India loves its beer and whisky, which together account for as many as 373 million cases, according to the report. Even beer that at times is paired with food accounts for 140 million cases. "Indians are not averse to wines. It's just that it's inaccessible due to the price factor. If the prices come down it would ease the process of familiarization with the product," says sommelier Magandeep Singh.
"Government policies need to loosen up on customs duties. States have to appreciate the difference between wine and hard liquor to formulate their policies accordingly," said Subhash Arora, President of the Indian Wine Academy and the Delhi Wine Club.
"Availability has been a big constraint due to government policies," Arora told IANS.
Another deterrent, he says, is that the hotels and restaurants are not coming forward to bring prices down, making them unaffordable. Prices of top global brands can go up to Rs. 25,000 or even much higher. Indian wines though are within reach. A Sula white, for example, is available at Rs. 500.
In a letter to President Pratibha Patil after a state banquet for President of the US, Barak Obama , Arora even requested her and her government to consider serving Indian wines at the State banquets to promote the "health beverage" which in moderate consumption is said to be good for the heart and also for diabetics.
"The Indian domestic wine market is a little over a million cases but access to imported ones is inhibited by 160 percent import duty and state levies. If the price is not cut, it is going to remain an elitist and societal drink," said wine expert Sanjay Menon.
Delhi-based Kapil Sekhri, co-promoter and director of Fratelli Wines, an Indo-Italian venture, says wine is slowly becoming a lifestyle product. A believer like many hard-core optimists, he says, "We have 600 million people in the age group between 20 and 35. It's the youngest nation and so even if 10 % people of those convert to wine, that is almost a country in Europe converting to wine.”
According to a recent report by Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham), 8% of the wine demand in India is accounted for by major cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Pune and Bangalore. The figures may seem as erroneous as the Indian Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal rubbishing the CAG report about 2G-one of the several scams filling in the media space these days- most experts would put this figure around 80%. However, the survey might have focused on the total volume of wines including the low end fortified wines and cheaper Indian wines which find their favourite lovers outside these metro regions.
While 41 % of the wine quaffed in India is consumed in the western states, north follows with 29 %. The report also said demand for wine is rising in emerging Tier-II and Tier-III cities thanks to working professionals and the younger generation.
"Growth can be faster in smaller cities but enough efforts are not being made. Pune is an example of how wine culture has taken off in a short time. There are dozens of cities like Pune waiting to be explored," said Arora.
Gabriel Ruiz Lopez, chief executive of Grapeland, a Spanish wine company, said: "India is just awakening to wines. People usually buy those which are priced low. But we plan to sell approximately 48,000 bottles of wine in the coming year."