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British Columbia Wineries Eye Indian market

Posted: Saturday 13 July 2013 13:55

British Columbia Wineries Eye Indian market

July 13: British Columbia, one of the Canadian provinces, has declared its intentions to enter the Indian market with wine, seafood and specialty foods, with the support and encouragement of the provincial government, writes Subhash Arora who conducted a seminar recently through video conferencing from New Delhi with the BC producers in Vancouver who had congregated for the India Breakfast Seminar

If you ask any Indian with a fair General Knowledge what B.C signifies, the majority would answer 'Before Christ' (in school we were taught that A.D. meant 'Anno Domini'. I wonder if we would get full marks for writing in a GK test that B.C. stood for... British Columbia.

There has been a sea change in that knowledge this year, thanks to the maiden TOIFA (Times of India Film Awards) held in April, 2013 in Vancouver which was reportedly sponsored by the provincial government to the tune of $10 million. A significant population of the province is of Indian origin and the Bollywood stars sent the people of Vancouver and British Columba into a state of ecstasy, while at home in India BC became prominently known as British Columbia.

Wine producers of British Columbia would remember the past June 27 for two reasons: One, because it was exactly a year ago this day that the parliament had passed a bill aimed at liberalizing the inter-province wine trade in Canada that would help the local industry. An MP had sponsored the bill after learning that the prohibition-era legislation was still on the books in 2012, making it illegal for private buyers to carry even a single bottle of Canadian wine over a provincial boundary. (This would be the equivalent of Andhra Pradesh not allowing a bottle of wine to be carried privately across the Karnataka border. It is illegal to carry more than 2 bottles from Haryana into Delhi).

Second, because just a day earlier a few export-oriented wine producers assembled in Vancouver in the morning despite heavy floods, for a Breakfast seminar entitled India Wine Breakfast Seminar with Cav. Subhash Arora, President of the Indian Wine Academy and editor of delWine, India’s first wine and food eNewsletter. The Seminar was organised through video-conference set up by the MIT of British Columbia with Arora being the guest speaker.

Arora gave an overview about the Indian wine market, its opportunities but also its threats and difficulties for international wine producers. He enumerated on the current market scenario including the local regulations and tax regime in various states. For British Columbian wine exporters there are significant opportunities in its high quality wines including ice wines but it is a long term market not for the faint hearted, he stressed. He also briefed them on the possible impact on Canadian exports because of the imminent treaty with EU.

In total there were 12 wine producers and exporters that participated in the seminar. Out of these, Kalala Organic Estate Winery, Summerhill Pyramid Winery and Pyramid Wine Exports are already selling their wines in India.

‘Following up to your address at the BC India Wine Breakfast Seminar, the session, your thoughts and your presentation has been genuinely appreciated by the BC Wineries, and we would be keen to stay in touch with you,’ commented Kevin Loyens, Head of the F&B function with the British Columbia Trade Commission in Vancouver and the single most key relationship lead to all the British Columbia Wineries.

Jim Stewart, President & CEO of Paradise Ranch Wines exporting ice wine to 20 countries, was one of the 12 companies that attended the seminar. He says, ‘ Mr. Arora's broad base of knowledge of wines was impressive, I must say that I would expect as much from someone of his qualifications and experience as India's most renowned sommelier. However, his grasp of the complex regulatory and compliance structures governing importation and distribution of foreign wines in the India marketplace was unexpected and extremely helpful. I found the Q&A period, when I was able to ask questions specific to Paradise Ranch Wines most enlightening.’

British Columbia is one of the ten provinces of Canada (equivalent of States in our Federal structure, fairly similar to the US) that forms the Federal nation along with three territories. Victoria (and not Vancouver, the biggest city) is the capital of British Columbia which is the third most populous state with 13% population, though it is second in terms of surface area. BC has nothing to do with the birth of Christ-it was christened as such by Queen Victoria in 1858 and named after River Columbia which starts from the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia and going down into Washington and Oregon States in the US, ends up in the Pacific.

According to Lindsay Kelm of the British Columbia Wine Institute, British Columbia has 217 licensed grape wineries spread over five designated viticultural areas-Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island & Gulf Islands. Over 80 grape varietals are being produced including pinot gris, chardonnay, gewürztraminer, riesling and sauvignon blanc in white and merlot, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, syrah and cabernet franc in the red category, being the top varietals.

British Columbia claims a unique combination of environmental factors - water, weather, topography and geology. BC vineyards benefit from longer daylight hours and greater intensity of light than other regions, playing a critical role in producing ripe fruit in a shorter growing season.

The only wine regions of BC where the winters are cold enough to provide the necessary conditions for ice-wine are the Okanagan Valley and Similkameen Valley. The growing conditions and production standards that produce ice-wine are rigorously protected by the BC VQA standard.

The BC government is actively supporting its wineries in making inroads in the Indian market and introducing wine producers to qualified and interested wine importers. An F&B trade mission which will include wine producers plans to visit the Annapoorna World of Food Trade Show in September, when they will also host a BC tasting event and dinner for a select group.

It would be a great opportunity for wine enthusiasts and professionals to meet the producers many of whom are originally from Punjab, and taste their wines. Some might even be tempted to import them.

Subhash Arora

Tags: British Columbia, India Breakfast Seminar, TOIFA, Vancouver, Victoria, British Columbia Wine Instituteice-wine, Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley


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