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Port, Port everywhere…Not a Port to Drink

Posted: Friday, 11 January 2013 13:47

Port, Port everywhere…Not a Port to Drink

Jan 11: Most wine market analyses in India center around the mid and premium segment of domestic wines which are in fact only a third of the total consumption of 2 million cases, a majority of which are ‘Port’, ‘Goan Port’ and the low-end fortified wines, whereas the genuine Port from Porto has negligible presence in the market, writes Subhash Arora who nevertheless feels that the producers ought to discontinue the illegal use of the term Port for these domestic wines and come up with another.

Click For Large ViewChampagne Indage which was later forced to change the name to Indage Vintners due to the legal pressure by Champagne region, is credited with pioneering the modern day winemaking with Marquis de Pompadour in the mid eighties. Around the same time, a company by the name of Vinícola was started in Goa by Dr. Costa with a Portuguese connection in more ways than one. He started making Goan Port; a fortified wine which has over the years become a symbol of inexpensive Goan wine. Made from indigenous grapes and fortified with neutral alcohol and unspecified additives, the Goan Port sells for Rs. 65-150 (€1-2.30). Over the years, this market has grown to over 400,000 cases (9-liters) and services the low ended price sensitive segment. Interestingly, many young drinkers take to it as it is wine and it is cheap but there is a hard-core segment that mixes it with liquor to spice up the combined effect!

Increasing popularity of these low-ended wines has caught the fancy of the ‘mainline’ producers like Indage, Big Banyan, Nirvana, Vinsura, Fratelli (recently) and even Sula that brought out similar wines without the ‘Goan’ pedigree. An estimated 500,000 cases of these ‘Port’ wines form a part of the total wine market now. The improper nomenclature notwithstanding, this price-sensitive low-end segment of over a million cases is growing at the fastest rate, indicative of the potential of wine consumption in India and the price sensitivity.

Sula came out with the Port three years ago and is already a leader in this category from the mainline producers too. It started the Port Wine 1000 from eating grapes fermented in stainless steel tanks. Extremely popular in the South and West, it sells for Rs.137 ( source: Bangalore based Madhuloka website).  It’s available at Rs. 126 in Mumbai (source: winegate.in). Of course, the pioneer for making Port was Indage which had more than one variant and no one really knew the ingredients. Vinsura is also now producing natural fermented wine from the indigenous eating grapes.

Click For Large ViewFratelli is perhaps the latest entrant in this segment selling its Sidus Premium Port for Rs. 175-185. It is intriguing that the bottle shows that no alcohol has been added but the company officials at the stand of Mumbai Wine Tasting Festival conceded that the wine was in fact fortified. Also seen at the same Fest was, not one, but two variants of Port wine made by Pause Winery. Both the red and white version in a plastic bottle sell for Rs.145-150. Unlike the Sidus, they were both quite undrinkable, bringing to the fore a perennial anxiety that the new wine drinkers when drinking wines like that would may never be enamoured by wine and may be put off for ever.

Nirvana Bio-Sys, the Haryana-based maker of Luca wines came out in 2011 with Mitra 2000 Port Wine, to compete with the Sula Port 1000. The higher number perhaps signifies higher quality for the wines in the mind of the consumers or the producer as it sells for Rs.220 in Delhi.

There are still cheaper ‘Ports’- in fact the key word is not what is inside, but the lower price and higher amount of alcohol. ‘Goana’ by Big Banyan sells over 10,000 cases Click For Large Viewa month for an average of Rs.100 in Karnataka and Goa. Although it says ‘Natural’ (which generally means no fortifications with neutral alcohol has been made) a senior company official of John Distilleries in Bangalore manufacturing the Port admitted to me during my recent visit to Bangalore that the wine made from the local eating grapes is in fact fortified and promised me that from next year they will remove the ‘Natural’ tag from the bottle.

Interestingly, Goana does not mention Port on the bottle and their website does not even list it like some other wineries; the indiamart website’s John Distillery page lists it as Goana’s Port Wine, ‘A Port wine crafted to perfection in the traditional Goan way. It is presented in an exquisite designer bottle with a bold 'WINE RED' color. It blends a perfect chemistry of taste and love made from selected Indian grape varietals.’  This indicates that the word ‘Port’ is used synonymously for fortified wine, wine made from indigenous grapes and the wines sweetened with sugar and other additives.

Click For Large ViewMario Sequeira, the leading producer of ‘Goan Port’ with the sales registers clocking over 120,000 cases of Port alone, is aiming to sell 150,000 cases this year. In a neck-to neck race with Vinícola, the pioneer of the ‘Goan Port’ in recent times, Sequeira makes fortified wine with both red and wine grapes. There are several cottage and small industries producing and wholesaling ‘Goan Port’ at around Rs.70 which in turn retail them for Rs.90-120. It helps that the tourists are attracted to the sweet and sugary concoction made with addition of neutral alcohol, taking the alcohol level to as high as 20% and making the consumers get more kick in shorter time and at lower prices- the Brand ‘Goan Port’ helps the cause of the local producers.

Click For Large ViewThere are similar wines in the low-ended section that do not use the crutch of Port. Golconda, the leader of the low-ended wines, sell over 180,000 cases of what they call ‘Ruby’. Similarly the Heritage Grape Winery in Karnataka reportedly sells 145,000 cases a year of sweet dessert wine, according to its owner. They also don’t call the wine as Port, indicating that one does not necessarily need to call the wine a Port to market it.

The ‘Port’ market is estimated by the Indian Wine Academy at 1.1 million cases.  With a production of between 600,000- 700,00 cases of mid section and premium wines and about 300,000 cases of imported wines, this ‘Port’ segment thus forms around 55% of the 2 million – case current market.

Whereas in India most novices presume the ‘Goan Port’ to be the genuine Port, the Real McCoy is made in Porto Portugal under very strict rules and has been legally registered in India in November 2011. With a total consumption of Port being perhaps under 1000 cases, the Port producers have nothing much to gain by pursuing the Indian styled Port except the devaluation of the image but according to the Embassy of Portugal, the matter has been taken up with the Indian government. It is expected to take the Click For Large Viewnecessary legal action soon  failing which the matter may be taken to the international court of justice according to international law and the agreement with the European Union.

While the Indian ‘port’ producers are treading on thin ice, they are at liberty to continue to make this wine-at least till the wine laws are able to address the issue. They may be legally obliged to discontinue the use of the word Port. Perhaps a more amenable name like ‘Ruby’ may be adopted voluntarily. In the meantime, ‘Port’ continues to corner a major share of the Indian wine market.

Here is a list of estimated consumption based on a cross-survey carried out by the Indian Wine Academy:

Golconda 180,000
Heritage 140,000
Goana 130,000 
Tonia 120,000
Vinicola 120,000
Sula 100,000
Misc Goa 200,000
Misc Maha  50,000
Misc. Karna  50,000
Misc-others 20,000
Total (cases) 1,110,000

For a related earlier article, click
Days of Indian Port Wines may be Numbered

Subhash Arora

Tags: Champagne Indage, Indage Vintners, Marquis de Pompadour, Vinícola, Dr. Costa, fortified wine, Goan wine, Big Banyan, Nirvana, Vinsura, Fratelli, Sula, winegate.in, Sidus Premium Port, Mumbai Wine Tasting Festival, Nirvana Bio-Sys, Luca wines, Mitra 2000 Port Wine, Sula Port 1000, Goana, Mario Sequeira, Vinícola, Goan Port, Golconda, Ruby, Heritage Grape Winery, Porto Portugal, Indian wine market

Comments:

 
 

Bharat Mistry Says:

Required information health wise& price wise cimparison needed , Thanks....

Posted @ April 09, 2014 16:40

 

Subhash Aror Says:

Most of the Ports including Sidus Premium Port Wine (Price in Delhi Rs. 230) made by Fratelli use fortification with alcohol to bring the alcohol levels up and add some sugary stuff to make them sweet. Sula claims that Nashik Port 1000 made by them is natural and does not get added alcohol-so we take their word for it. Unfortunately more and more people,especially in the South add gin, vodka to make it even stronger- then its not even wine at all. Subhash Arora

Posted @ March 31, 2014 17:20

 

Angshuman Says:

Exactly I didn't know that some of the wine makers blend liquor with the natural wine... But it is really true that Sidus Premium Port Wine is the class of its own... It is having a mind blowing test and temper. I really want to know whether do they blend liquor like other cheap wine makers or not ?

Posted @ March 31, 2014 17:00

 

R Banerjee Says:

For loooooong people have been conned. Actually it continues today too - of selling 'sweet-kick-red' in Goa, in the name of "Port". Fortified. Ha!

Posted @ November 25, 2013 16:56

 

Siddharth Says:

Honestly The Heritage red wine ruby is pretty nice, perfectly balanced though on the fruitier side. You need to have it chilled. I had shared the wine with some of my friends for the first time and was apprehensive, but the taste was definitely a pleasant surprise.

Posted @ October 21, 2013 12:55

 

Carlos Marques Says:

Dear Arora, Thank you so much.This article is not interesting because it is VERY INTERESTING. Cheers Carlos

Posted @ January 14, 2013 16:32

 

Siyamalan Says:

"Its not Golconda, It's Crapconda" : Ruined the image of wine among older-generations in entire South India

Posted @ January 14, 2013 12:19

 
       

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