Gimme Red: Wine Consumption On A Rise In India


By Ritwika Gupta

We are all mortal until the first kiss and the second glass of wine, said novelist Eduardo Hughes Galeano. Touted as one of the healthiest beverages, the vino, made from fermented grapes, is generally loved by a large portion of people around the world. Indulging in light banter over wine and cheese can be a delicious endeavor. Wine consumption in India has been on a rise over the last few years, with peoples’ preference skewing towards the red wine.

“Overall, the wine market in India is on the rise and wine consumption in India is witnessing about 14.5 per cent growth annually. Today, the steep increase in wine drinking habits is due to the many choices of brands and wines available in the market for consumers,” says Myra Vineyards founder and managing director Ajay Shetty.

The Indian wine industry has seen a phenomenal increase, not only in consumption pattern, but also in the number of newer international and domestic wineries and brands that have evolved over the last five to seven years. With disposable income on the rise, Indians have been traveling more than before. This has also led to adopting global cultures and lifestyles; appreciating good wine and its consumption is one of them.

Shetty believes that Indian wines are becoming popular in the overseas markets as well as making an appearance in the global food culture.

“Current developments in the Indian wine industry also gives us a great opportunity to bring the best quality wines to the table and to work around our offerings and products according to the customers’ expectations, especially the young wine consumers,” Shetty says.

A Pune based wine enthusiast B Shankaranarayan, who organizes wine festivals and writes restaurant reviews for BBC Good Food India Magazine, shares, “Indian wines have started winning awards in global wine competitions. That's a good start in terms of quality. India does make large volumes due to the high cost of production.”

With the emergence of boutique wineries, the wine market has matured, and in Maharashtra specifically, annual sales have gone up by 30 per cent.

Shankaranarayan, who conceptualised the first wine tasting festival in Pune in 2007, reveals that the lack of a level playing field for wineries inspired him to launch these festivals in India that have now set a benchmark for wine events in the country.

According to Vallonne Vineyards, CEO, Shailendra Pai, there's a lot more interest in Indian wines because excellent wine is being produced, some of which are on par with quality wines in the global market. There is a great amount of interest in Indian wines internationally and during the Decanter Asia Wine Awards, our wines have won top medalsi.

"The Indian wine industry has grown substantially over the past 5-7 years. People are more aware of wines today and all this is great news for a boutique vineyard such as Vallonne where we have always made very superior quality wines and offered something new to the customer," he shares.

Pai elaborates that he has seen an increasing number of expats, international winemakers, writers and guests coming to taste wines at Vallonne, a boutique winery with an emphasis on French grape varietals.

"Nashik is slowly being recognised as a wine destination.  Even holiday makers from various parts of the world make a trip to nashik for a winery trail," he states.  

Harbouring a differing opinion, Grover Zampa Vineyards chairman Kapil Grover believes that India has a long way to go to make a footprint in the global wine industry.

“The wine market in India is growing at a small pace of 20-25 per cent. We will certainly see more wine being consumed but we still have not reached a good number. Also, 65 per cent of people prefer red wine, while 35 per cent like white wine. Red wine is more popular mainly due to a list of added health advantages,” Grover says.

Grover Vineyards was set up by Kanwal Grover in 1992 and is now being managed by his son, Kapil. The vineyards have expanded from 100 acres to 400 acres under his able leadership.

“What’s been grilled into our heads is the importance of the raw materials, that is: grapes. We spare a lot of care on the vineyards, carefully capturing the essence of grapes through internationally accepted techniques and practices reliably brought to India for making the finest range of wines. We keep the quality high by limiting yields to bring out the complex aromas and delicate flavors from the grapes,” Grover says.

Shedding light on the new flavours for 2015, Shetty mentions that Myra Vineyards is introducing a couple of varietals in 2015. “Last year, we launched Reserve at the super-premium segment and Two-Headed Bird (THB), at the entry level segment. These two portfolios have received a tremendous response from the consumers and have been doing very well in the market and we aim to build on that and introduce more varietals this year.”

Pai specifies that Vallonne will be launching an unique blend of Shiraz and Merlot this year called viognier. Along with it, a special super premium wine called Anokhee that has been barrel aged for 15 months and then aged in a bottle for 42 months, is also on the pipeline for launch this year. 

Shankaranarayan feels that the 2014 vintages will be making their appearance on the shelves this year. According to him, Sauvignon Blancs and Oaked Viogniers are must try alcobeverages for the season.

“Tennis player Vijay Amritraj launched his own Reserve Wine collection with us recently and this could set the trend of celebrities associating with alcobeverage labels in India,” predicts Grover, who is looking forward to the new sparkling wine collection from his company’s Bengaluru unit this year.

There are several factors that contribute to the quality of the wine—the natural soil, climate conditions, viticulture practices, infrastructure, the vineyards and the wine making process in general. 

Pai deems that the process of winemaking starts from the ensuring that the vineyards are healthy.

“We have viticulturists who tend to the vineyards throughout the year. Our vineyards are planted on south facing slopes as this ensures just the right amount of sunlight for healthy development of vines and grapes. The soil we have is a requirement for good vines where the water does not collect in the soil. The climate in Igatpuri with warm days and cool nights is also suitable for healthy development of the vines and concentration of aromas in the fruit,” he reasons.

Throwing light on how the wine making process differs in his vineyards, Shetty informs that the basic principle they follow is to do the right thing at the right time.

“At Myra we take care of the minutest of details in the entire winemaking process. Utmost hygienic care is taken at each and every step. We harvest grapes at optimum maturity at cool temperatures and transport it in highly hygienic refrigerated containers. Fermentation is carried out with skin maceration at optimum temperature. Malolactic fermentation and further ageing takes place in French oak barrels for a minimum of 12 months before the bottling process where the wine is then bottle aged for a few more months before its release in the market,” Shetty explains.

Shankaranarayan adds that it is imperative to control the generation of alcohol and balance the acidity levels in order to make wines taste better. “The process is rather simple. Make grape juice, let it ferment and add yeast, let it sit for six months and one should have wine. How drinkable it becomes depends on the skill of the wine maker,” he affirms.

Talking about the level of competition in the local wine industry, Grover informs that the company organizes different kinds of events to cope up with the rivalry. “To name a few, we have done The Great Grover Stomp, Pune Farmers’ Market, Bandra Wine Festival and a couple of other events in Bangalore all of which had over 2000 attendees each,” he says.

Shetty, whose love for wine drove him to venture into the wine industry, believes that wine is all heart and although he’s a new entrant in the wine industry, Myra Vineyards has made a formidable space in the Southern market including Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa.

“As a new wine brand, we have had our share of highs and lows but the driving force has been early market acceptance. Our wine portfolio coupled with the exciting price-points has set new standards within this cluttered market. We entered the industry well-versed with the landscape. Our intention is not to compete but to bring forth a paradigm shift in the wine consumption patterns through engagement, education and segmentation,” he explains.

Shankaranarayan, on the other hand, believes that there is no competition as such because no two wine makers create similar brew. “Firstly, a true wine lover makes his or her purchase based on the palate and not the label or the price. And secondly, each wine is unique. So where's the competition?” he candidly concludes.

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