April 04: A beautiful 468 page eBbook with contributions from over 100 wine experts from 28 countries, titled New Normal in the Wine Business or How To Survive Covid From An Economic Perspective While Holding Onto Your Dignity And How Can This Corona Crisis Be Turned Into An Opportunity, has been published recently, spearheaded by Dr. Lubos Barta, a fellow international wine judge and a well-known wine authority in the Czeck Republic. One of the Chapters has an interview with Subhash Arora who represents India and talks about the Indian wine industry-the challenges and future.
• India is a big market, unfortunately with only a shallow wine tradition. Your institute is doing a lot in education. Let the world know more!
Indian Wine Academy and I have been trying to educate people through our eNewsletter delWine where we give India-centric current news and information about wines (873 editions so far!). We help various wine clubs across India to propagate wines; I organise several wine dinners and masterclasses (I organised 300 events for Delhi Wine Club alone, which I founded in 2002). We do not limit ourselves to wines from a particular country though we founded Indian Wine Day in 2017 on November 16 to popularise Indian wines. We have also been promoting and celebrating women in the industry and have instituted a Recognition as Top Ten Women of Wine in India Award since 2013.
We mentor people and guide them to wine courses/harvests/tastings in India and overseas. We organise multiple wine appreciation evenings with diverse groups including ladies to educate them about wine in an informal atmosphere. We even offer consultancy to overseas producers about doing business in India and sometimes help them in sourcing importers/distributors.
• Which styles are welcomed, how will the Indian wine/alcohol market evolve to meet consumer needs in 2021 - 2024?
Indians generally prefer younger and fruitier wines. Novices prefer slightly sweeter styles-particularly as such wines pair better with the spicy Indian food. We need to entice the huge population of liquor drinkers (consuming over 600 million cases of liquor and beer) to at least add wine in their portfolio with food.
Surprisingly, despite our generally warm weather, people still prefer red wines because of their health benefits. I believe sparkling and rose wines will sell better though sweet dessert wines have still not fancied and will not be. Same with fortified wines though there has been a good demand for the cheap Goan Port.
• What is needed to do, if some not big but good winery from Europe, traditional countries on feet of Kaukasus (Georgia, Armenia) or South America will try to sell wine on the Indian market?
They have to compete with the biggest imported brand Jacob's Creek from Pernod Ricard. Unfortunately, People are not aware generally about the quality and historical background and the significance of wines from Georgia, Armenia and Moldova. Concerted efforts are needed to disseminate such information and with limited financial resources, perhaps they need to pool in and organise marketing campaigns in important cities.
• Being a family winery owner, would you try to conquer the Indian market?
Sula Vineyards is the leading importer in India, followed by Grover Vineyards which used to be a family winery but used a lot of P/E funds. Fratelli is primarily a family-owned winery with 3 families owning it. They are quite aggressive and hope to conquer the Indian market. But the road is extremely tough.
• Every 2nd bottle of whisky will be this year sold in India. Can you compare this statistical fact with wine consumption?
Indians have been drinking alcohol for centuries. In fact, we are known to have imbibed wine (in some fermented juice form) for over 5000 years. It is virtually unknown that we used to also make wine till the 1880’s when phylloxera hit and destroyed our vineyards and the British rulers at that time did not encourage the refueling of the industry and it practically died with resurgence starting in small numbers in the 1960’s with the production of wine as we know it broadly, starting in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. The first quantum jump was taken in 2001 when the State of Maharashtra where table grapes have been grown and exported for decades- India is the 8th largest producer of grapes in the world. Import of wines was freely allowed in 2002, thus opening the channel for foreign wines.
With a current consumption of about 4.5 million cases, it is still insignificant though the growth has been around 15% every year. But it is still at less than 2% of the total liquor consumption.
• Will the focus of the wine trade move to virtual e-shops? Will there be new types of businesses that will offer wine differently than in the past?
Unfortunately, the government in every State has been vehemently opposing online sales and even discounting in many States. Advertisement of alcoholic products is not allowed anyway. But it is a fact that the industry survived in most countries due to eCommerce and online sales and home delivery which is also still frowned upon.
The industry would love to move to virtual e-shops and one hopes after pandemic, it would take a more pragmatic view and allow such sales under the government lens. The wineries should be allowed direct selling to say their wine club members to ease the availability It is crucial to allow sales.
Wine Clubs are not allowed to sell wine. There is a faint possibility that they might be allowed to sell-this will help them educate and sell at the same time- for example the Wine Society in UK is doing an excellent job. But this is unthinkable in India.
Supermarkets sell wines but not in all States- Delhi does not allow it. Not only because they are generally air-conditioned, but also they ease the availability.
Wine-in-the Cans is the latest packaging concept started barely 2 years ago- 3 wineries are already using it. Cascading effect will soon start as the market picks up.
India also produces and even exports its wines!
The majority of wine production, however, is concentrated in two States- around 85% in Maharashtra in the West and Karnataka in the South, with a small portion in Andhra Pradesh with a total surface area of around 10,000 acres. Exports are still less than 5% with Sula, the largest producer clocking about 5% of its production exported to about 30 countries including the US, UK, France and Japan..
Subhash is a pioneer of the wine culture in the endless Indian subcontinent. He founded and runs in New Delhi the Indian Wine Academy, where he teaches knowledge important to consumers and wine connoisseurs. He publishes the online magazine Delwine, which is a quality source of information for Indian wine lovers and for the entire world about Indian wines. He contributes to international wine magazines. Subhash is a popular international wine judge- Dr. Lubos Barta
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