INDIAN WINE INDUSTRY: WIDENING HORIZONS GRADUALLY

Author: Rishit Yadav

The Beginning

Winemaking techniques have been around in India since the 4th century BCE when the Persians introduced India to grape vines. Soon, it became common for people to have fermented grape beverages and the industry flourished in the British rule until Phylloxera almost wiped out the entire wine industry in the early 1900s. Subsequently, strict government laws did not allow winemaking practice and the industry was on a standstill. Wine production recommenced in India in the 1980s and has been growing rapidly since then.

Wine Industry and Study in India

Indian alcohol consumption has been all about whiskey, vodka, rum and beer since a long time. Indian consumers; not being too keen on experimenting; preferred to stick to their regular beverage. During the early years, the wine industry really struggled with turning peoples’ interests towards wine, and with negligible sales, it was tough to compete with other liquors in the market. However, awareness is the key and gradually things started picking up as more and more people were filled with curiosity and started accepting and appreciating the beverage. Today, thanks to the millennials, who are keen on trying new things, the wine industry has started to pick up gradually in the last 2 decades and the consumption has grown rapidly just in the past few years.
Wine making companies began coming up with interesting strategies to bring awareness among the youth and promote wine consumption. Sula, one of the well known wineries in India started with SulaFest to attract young crowds. Other wineries started promoting their wines through different events and festivals round the year. Such events proved to be successful in creating a buzz and helped a lot in promoting sales of wines and educating new consumers.

Even though the millennials are contributing towards wine sales, through rising demand the wineries have to take into account the price factor, because if the wine is more costly, the consumer might not be interested in buying the wines. So, the price range for most of the wines produced in India ranges between ₹450 – ₹ 3000 ($6 – $40) approximately. Wineries are trying to make packaging of wine easier and more convenient, to contribute to responsible drinking. For the first time in India, aluminium cans have been launched by domestic wine companies to help in sales and reduce carbon footprint.

Taking consumption into account, most Indian wine loving crowd prefers to drink red wines over whites, mainly because of its association with health benefits. Almost 60% prefer red wines and the rest go for whites. Rose wines are slowly gaining recognition and people have started to accept rose as another style of wine. Sparkling wines & champagne on the other hand are largely sold for celebrations or birthdays, but most buyers are not aware of the difference between champagne and sparkling wine. ​But, consumers have evolved from a Red/White/Rose to actually differentiating grape varietals and forming opinions on their preferences.

Indian cuisine has a huge potential for wine pairing since it is full of flavour and counterbalancing wine to match the spice of the food can work wonders. Although, wine and food pairing has not gained much popularity so far, as for most consumers food selection and pairing is the least important factor when it comes to selecting wines. Wine professionals are working actively with experimenting and pairing Indian food with Indian wine. However, we can only predict that things will change with the consumers’ evolving palate and with the right exposure.

Wine studies have started attracting more people and students are encouraged to take it up as a career. Many aspirants who are keen on studying wines are from metro cities and that’s where most of the course providers are based. For me personally, hailing from a dry state and not knowing anything about wine until I was 23, makes it a little challenging to study and learn around people who already have knowledge on wines. There are limited institutes, located majorly in metro cities, that provide wine courses like WSET or CMS. However, WSET Level 4&5 are not available in India which poses a small disadvantage for people interested in pursuing higher wine education and they are left with no other choice but to travel abroad.

The Way Ahead

Along with professionals from around the world, it is heartening to see many wine professionals hailing from India come together to help the industry grow by sharing their knowledge and skills, in return, bringing a huge positive change for the Indian wine industry.
It is truly said that experience improves one’s skills and one should always keep experimenting with a curious mind. Same is the case with the industry in India today. With every passing vintage, the wines are getting better and winemakers are starting to get the best out of the grapes, blend and terroir, without losing respect for the Indian palate.

Indian wine has a long way to go and one cannot wait to see what the coming years hold for India. It also is a little unfortunate to see Indian consumers preferring wines from abroad and not valuing domestic produce. One can only hope that the ‘vocal for local’ movement in India benefits Indian wines in certain ways down the line.
It is always great to collaborate with wine minds from the industry in India and abroad. I really would love to thank Martha for letting me share my knowledge. Also, to Team Tulleeho for enlightening me on the Indian wine market and sharing their valuable thoughts and insights.

About the author

Rishit Yadav is a hospitality professional, currently working with Four Seasons, Abu Dhabi, Rishit Yadav’s passion for wines led him to take up wine as a specialisation and is WSET Level 3 certified in wines and is working on gaining more certifications in the future. Not coming from a wine drinking country, Rishit had little to no knowledge about wines until he joined hotel school. Being introduced to wine at a wine tour in France and Italy, he slowly began to learn about wines and chose to take it up as a career.He runs a blog under the name Pan & Barrel on Instagram where he shares his love for food and wine. Follow him in Instagram at @pan_barrel