luscious white wines, Champagne and sparkling wines should be served at a temperature between 6 degrees centigrade and 8 degrees centigrade. At a lower temperature the aroma is trapped, the wine cannot breathe, and the bouquet is inhibited from being released.

Dry and rose wines should be served cool but never iced or over chilled, at temperatures between 8 degrees centigrade and 12 degrees centigrade.

Light and fruity red wines are best appreciated at temperatures from 12 degree centigrade to 14 degrees centigrade. Richer and fuller red wines should be served at room temperature—the temperature of a moderately warm room, between 15 degrees centigrade and 18 degrees centigrade.

In general, young wines should be served cooler than wines which have accumulated some age. It is always preferable to serve a wine over-chilled rather than not chilled enough, since it will warm up quickly in the glass.

It is important to plan ahead which wines are to be served as they ought to be brought to the proper temperatures gently and gradually.

For white wines, never serve them iced or over-chilled. For red wines never serve them too warm, never warm a vintage wine abruptly, by plunging it, for example, in a tub of hot water.

Dry white goes well with fish and shellfish, sausages and cold cuts, light white meats and poultry, and cheeses. Mellow white goes well as an aperitif or along with cheeses and desserts. Dry rose goes well with sausages cold cuts and even fish and shell fish. Semi-sweet rose goes well with sausages and cold cuts or along with desserts. Light red goes well with light meats, red meats, wild game. Robust red with red meat and wild game.

Sparkling wines and Champagne go well as an aperitif. These could be served with light white meats and poultry and also along with cheeses or dessert. The basic principle is that the choice of wine is governed by the way in which the food is prepared. For example, the sauce is the determining factor. For example, the spicier should
be served with a sweeter red wine like spicy chicken with red wine.

Says Ranjit Chougule, director, Chateau Indage Limited, We are positioning ourselves not as a domestic wine producer but as a global wine player with marked presence in more than 24 countries. Chateau Indage has been exporting for the last 24 years to countries in Europe, America, Asia and Africa. The company is planning to launch a new drive to reach sophisticated wine markets with its offerings and to firmly establish India as a new world wine producing country amongst the global fraternity and consumers, he adds.

Grover Vineyards, too, is planning to make 500,000 bottles, out of which 30 per cent will be exported. They export to the UK, the US and France. Expansions plans are in place to make one million bottles in the next five years, according to company sources. They will be shortly launching Sauvignon Blanc white wine.

Another leader, Sula Vineyards added 300 acres of land to the existing vineyards in Nashik this year. The company has also set up a new vinery with a capacity of 500,000 litres. The existing vinery has a capacity of 170,000 litres. The company plans to invest around Rs 10 crore over the next two years. Says executive director Rajeev Samant, Every year we are more than doubling our output and yet every year we run out of wine. This is because the demand for good quality Indian wine is far outstripping the supply.

Its not only the highly visible players that are on the growth path, but also others. Some time back, N D Wines introduced three white and three red wines in Maharashtra. By the end of November, the plan is to launch a new white wine. The moves are being made to keep pace with the industry growth rate of 20-25 per cent, according to company sources.

The scope for growth is enormous considering that wine consumption in India is very low as compared to other countries and Indian wine makers are discovering the foreign market. Today, India has only three big wine makers: Champagne Indage (near Pune), Grover Vineyards (near Bangalore) and Sula Vineyards (near Nashik) as against Frances over 12,000, Italys 5,000, United States 2,000 and Australias 1,200. The result is that only about 6 million bottles are quaffed annually in India, which translates into a per capita consumption of only 0.006 bottles as compared to 0.5 bottles in China, 56 bottles in France and 5 bottles worldwide, according to Alok Chandra, who is running Grypho Brands Inc, a wine consultancy in Bangalore:

Little wonder, the reasons and scope for growth are as varied as the brands. Adds Mr Chandra, Wine consumption in India is still small, but growing rapidly under the impetus of changing lifestyles, increasing disposable incomes, and wider availability of drinkable wines. Its also fashionable, and serves to differentiate one from the whiskey-swilling crowd of hoi polloi, he adds.

Adds Abhay Kewadkar, vice-president, Grover Vineyards Ltd, Market for Indian wines both in India and abroad is extremely encouraging. There is more and more awareness about wine as a product in Indian market. Changing lifestyles, frequent travels abroad, and more and more women getting into the profession have all combined together to create wine awareness in India.

Even people who interact with consumers share these views. Sums up Tejpal Singh Uberoi, general manager, The Park, New Delhi, The consumption has gone up dramatically. Its due to the increased awareness, easier availability and drop in the prices.

Ritu Prasad, executive director, Spirit, which is located in Central Delhi, explains: Its not only that the awareness has gone up, but also the fact that its considered healthy. Besides, its hip. People like to be seen doing the right thing. And drinking wine is the right thing today!

For some its more so than for others. Says Anju Munjal, a vice-president at Usha International, Wine-drinking suits women more because its socially more acceptable than hard drinks. She also agrees that increasing consumption is fuelled by increased awareness.

Awareness has increased due to factors like wine tasting sessions, setting up of wine clubs, media coverage, etc. Says Subhash Arora, president, Delhi Wine Club, In fact, wine tasting sessions are serving as the primary vehicle for promoting wine since advertising of alcoholic products is not allowed. Though it may still be a drop in the ocean, there is a positive effect.

Besides, the health angle seems to be proving healthy for the wine industry, too. Says Mr Chandra, Wine is a low-alcohol beverage thats considered good for health, so many older drinkers and younger women are switching to wine.

Of course, the medical fraternity does not subscribe to the health argument. Says senior cardiologist Dr Upendra Kaul, Though science is clear that alcohol in moderation has a positive value in heart diseases, we dont prescribe it for its downside. It can cause cirrhosis, accidents, marital discords and societal disturbances.

Whether there is a health angle or not, the fact remains that wine is getting popular. And if the present is bright, the future seems brighter. Says Mr Chougule, Looking at the wine market behaviour and the consumer behavourial patterns, the future of the wine industry is very bright.

Adds Survey Ranjit, vice-president (Marketing), N D Wines Pvt Ltd, Wine has still to reach many other segments of society. The growth of wine industry will depend upon the growth of awareness amongst various classes of people in India.

Wine can sparkle even brighter if the industry is supported by the formulation of right policies on both imported wines as well as domestically produced wines, say industry experts. Setting up a governing body run by professionals, which can rate the quality of wines, could be the first step. India should not become a dumping ground for cheap wines, says Mr Chougule. At the same time, the board can regulate the quality of Indian wines. Says Mr Kewadkar, What the country also needs is a set of sales norms to control quality so that credibility of Indian wines as a product or brand is established.

Besides, helpful fiscal measures would go a long way in promoting the industry. Wine is sold expensively because it is produced expensively. Mr Kewadkar explains that this is due to the fact that growing wine varieties of grapes and then winery by itself are capital intensive. Higher investment and expenses compared to low consumption make it a costly business. Particularly since wine grapes start yielding fourth year onwards, interest burden is very high on farmers who wish to grow these grapes, he explains.

To begin with, Mr Chougule suggests relaxation in taxes and duties. Duty can be reduced on more expensive and quality wines but certain minimum duty should be imposed on cheaper wines than just levying duty on percentages, he adds.

Agreeing with him, Mr Ranjit adds, Label registration and bond licence fee, which are high in some state governments, should be either removed or reduced. Of course, it wont be greeted with cheers only by the industry, but also consumers.