Cheers! Record port wine production expected this year

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Pune | Updated: Apr 02, 2015 1:25 AM

According to India Grape Processing Board, the total wine production this season could touch 100 lakh litres. Of which 30 lakh litres would be table wines or port wines.

There could be a record production of about 30 lakh litres of table wines this season, thanks to the recent unseasonal rains and hailstorms. Around 5,000 tonne of table grapes have been crushed this season in addition to the regular crushing of wine grapes of 20,000 tonne, top officials of the India Grape Processing Board (IGPB) said.

The total wine production this season could touch 100 lakh litres. Of which 30 lakh litres could be table wines or port wines, Jagdish Holkar, chairman, IGPB said.

Some of the largest wineries in the country such as Sula Vineyards have been leading this effort to help out farmers from a possible crisis, he said,

Rajeev Samant, CEO, Sula Vineyards told FE that his company usually runs a model whereby it procured bulk wines from smaller wineries and it worked well for them.

However, this year because of the rains, Sula procured some 2,000 tonne of table grapes from farmers at R17 per kg. The winemaker had to take several wineries on lease, mainly for storage use. The company has recently procured new equipment that can crush 200 tonne per day as against 50 tonne per day storing the juice in tanks which can be used for making port wines later, he said.

Other wineries also procured 2,000- odd tonne from farmers. Sula plans to use the grapes to make cheaper table wines such as its Sula Port 1000 and Sula Port 1000 Gold brands, both of which are popular in southern India.

Globally, wine grapes constitute 90% of all grape crops and only 10% are for table grapes or raisins. Table wines, which sell for less than R250/bottle, constitute 60% of the total wine production in India as well as globally and there is a growing market for this segment.

According to Samant, this is a demonstration of the role the wine industry can play in boosting rural incomes and a great stand of assisting farmers in times of need when unseasonal rains damage crops such as table wines.

According to Holkar, some 10-12 odd wineries had come forward this year to help out farmers. Normally, Bangalore Purple and Thompson Seedless varieties are crushed to make some table wines which are sold in the under R250 per bottle category. Earlier, winemakers had maintained that there could be a 20% gap in demand and supply owing to the damage caused by the hailstorms and unseasonal rains.

In 2015, around 2.8 million cases are expected to be produced of which 1.2 million cases could be premium wines, 4 to 5 lakh cases could be imports,and remaining will be table grape wines apart from 5% sparkling wines.

The move by Sula Vineyards to procure table grapes from farmers has not only helped out farmers out of a potential crisis but also enabled wineries that had stopped making wines because they had gone the NPA way to revive their units again, senior industry watchers said.

Samant said Sula will be adding a small amount of port wine to the company’s overall production. The company that enjoys a 65% market share in India sold over 9 million bottles in 2014. This year the winery is crushing close to 10,000 tonne of grapes, up 20% from 2014. Total farmer payments will cross R40 crore and the grapes will come from across Maharashtra at the three wineries in Nashik and from Karnataka for the winery in that state. Sula works with close tot 300 grape growers in Maharashtra and Karnataka with 10-year assured buy-back contracts.

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