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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Monday, September 14 2009 10:53

Feature : India Must Join OIV for Vine and Wine

With an increasing interest in table grape-growing and wine making, it is imperative that India should now join the Paris based OIV , a UN-modelled international agency  formed to help the member nations improve the grapes and wine production, writes Subhash Arora who had an exclusive interview recently in Germany with the Director General, Mr. Frederico Castellucci

The OIV, Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin, headed by the President (currently Yves Bénard, an ex-Moet Hennessey person) consists of 43 country members including small countries like Luxemburg and Montenegro, Yantai province of China and 10 NGOs. Many of these countries produce not only wine grapes but also table grapes and raisins. Some member countries produce only negligible quantities such as Belgium, Sweden, Finland and Norway but they reinforce the consumer perspective of OIV. EU is currently seeking a special status.

Federico Castellucci, who is the elected and executive head of the UN-modeled agency based in Paris, is an Italian-perhaps the first non-French DG since the organisation was formed in 1924 in its original format. I interviewed him on the sidelines of MundusVini international wine competition which is one of the activities held under the aegis of OIV and where he had come to monitor and as a fellow judge.

The OIV focuses on various grape and wine related issues specifically through four different working groups known as Commissions. The first one is the Viticulture Commission that deals with wine and table grape production including the new environmental friendly cultivation techniques. Specific Guidelines for a sustainable vitiviniculture were published in 2008 with great success.

The second commission is the Oenology Commission, which concentrates on wine production including technological and microbiological themes, as well as overseeing the work of a sub-commission covering the areas of methods of analysis.

The third commission- the Economy and Law Commission, covers issues dealing with legal and regulatory restrictions as also economic and market analysis. This commission also looks after vitivinicultural spirits (brandy etc.) and their specific concerns.

A forth specific commission has been now created to deal with the problems of safety and health of all the people involved in the entire production chain from vineyard to the consumer. This Commission also deals with issues related with wine consumption; the OIV takes a strong stand against abuse of alcohol including wine.

‘During recent years, we have also been intensifying our activity with respect to table grapes, raisins and unfermented vine products like grape juice,’ says Castellucci, adding, ‘Many member countries, such as Turkey, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia are really interested in the development of know-how in that field, and I believe that India, having an important production of table grapes and raisins could play an important role in it.’

‘Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) which already cooperates with OIV in the field of Statistics of the world vitivinicultural sector, has expressed interest in our work in this area, particularly with the issues involving their nutritional value. We also collaborate with the Codex Alimentarius Commission on table grape, raisin and juice and must issues.’

‘I believe that OIV can help in the formulation of India’s wine laws and enological practices especially keeping consumer’s health in mind. For the wine production issue, the OIV has developed and maintains a number of normative standards on wine production including the Code of International Oenological Practices and the International Oenological Codex. These standards regulate the possible methods of production and analysis of wine as well as vitivinicultural spirits. All such information is made available to our members free of charge on our website,’ informs Castellucci.

How else can India benefit from being a member? ‘We have a lot of information and solutions to various issues. They may not be tailor made but on request you can get useful information you can build up on,’ says he. ‘It is like getting partially cooked food which you can convert to the finished product cheaper and in less time.’

 But why should OIV be keen to have India as a member? ‘We realise that OIV cannot remain Europe-centric. Countries like China and India have a lot of potential and will be worthwhile members to have. China is already an observer and has requested to be made a full member. In fact, it has already offered to host our annual General Assembly in 2011 and by all counts would be a member by that time. It would be a great step forward to have India as one of our members. I am confident that, as a long term table grape and raisin producer country and as a growing producer and consumer of quality wines, India would also provide valuable inputs to OIV,’ says Federico.

Castellucci also admitted his personal fascination and attachment for India. ‘My wife’s Turin-born Italian great- grandfather Federico Peliti went to India in 1868 and lived there for many years. He ran a confectionary and a restaurant in Calcutta and also worked and owned a hotel in Shimla that exists even today. We would love to explore India where he lived and cherished his years.’

Incidentally, he is also an avid reader of delWine. Complimenting the work being done, he said, ‘I make it a point to read delWine regularly, especially the news regarding wine in India and Italy. It amazes me to read the information you give on Italy and are able to give news quoting our ministers even before our own print media carries the news, at times.’

Federico was in India in February 2006 and held preliminary discussions with Mr. A. N. Sinha, the then Additional Secretary in the FPI industry. There was no response from him at that time possibly because he was close to retirement and the issue did not have much priority.

With the increasing interest in grape growing, juice and wine production it only makes sense for India to be a part of the international organisation which works only through governmental bodies. According to the procedure explained to me by Federico, a country willing to become a member can choose to be an observer by paying around €14,000 annually. This status entitles it to all the privileges except voting rights. Once the existing members agree by consensus to admit a country, the charges payable are based on the annual production and in case of India, they should be close to this minimum amount.

The benefits to the grape, raisin and wine industry far outweigh the nominal annual costs and obligations and India must join the internationally acclaimed body. Castellucci was re-elected to the post last year for another 5 years and holds office till 2013. He is willing to visit India again and meet the government officials to explain the benefits of becoming a member or an observer initially and quite keen to push India’s case. India should take advantage of his being the executive head for at least four years.

Perhaps, the newly formed Indian Grape Board or the Ministry of Food Processing Industry or even the Ministry of Agriculture should take the initiative. 

But India must consider joining OIV for the benefit of the grape, raisins and wine industry.

Subhash Arora

Comment 700 :


We wrote several Articles on why India should join OIV, since I personally believed after thoroughly studying the subject. This Article formed the basis of all that happened later. When the government decided to join OIV I remarked to a senior officer, 'I hope the government recognises the role I played as a catalyst without any consideration and truly for passion as I believe we must join OIV', the officer remarked, 'are you joking? Your articles form the basis of the file that has been built up and the information you supplied was the basis for our deciding to join them.' I haven't heard anything more gratifying from the government. Such things keep us going in the direction we are going. Subhash Arora



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