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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Saturday, September 19 2009. 11:55

Blog: Wake up Madhya Pradesh

An article in a national daily a few days ago caught my eyes and made me sad yet amused. It appears that the first ever attempt to start a  winery in Madhya Pradesh is facing failure because of government’s apathy and hostility as the producers claim.

Apparently, eighteen grape growers of Titri village of Ratlam district, 300 kms from Bhopal, in Madhya Pradesh had decided to venture into wine making on the cooperative model three years ago. But now the wine sale has been brought under government control and they are unable to liquidate their wine stocks.

In 2006, the state government had assured them of extending full cooperation and launched a ‘Grape Processing Industry Policy’ to put wine out of the ambit of the Excise Act and award it the food processing status so that the vintners could retail their products.

But later, when the farmers established their company- Patel Wine & Fruit Processing Industry Pvt Ltd, the government officials reportedly turned hostile and took control of sale of the wine branded as ‘Ambi’.

I feel sorry and sympathetic towards the farmers who ventured into a project that seemed alien to them and yet laud them for a bold step, that might give them the pioneer status in the state one day. There seem to be several gaps and loopholes in the report, the most obvious one being an omission that the group is perhaps not wine- business savvy, howsoever surprising as Gujaratis are known to be sharp businessmen. Their statement , ‘We have brewed 27,000 litres from home-grown Shiraj and Cabernet Blonc varieties of grapes’ would not instil confidence in any wine drinker with a basic knowledge.

It is also not clear how the government has formulated the state policy. The state government cannot turn hostile and change its policy mid-course. There are legal remedies which need to be sought but guessing from the reportage, the wine appears to have already turned to vinegar.

The Indian states indeed have unlimited power in curbing the production of alcohol according to the Constitution. Wine still falls in that category in India and not as a food product in which it should logically be. Obviously, the issuance of license to produce wine is a prerogative of the government but it is logical to assume that the co-operative would have been granted the license before starting the production. According to the law, the government is well within its power to allow the sale only through the government controlled excise depots.

What the government cannot do legally is just ban the sale mid-course during the year. It makes a lot of sense on the other hand for the government to allow the sale outside Madhya Pradesh. But why it should be paranoid about wine sale within the state is incomprehensible. Drinking wine or alcohol is a social taboo, says the report. If a community or the society at large in a city or that state does not approve of the alcohol consumption, they are within their right to oppose the sale or consumption. It would be illogical to enforce prohibition,  like currently in Gujarat, just because a majority does not want it; prohibition has never been successful anywhere in the world.

Going by the example of Maharashtra in any way would be erroneous as the state has been pro-active and well tuned to the grape and wine production over several years. Rightly or wrongly, the policy of charging higher excise duty in Maharashtra applies to all the out-of-state wineries.

It appears the Madhya Pradesh needs to get its act together and encourage wine production as it will provide a lot of jobs and revenues to the state government if and when the industry is developed. The promotion may still have to be done by the producers directly as the excise shops don’t have any incentive to do so

But it is equally intriguing how they have gone about the process of wine making. Did they conduct any soil analyses? Do they have any people who understand the process of wine making, or proper storage in the tanks or the bottle? Do they understand the importance of perfect hygiene within the winery is very important? It is not like making wine at home. Just as many farmers in Maharashtra have made the blunder, do these entrepreneurs have marketing expertise and realise that wine making is not simply crushing grapes and precautions need to be taken at every step even if the grapes are of very good quality-which would be questionable when the whole process of grape growing seems to have been initiated barely 3 years ago.

Not every country, or a state or village in India may be the right area to grow grapes of good quality. Maharashtra is the biggest wine producing state but still might not be the best yet-at least across the board for all varietals. But adequate expertise may be available to MP from Maharashtra or through other consultants-nationally or internationally. However, they must understand that wine making is a long term business- full of frustrations and has pitfalls even when moving in the right direction.

There are other states in India which will also come up in future as wine making states but without sensible state government policies the process would be delayed. Grover Vineyard has been making wine for 20 years now in Bangalore but only this year Karnataka came up with the proper wine policy. Yet companies like UB and Big Banyan which have Bangalore as the home base are still sceptical of setting up wineries in the state and are evaluating before taking any decision.

It is in the interest of both, the Madhya Pradesh government and the farmers & wine producing entrepreneurs to wake up, take stock of the situation including the state excise and license policy and only then take the next step. Damage to wines has perhaps already been done but much more heartburns  maybe in store without proper valuation and studies which include the marketing-often on overlooked factor, which seems to have also caught the MP growers unaware.



Amit Nigam Says:

I belives that time has came to explore the mp market and ambi wine will make its way with new concept shortly.

Posted @ December 03, 2014 16:14


Dr. R.K. Sharma Says:

I have tasted the Ambi Wines made in Madhya Pradesh. It is really very good. Govt. Should help those farmers.

Posted @ November 18, 2009 11:58


hari Om Bhatia Says:

there will good scope of Wine in Indian market in future,Now peoples are aware for their health, and they don't want to miss good taste of wine

Posted @ October 09, 2009 18:44


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