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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Friday, 25 June 2010 11:24

Blog: Unshackle Alcohol-Free Wines

If the government and the States take Article 47 of the Indian Constitution seriously, the alcohol free wines must be unshackled from the import duty of about 160% and the additional state excise duties which work out as high as import duty in Delhi or even higher in some states, while considering lowering duties on low alcohol wines. 

Part IV the Directive Principles of State Policy says that the State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health. Unfortunately, the government has not taken cognizance of the medicinal values of wine or else it might have been actively promoting it instead of loading it with insurmountable duties. At the same time, it has not discouraged the increasing production of high alcoholic spirits (although in all fairness, the unbridled beer production and consumption has been going up too).

If they were really serious about the Directive Principles, one of their acts would be to give fiscal incentives towards the lower alcoholic products like wine and beer. The customs duties could perhaps be graded and decreased for low or no-alcohol  wine and beer.

On one hand the alcohol level has been going up due to global warming and on the other side, some producers have been attempting to bring out low or no alcohol wines using technology (a couple of earlier articles of delWine listed at the end give details) . Miguel Torres introduced Natureo with 0.5% alcohol in 2008 and is already present in India. Another Spanish producer who took part in the ‘Taste 2009’ in Mumbai also claimed to have developed a zero percent alcohol-free wine. Unfortunately, one could not taste it as the wine was stuck up at the customs due to some problems.

Ironically, the duties on Natureo are exactly the same as for all other imported wines. A bottle of this Moscato based off dry wine retails for Rs.1250 in Delhi. About 75% of the MRP is due to custom duty, excise and VAT! One should not expect it to be as flavourful or exciting wine as a well made Moscato. But for people averse to alcohol due to religious reasons or social mores and pregnant women, it is a fair substitute.

If the government were really serious about the directives principles of the constitution,  the customs duties should be totally abolished on wine which has less than 0.5% alcohol (most processes make it impossible for the level to go down below 0.2%). There should also be a grading of customs duty-for example:

No alcohol (less than 1%)       0%
>1%-8%                                  50%
>8%-12.5%                             100%
.12.5%                                     150%

Excise duties must also be adjusted downwards accordingly. There are plenty of off-dry wines like Moscato and Mosel Rieslings which would fall in the under 8% alcohol wines which go very well with spicy Indian food too

In any case, government needs to consider wine as a food product ought to have duties like those on the imported foods, adjusting for the presence of alcohol and should have an outer limit on customs duty of 100% only.

Unshackling the no-alcohol wines will increase their consumption and might even encourage the domestic producers to get the technology of reverse osmosis for removing alcohol completely or partially. I am personally not a supporter of this ‘California style’ alcohol reduction this way-but then I am not enamoured by Article 47 either –not so far as the wine is concerned!). At the very least, it would be a step in the right direction.

Following are a couple of articles that ought to attract attention of the government, importers, hotels and consumers alike

I have taken the example of this wine only as an example. Incidentally, I had a bottle of Natureo picked out from a retail shop in Yashwant Place, tasted at a dinner organised by the Delhi Wine Club, mostly by the women members. About 25% did not like it at all while most others said it was fresh and drinkable.

Subhash Arora



spsingh Says:

wants to know more

Posted @ October 20, 2010 15:54


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