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BW Businessworld

Wine Begins Creating Wealth, Too

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Indians love their hard liquor, and a proof of this is the vast range of domestic and imported whiskeys, vodkas and rum that dominate the market. The age-old preference, however, has been changing and wine has slowly been carving out a niche in the market. This is fuelled by the choices of the globally-aspirational urban Indian millennials.  The domestic winemakers such as Sula Vineyards and Grover Zampa are at the helm.
 
Last year, Indian vineries produced a record 17 million litres of wine and registered an enormous growth in sales, including export-based. Sula posted a whopping 65 per cent jump in exports and a quarter of Grover Zampa’s income came from exports, with the UK and Japan being the biggest markets for Indian wine.
 
With its immense potential and growth opportunities, the nascent Indian market continues to be the focus of local producers.
 
“The Indian wine business is coming into its own. After some difficult years, the industry is once again experiencing strong growth of 15 per cent annually,” said Deepak Bhatnagar, vice president of sales and marketing at Nashik-based Sula, India’s largest domestic wine producer.
 
Grover Zampa’s CEO, Sumedh Singh Mandala, said that the wine business in India today was at an “exciting confluence” of quality wine production and the emerging finer consumer palates.
 
“It’s easy to introduce young people to wine. They’re open to trying new things and, their increased awareness, exposure to western culture and, increased travels and studies abroad works to our benefit,” said Bhatnagar, adding that it was also more socially acceptable for women to drink wine.
 
More disposable income and a desire for a swish lifestyle has urged the materialization of new consumerist trends which focus on experience over mere utility and local wine makers are making the most of this opportunity.
 
“Our ambition is to make locally made wine an integral part of the Indian fine dining experience. Like the way you would order a French wine in a French restaurant, we want the same for thing to happen in Indian restaurants,” said Mandala.
 
Indian wines seem to have made a mark in the international market with vineries like Grover Zampa winning 12 awards in a span of eight months last year, including the prestigious Decanter Asia awards. However, changing negative perceptions of the quality and taste of Indian wine in the home market remains a challenge for local producers who emphasize that their wine is at par with internationally known brands.
 
“One of our largest export markets is France,” claimed Mandala, “this just shows us that our wine is good and such perceptions are baseless and a result of rumour mongering.”
 
The companies have realised that the best technique of dispelling such conceptions is by promoting a culture of wine appreciation and experience through the means of wine tasting events and by “sharing knowledge with current and potential consumers”.