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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Thursday, November 12 2009. 14:40

Blog: Allow 6 bottles of DF Wines on Arrival-Part II

My blog last week created a lot of controversy with a lot of good advice forthcoming but most people did not see my basic point that the government must separate wine from hard liquor while following its policy on alcohol, without suggesting any liberalisation in this area.

Some of my well-wishers thought I was being critical of the customs department with a few inferring that my name would find mention in the computer and every time I come back from abroad, I would be specially marked for customs inspection.

I ought to clarify that there was nothing against the customs department in my blog. In fact, government went liberal in the import of duty free alcohol from the decades-old policy of one bottle of 750 mL to 1 liter and later to 2 litres. This is quite liberal according to global norms. Besides, the customs officials have become extremely polite and friendly during the last several years. And, we would like to salute and thank the government and the department for bringing out this radical change.

As an example of this radical change, last year an Italian producer had brought wines in his bag which did not catch the same flight. He truthfully mentioned in the documents that there were 5 bottles of wine in it. Naturally, when the bag arrived, the officials evaluated the wine and imposed duty on it. Being unfamiliar with the ways of India, he was furious. His contention rightly was that he had come all the way with the sole purpose of sampling his wines-which incidentally were low ended wines for retail. Since he did not speak a word of English, I offered to go with him to the airport. I explained the situation to the officials who were most cordial and understanding. Despite the paperwork showing 5 bottle of wine (alcohol), the duty was waived and we had a happy Italian in our midst.

For reasons not quite comprehensible, the limit on alcohol applies in countries even where the duty otherwise is quite low. Being an anti alcoholism and anti misuse of alcohol, I am not opposed to this policy. My suggestion is that wine (and beer too) is a low alcohol product. It is healthy when consumed in moderation. It does not get you drunk and misbehaving when taken slowly with food.

Wine must be delinked from other alcohols. A few years ago, I coined the term, ‘wine is not alcohol-it has some’; fully appreciating the fact that alcohol beyond a certain level can be harmful to your body. With the wine bottles being normally 750 mL size, 3 bottles should be automatically within the current allowed range. But due to much lower alcohol content (avg 13% compared to 40%+ in liquor), it makes common sense to allow appx. 8 bottles- or 6 liters of wine.

This will be admission by the government that they have finally understood the importance of differentiating wine from hard liquor. In a free democracy which we cherish so much, it is our prerogative to say or write what we feel is right and it is or the government to take the appropriate action or keep the eyes shut.

I was at the World Wine Symposium (WWS) – a Davos of Wine held in Cernobbio, a beautiful town of Italy on Lake Como, a couple of weeks ago. About 160 participants including several heavy weights of the wine industry including Angelo Gaja, Egon Mueller and Pablo Alvares, the godfathers of the conference were present to debate the problems faced by wine industry. Angelo Gaja was categorical and passionate when he said in his speech that the countries and politicians were today in the hands of spirit and liquor manufacturers.  A couple of other speakers also hinted that European countries like Italy and France were in the shackles. This implies that a lot of hard work needs to be done here too and my previous blog was a step in that direction.

I would still hope that 6 bottles of wines will be considered to be allowed in the near future. And, it does not have to be only for foreign wines. If the Indian producers can export their wines at $5-6 a bottle, there is no reason why they cannot be made available at the airport arrivals as well and compete with the more expensive foreign wines.

Subhash Arora



Tony Devitt Says:

Hi Subhash, Great to see you in Hong Kong last week. No doubt like me you would have to be impressed with the positive effect the no tax on wine regime has on wine imports into Hong Kong. It is the wine centre of the region and has brought profile and foreign exchange to the City. High tariffs/taxes isolate industries and India is going to rue the day it imposed such high taxes on imports, your wine industry will be isolated, the industry will not learn from the rest of the wine World and your community will be starved of a great range of the Worlds best wines. The lack of competition breeds laziness. I would be quite happy for Customs to allow travellers to bring in 3 x 750ml bottles each. Regards Tony.

Posted @ November 14, 2009 09:52


Jignesh Says:

I agree with your views. in fact even the government understands this. in gujarat, which is a dry state, those who have permits are allowed 2 or 4 units of liquor per month. and 1 unit officially translates to 1 750 ml bottle of hard liquor, 3 bottles or wine or 10 bottles of beer. so based on the same logic, the customs rules should also be updated. cheers,

Posted @ November 13, 2009 19:07





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