Dec 29: Nasik has long been touted as the Wine Capital of India but unknown to many, its wines were already accorded the prestigious Nasik Valley Wines (NVW) the Geographical Indication (GI) Status in 2008, but the recent ‘One District, One Product’ campaign under the PM’s Atma Nirbhar Bharat Scheme is expected to boost wine marketing from Nashik, writes Subhash Arora who feels that not much has been done to promote wines but the government seems to have woken up now and might actively help them boost their sales
‘Nashik’s ambitions of claiming the wine capital of India status received an impetus after the Centre accorded it the coveted Geographical Indication tag. The city has been branded Nashik Valley Wine to give wine production a push,’ said a recent Article in the New Indian Express.
What surprised me was the contagious exuberance shown by Jagdish Holkar. President of AIWPA. ‘Welcoming the move, the All India Wine Producers Association (AIWPA) president, said that the decision to brand the city as Nashik Valley Wine on the lines of Napa Valley in the US, means a lot to the wineries. The Centre, in its letter to AIWPA, has said that with the aim of promoting ‘one-district, one-product’ ideal, Nashik would be branded as Nashik Valley Wine under the PM’s Atmanirbhar Bharat scheme,’ the Article goes on to elaborate.
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GI status before 2010
Wine professionals like me have long known that Nashik Valley Wines (NVW) had already received the GI status before 2010. No one ever talked about it; everyone harped on Nashik (Nasik) being the Wine Capital of India since the current leading producer Sula Vineyards had established its winery here in 1996 with the first harvest in 1999 and the wines launched in 2000.
Several wineries like York, Somanda, Vallonne, Zampa (Now Grover Zampa), Reveilo, Vinsura, Flamingo etc. were born around Sula within Nashik District. Since the city was already known to produce eating grapes since the 1950’s, it was logical to tout Nashik as the wine capital and no one took an umbrage -in India or overseas.
However, that’s not how it has always been. Chateau Indage had been the industry leader in the 1990’s. The winery being in Narayangaon, in Pune District, late Sham Chougule was keen to promote Pune as the wine capital, says Pradeep Pachpatil, President of Nashik Valley Wine Producers Association (NVWPA). ‘Chougule even floated the AIWPA as its Chairman to give it a national character and possibly promote Pune as the center. But not many wineries came up in that area, and Nashik was accepted as the epicentre of wine production in Maharashtra.’
Unknown to many, it was the NVWPA that applied for the GI Status from the Government of India Body formed in 1999 in conjunction with the European Union and received the status as a GI in 2008. The Certificate was issued on 4 August 2010 with validity from 22 April 2008. NVWPA had applied for the recognition with the support of NHB-National Horticulture Board). But seemingly, no one followed up on the certification of global importance all these years.
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GI (Geographic Indication) is a sign used generally for agro-products with a specified geographical origin and possessing qualities, character or reputation due to that specific origin. Since the qualities depend on the geographical place of production, there is a clear link between the product and its original place of production. Thus, ‘Darjeeling Tea’ –the first GI offered to an Indian product in 2004-5 refers to the tea produced only in Darjeeling under predefined conditions. Oranges of Nagpur is another example. In wine, we had NVW where at least 80% of the grapes must be from Nashik District.
Some of the international protected GIs in wine are Champagne, Prosecco, Porto, Sherry, and Burgundy. These are usually protected with big ammo from their local associations that operate under the tutelage of their governments. For instance, many producers in India tried to use the word Champagne (or similar names like Zampagne) like Champagne India, but were legally challenged successfully. Producers in countries like the US, Australia, Italy and South Africa were obliged not to classify their sparkling wines as Champagne.
The impression given by the said Article and Holkar was that the GI has been recently awarded and he felt that ‘the decision to brand the city as Nasik Valley Wine on the lines of Napa Valley in the US, means a lot to the wineries’. This would have been fine 10 years ago. In fact, Pachpatil confirms that they used ‘Nasik Valley Wine Region’ on the labels of wines exported by Somanda Winery. ‘In fact, we even used the GI Tag 123 on the label and Class 33 for alcoholic beverages- every application has a number which becomes a permanent tag number’, he explains.
Wine producing areas in Karnataka
Producers in Karnataka were pleased when wine regions were classified by the local government. Karnataka Wine Board (KWB) formed in 2007-08 took a lead in wine promotion by its constituent producers. Abhay Kewadkar had been a winemaker with Grover Vineyards in Bangalore for many years before joining Four Seasons. He says that Grover was located in Nandi Hills and that KWB had also created the nomenclature of Krishna Valley and Hampi Hills but those were only promotional tools for communications and marketing and had nothing to do with the GI.
He agrees it was unlikely that one could use NVW on a wine label without approval from an appropriate governmental authority as in Europe. Pachpatil claims to have taken the permission. In fact, his winery Somanda also took part in an exhibition sponsored by the EU in 2015-16 in Thailand where GI products were displayed. Unfortunately, there was no follow-up by any professional body from the EU or elsewhere and the information in India remained scanty.
Yatin Patil, President of the AIWPA till recently and a partner of Reveilo Wines, is one of the early wine producers in Nashik District, well before most others entered the wine business. Unaware of the correct procedure to harness the promotional aspect of the NWV, he chanced across a webinar being organised by the GI Registration authority in Chennai only about 3 weeks ago, where he learnt the procedure to get certification as he meets the conditions as he uses only grapes from his family farm near Niphad. He agrees with Holkar that the usage would be a help in export promotion.
One District, One Product
Holkar’s excitement stems from the new found enthusiasm in the government to promote Nashik Valley Wines under ‘one district, one product’ programme. ‘We as AIWPA have to work with the government under the Atmanirbhar Bharat programme and use it to the advantage of farmers and winemakers. We will write to the government to find out how they can help us. A group called Nashik Valley Wine Cluster has apparently been registered already to take initiative to establish Rules and Regulations in the interest of the Appellation of Origin Control. With the latest policy now announced, we hope things will move ahead and the government will help our industry. We need to sincerely look into the details,’ says Holkar.
‘We have received a letter from the government about the various wineries in the Nashik District –there are 35 of them with an estimated surface area of 8000 acres. They are seeking information about their production capacities etc., says Sanjeev Paithankar, Vice President of Sula and Secretary of AIWPA.
The present government is known to announce schemes in grand style and then move on. But a senior official of the government says that they are working on a special scheme to boost wine sector in Nashik. This is a part of the Union government’s strategy to promote each district into a global manufacturing hub and a leading exporter,’ he says.
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Neeraj Agarwal, former Vice President of Sula Vineyards and now the COO of Resvera Wines in Nashik, says that Maharashtra government supported the wine industry for years by simplifying procedures and waiver of excise duty for sales in Maharashtra. However, they have not actively supported our marketing efforts. ‘Wine is a product which has diverse flavours from different wineries and needs to be tasted regularly by the potential customers.’ I hope the government will allow soft marketing under the new scheme and separate it from liquor,’ he says.
Neeraj is also hopeful that fruit wines will be given equal importance as they can be produced in every State in India and are not limited to only a couple of States like grape wine. Of course, this might not be a part of the current initiative but merits attention across Maharashtra and in fact, throughout India.
Promoting Nashik Valley Wines is a welcome step from the government and Jagdish Holkar has his work cut-out as the President of AIWPA.