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Blog: GIFT for Indian Wines at State Banquets

Posted: Monday, 06 July 2015 12:37

Blog: GIFT for Indian Wines at State Banquets

July 06: The recent news that the dry State of Gujarat is expected to dilute its decades-long prohibition rule for the Gujarat International Finance and Tec-City (GIFT) to make it compete with the other big regional financial centres in Dubai and Singapore, makes me hope that my 5-year old suggestion to the government to allow serving Indian Wines at State Banquets might become a reality, thus helping the Make in India story for Indian wines reach unimaginable heights, within Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2 terms

I was in Champagne in April this year attending a wine tourism conference, IWINETC and was visiting Champagne-Drappier in Urville, Aube where I met Michel Drappier whom I had chatted with earlier in Prowein 2015. He was in a very upbeat mood. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been in France and had ordered 36 French Rafale jets for India. A couple of days before my visit, there had been a State Banquet where Drappier La Grande Sendree 2005 was the only Champagne selected to be served (Drappier is imported by Ace Beveragez in India)

The one thing unique about the State Banquet was that both THE host and THE Chief Guest were teetotallers! President Francois Hollande does not imbibe alcohol-neither does Prime Minister Modi. But the State Banquets are formal dinners for the visiting State guests in which the delegation, diplomats and important guests from the host country are invited. Generally wine of the host country is served, if it is a wine producing nation. So it was not surprising to see Michel’s Champagnes being served at the State Banquet.

The one thing unique about the Indian State Banquets is that no alcohol is served (reminds me of my slogan-Wine is not alcohol- it has some!). I know Article 47 of the Indian Constitution almost by heart now. In a country where the taxes from alcohol (and cigarette) sales are perhaps the biggest revenue earners and help in running the states, it does not say anywhere that serving wine should be banned at State Banquets.

I had made one such suggestion through an open letter to the then President Pratibha Patil five years ago to allow serving Indian wines at the State Banquets, citing various reasons including the benefit to the Indian wine industry and thousands of farmers giving boost to the agro sector. I would even go to the extent of serving a zero alcohol wine. I had made this suggestion through various other channels too as a campaign.

My objective or hope was not to see it happen overnight but to make a start, even if it might sound crazy to some. I had said ‘ It may take 80 years to get a favourable executive action but there is an 80% chance that it might happen in 8 years if the readers send in their affirmation to Madam President or send their comments.’  

This was when Modi was not the Prime Minister. After attending several State Banquets including the one in France, it would have been amply obvious to him that one of the factors that would help India shed the orthodox image and don a mantle of a progressive country now, would be to allow wines-Indian wines, at such events. We would have a pick of Sula Brut, Grover Rose Brut, Fratelli, Chandon and York Brut at such Banquets as a substitute for Drappier.

I feel encouraged by the news a couple of days ago in ET  that Gujarat, the dry Home State of PM Modi, is expected to dilute its decades-long prohibition rule for the Gujarat International Finance and Tec-City (GIFT)  in its quest to make the enclave a worthy competitor to the big regional financial centres in Dubai and Singapore. Leaving alcohol out can become costly in this effort, as often business talks and deals happen around drinks, says the report.

Although the Article does not stress that fine wine is the drink of choice where mega finance deals are made, it does underline the vision of PM Modi who wants India to be a financial hub. Gujarat being in the center of Europe and Japan, Ahmadabad has been considered as the place to become one of the financial centers in the GIFT.

The Gujarat government, first under Narendra Modi when he was chief minister and now Anandiben Patel, has gone all out to make the state attractive for businessmen to visit and invest in. The e-permit system, implemented ahead of this year's Vibrant Gujarat Summit, authorised hotel managers to sell liquor based on verification of documents and issued permits over the Internet.

Prohibition has become a major hurdle in attracting investment in Gujarat. "We are losing out on tourism as well as bright human resources due to prohibition as consumption of alcohol is a way of life in the rest of the world, and the non-availability of it here does impact business in a negative way," says President of the Chamber of Commerce. These impediments will have to be taken care of for the success of a big business enclave such as the GIFT City, he adds.

P. M. Modi is a very practical and prudent Prime Minister and knows that serving Indian Wines will be a step forward for Make-in-India story too. It will help communicate the improving quality of Indian wines and will help in the exports. If we want to be the leaders in this sector during the next 20-30 years, this would be an important baby step forward.

I get a feeling that if things fall in place and he is assured of a 10-year visa to the Prime Minister’s Office, he would be inclined to consider and hopefully implement this idea. If we can liberalise alcohol in Mahatma Gandhi’s home state (it is my personal and humble view that if wine and beer had been available in 1950, they would have been kept out of the purview of Article 47 in the Constitution), there is no reason why State Banquets cannot serve Indian wines.

For the letter explaining my logic, please click HERE:

Subhash Arora

If you Like this article please click on the Like button   

Tags: Gujarat, Gujarat International Finance and Tec-City (GIFT), Narendra Modi, Francois Hollande, Anandiben Patel, Vibrant Gujarat Summit



Parag Kamat Says:

Dear Subhashji, I sincerely appreciate your thinking of keeping wines at State Banquets. You are absolutely right that it may take long years for the wines to enter but we should keep on trying. This will give an exposure to Indian wines in totally different perspective irrespective of which company wines are used. We are with you. With Regards, PARAG KAMAT l Chief Operating Officer CHAROSA WINERIES LIMITED

Posted @ July 09, 2015 14:30


Kapil Sekhri Says:

Dear Subhash Ji, I fully endorse your view point. Personally love the tag line wine is not alcohol- it has some. Like you rightly mention Modi government has a very pragmatic approach and am sure Chances to break this taboo are bright. I met him personally and found him very amiable to positive change. Just to update you and reason for my optimistic attitude is that in Hanover fair India Pavilion Fratelli wines were served . Feedback was so positive from all across that we were given certificate of appreciation for the same. Trying to do our little bit we didn't miss out on opportunity to sever Indian wines in Sweden at India investment promotion week, hosted by the ambassador. Even going to extend for flying one of our fratelli'ites with wines. If we are open to serve wines on state banquets outside India, what's stopping us to do the same in our own motherland. Another question we can gently put to the government. Regards . Kapil Sekhri | Director , Fratelli Wines Pvt. Ltd.

Posted @ July 08, 2015 14:56


Alastair Smith Says:

Totally agree with your blog & a great idea to promote Indian wine. Very interesting also about Gujarat & the positive impact in some ways of alcohol . Cheers . Alastair

Posted @ July 08, 2015 13:40


Ashwin Rodrigues Says:

I am in complete agreement with you Subhash and thank you for your efforts and laud your long term vision. For sure we need to be proud of what we make and showcase it at our state events. Just to digress into the larger issue, in India, somehow hypocrisy and double standards are permissible behaviour and in no area is this better exemplified than how our government and society treats alcohol. The directive principles encourages prohibition - the government pretty much funds itself from alcohol taxes. As a society we don't keep alcohol at home or serve it at our weddings. But we drink like fish at a bar, or in a car parked outside the wedding reception. These taboos need to be methodically broken. Moderate consumption should be socially and legally accepted. I'm also in agreement with your approach, being persistent and gentle pressure on the government. Wine and beer must come under food laws only. This way state government machinery can be better used to curb real alcohol-related ills, like people dying of drinking hooch for example. On my part, I'm trying my best to help revive the IGPB because we badly need a lobbying body.

Posted @ July 07, 2015 11:56


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