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Fortified Wine Tourism Karnataka Style

Posted: Monday, 13 January 2014 10:47

Blog: Fortified Wine Tourism Karnataka Style

Jan 13: Maharashtra took a clear lead in wine tourism with the pioneer Chateau Indage opening the first wine bar Athena outside its then operational winery in Narayangaon, followed by a progressive wine tourism work undertaken by Sula, that is being followed in varying degrees but Karnataka has taken the cake with Heritage Winery claiming wine tourism at its facilities where it makes low end fortified wines, supported by Karnataka Wine Board.

My stomach churned as I read a news report a couple of weeks ago in Business Standard where It said that Karnataka Wine Board will begin a 365-day facility at the Heritage Winery premises in Channapatna for those interested in wine tourism! Conveniently located on the Bangalore Mysore Highway, 50 kms away from Bangalore it is a prime location to promote wine tourism and education through wine tourism, by the biggest ‘wine’ producer of Karnataka…

…except that it specializes in making mostly, if not only, fortified wine made chiefly from Bangalore purple grapes and adding natural alcohol, even as it produces and sells around 160,000-180,000 cases a year of the spirited wine.According to a company release, the wine tours were introduced in February 2011 to encourage and develop Wine Tourism in Bangalore and Karnataka State. ‘The Heritage Winery has now developed wine tourism at par with similar tours in other countries,’ claims the company.

‘Heritage Winery Managing Director P L Venkatarama Reddy, who addressed the media on the achievements of the last year, said that the Heritage Wine Tourism that started in May 2011 officially has attracted not only the wine-lovers from the State but also from across the globe. It has been very informative for the Bachelor of Hotel Management students, and has been imparting practical training to them,’ proclaims a PR on the Wordpress, which adds that 10,000 people including 2,000 foreign tourists visited in one year.

The company boasts that most of the tourists who go to Mysore also add Heritage Winery among the list of places to visit. Reddy says that this is also an attempt to wean away from alcohol and introduce them to the healthy habit of wine consumption. Families can come together for the wine tour and experience the glorious tradition of wine’, he adds.

Heritage Red Wine is listed at Rs. 100 while the Premium is market to Rs.137.82 in the standard 750 mL bottle though you can also get the pauva (180mL) for as low as Rs.25. I have been told by many ofmy friends that people love to have these wines infused  with vodka and gin of equal quantities!  Technically speaking, the company also lists Chenin, Cabernet Sauvignon at slightly over Rs.400 a bottle.  (ref. p.218 of the 458-page KSBCL price list).

Karnataka Wine Board admits to having increased its focus on wine tourism in its bid to boost awareness to increase wine consumption in the state and believes the annual wine sales can increase by 20 -25% in the state."In 2007, we saw wine sales of about 1.3 million liters, but now in 2013, wine sales is estimated at 4.1 million liters (over 450,000 cases).We think this can grow 20-25 per cent annually, and it can double to about 8 million liters in four years (900,000 cases)," reportedly says B Krishna, Managing Director of the Karnataka Wine Board.

Obviously, the figures include fortified wines being produced in the state. And this is where the rub lies. If a Wine Board boasts of higher production and consumption that focuses on the cheap fortified wine to improve the wine culture, there is something amiss. Every time I visit Bangalore and hear the horror stories about the consumers advised to drink 30mL of this wine with 30-45 mL of vodka or gin to give it a booster shot, I feel nauseated. My first impression is of disbelief but too many people have told me about it so it may not be untrue.

There is nothing wrong in producing fortified wine; over 1.2 million cases are produced in Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka. So long as there are no laws controlling such spirited wines and as long as there is a demand by consumers of the vodka sweeteners, one cannot blame the producers. The proposed wine laws will consider the definition of wine to hopefully exclude this concoction but till then one the common man’s ‘wine’ will flourish (in fact, this is the fastest growing segment today) but for any quasi-government body like KWB to encourage wine tourism at such a production facility should be sacrilege and Karnataka Wine Board might have got carried away by the enthusiasm of the producer.

In my private talks with producers, they agreed with me but would not like to comment in public. Jagdish Holkar, Chairman of the Indian Grape Processing Board (IGPB) was an exception but quite diplomatic even though he agreed with my view point. He had been to Bangalore recently and says that he had put a similar query to the management. ‘I was told that they have now started making wines from wine grapes also. But I was also reminded that abroad, making fortified wine was common and well accepted practice, why not here?’

Maharashtra has made huge strides with Sula taking the lead and laps ahead of others like York, Grover Zampa in Nashik, Fratelli in Akluj and Four Seasons in the process of throwing its facilities open to wine lovers. Interestingly, there is a lot of buzz as there is a consensus about the importance of wine tourism directly increasing sales and catalyzing the wine culture.

With the oldest Grover Zampa pussyfooting around on investing in the infrastructure required to promote to catapult wine tourism to the next levels, we may be witnessing more of fortified wine tourism- Karnataka style.

Subhash Arora  



Subhash Arora Says:

Dear Karnic, I have no objection or problem with Heritage promoting wine tourism. I can't even stop them from promoting their cheap fortified wine at the cellar door although that's not the wine I would like to see promoted or for people going for such wine tours, to imbibe. If people can afford only that wine, or country liquor for that matter, who are we to butt in- so long as it is a legal product. After all, over 1.2 million cases of these 'wines' are being consumed in India. Whether they should be called wine or 'fortified wine' made under strict safety guidelines, is for the authorities to decide. (slightly digressing, the Port producers in Portugal are strictly controlled in using only approved ethyl alcohol suppliers they can use and they have to account for every liter that they use to fortify-to avoid any misuse.Ditto for Sherry and Madeira).

My comment is directed against a government body encouraging or tying up with such promotion or wine tourism.It gives a stamp of approval and a wrong notion to the novices that what they are drinking is what wine is all about. Thanks for your valuable comments. Subhash Arora

Posted @ January 23, 2014 15:15


kskarnic Says:

It may wrong to promote fortified wines by the KWB. However you must agree with the fact that when fruit wine makers are crying for market and not adopted any positive approach to boost their sales, Heritage winery is promoting the concept of wine tourism. let us hope other winers would take the cue.

Posted @ January 23, 2014 14:30


kskarnic Says:

some people are obsessed with western culture whether they know the background or not. we need not simply accept what the west say the best.

Posted @ January 23, 2014 13:00


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