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Indians showing taste for domestic wine

The taste for local wines in India is growing and could precipitate a “China moment” in the sub-continent thinks the country’s biggest winemaker.

SulaFest
SulaFest

Speaking to the drinks business, Rajeev Samant, CEO of Sula Vineyards, said that despite being “way behind” as a truly international market, the taste for Indian wines themselves was “exploding”.

He explained that last year the company had exceeded its annual plan and that the market for wine in India grew 20% last year, boosted by an economy that’s growing in excess of 7% per annum.

The market for Indian sparkling wine has effectively doubled since Domaine Chandon launched its first Indian-produced fizz in 2013.

Samant said that when it came to wine he could see “no signs of the market growing less than 15% a year for the next 10 years.

A few years ago India was often named in the same breath as China when it came to discussing the next emerging wine market of the world but as China took off India failed to really go anywhere.

Nonetheless, claims Samant, circumstances are now different and wine is being boosted by a crackdown on spirits in some states and changing attitudes to drinking at home.

Samant explained it was no longer unusual for middle class Indian families to drink alcohol at home and young people in their 20s were now allowed to drink, women of 25 are likely to have had more wine than their mothers ever have in their lives.

The threatened prohibition in Kerala state last year proved an unexpected boon as although the measure was halted, the state government still banned spirits and some 400 bars suddenly became beer and wine only.

“We went from selling 1,000 cases a month [there] to 6,000 overnight,” said Samant adding that it meant there would be a generation “growing up drinking wine.”

All in all, he concluded, even though it’s clear India has required more time to embrace wine, “I believe we’re due a ‘China moment’.”

Indian taxes are still prohibitive for imports. Samant noted approvingly that state governments are starting to recognise the difference between wine and “hard liquor” which should eventually lead to reduced tariffs.

Although he said he supported tax breaks for “high-end imports” however, he was less keen on extending that break to entry level wines in order to protect the nascent local industry.

“We’d be crushed,” he explained, stating that with the lower end wines in the EU getting generous EU subsidies under the CAP it wasn’t fair competition.

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