Uncork the bubbly for India

Excited Wine Producers Say This is the Next Big Destination

(Article published in The Times of India (Delhi/Mumbai), February 5/6, 2006)

By Hoihnu Hauzel/TNN

New Delhi: It‘s heady feeling all right. For Oliver Leonelli, a Spanish wine producer, India is the next big destination. This, despite knowing that India is not a wine-drinking country. But the potential is there for all to savour. The recently concluded India International Food and Wine Show (IFOWS) had 75 wine producers from 13 countries. That's up from 2002 when the show had only 13 wine producers from six countries.

“Even if one per cent of the population takes to wine, it'll be a good market for us,” says Leonelli. Enrico Marcato, the fifth-generation scion of a 100-year-old vineyard in Verona, feels the same way. After launching his brand in China last year, he's says it's important for him to be here. This, despite logistics hassles and import duties of 230-240% per bottle.

Presently, India consumes about seven million bottles of wine every year. Of these, one million are imported. “With more wine entering India, we are looking at a 30-40% growth in the next one year alone,” says Subash Arora, President, Delhi Wine Club.

  So why is India drawing overseas wine producers? The promising economy for one, syas Artur Marin, vice-director, Bostavan. Last year, this body, which represents three wine companies in Moldova, launched their brand in South-East Asia. And this year they are hoping to do so here. “The market here is a well-educated one and we are ready to invest here provided we get good services through our distributors,” he says. His largest market – 70% – is Russia.

The number of wine events is on the rise too. For the first time, Vinitaly, a wine exhibition held every year in Italy, was recently held in Delhi and Mumbai with more than 60 wine producers from that country. Now this show will be an annual event in India.

  Last year, Sopexa, a body representing products of France, organized over 100 wine tasting seminars across India, including 30 in Delhi. These will also target smaller places like Guwahati. “We will organize something almost every two weeks. Our role is to strengthen our distribution potential,” says Rajiv Singhal, charge-de-mission, Sopexa.

  Maison Riviere Fils, a wine company in Frnace, too, has aggressive plans for India. It already sells a million bottles every year in the UK. Philippe Riviere, director, says: “By May, we should have pushed at least five to eight new brands here.”

Wines of South Africa, a non-profit body representing some 500 South African brands, is also looking for Indian distributors. Five South African brands have been present in India for the last three years.

Clearly, it's a game of numbers. The more, the merrier. Will it spoil the market for Indian wines? “It will only help in expanding our market. This year alone, the Delhi Wine Club hopes to taste about 200 to 300 new wines,” says Arora.






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