|"The costs of production are the lowest
in India, which is also the second-largest producer of bottles
in the world"
Executive Director, Brindco
Abhay Kewadkar graduated as a chemical engineer in the spring of
1984, he was attracted to what was then a decidedly strange career
path. He chose to make wine. Today, as vice-president of Grover
Vineyards, Kewadkar, 40, remembers the queries he was bombarded
with by incredulous Frenchmen when he was sent to France's picture-perfect
Champagne province for a lowdown on the art, science, and commerce
''Do you grow grapes in India?''
''Do you crush them with elephants if you don't
have the equipment?''
''Do Indians know how to drink wine?''
''Will you be having peanuts with your champagne?''
Kewadkar always replied with a smirk, born
from the confidence of a history replete with emperors who won and
lost loyalties on the strength of their ability to drink wine. ''India
has been growing grapes for centuries,'' he told the French. ''And
we export our table grapes.''
|The Best Of Both World
| The old is making way for the new, even in
the wine business. India's wine-makers today produce both new
and old world wines. ''The basic difference between the two
lies in the process and the style of wine-making and new wines
are more young, fresh and crisp,'' informs Adrian Pinto, National
Sales Marketing Manager, Sula Vineyards.
Wines from the new world seem to be bettering their old
world counterparts due to a more approachable packaging and
pricing strategy. Adds John Rogers, the International Trading
Manager of McWilliam's Wines of Australia, ''Not only do the
new world wines possess softer tannins, they are also delineated
by variety and producer, unlike the wines from the old world
that are differentiated by region and produce.''
Of course, wine drinking is a habit that Indians
abandoned somewhere along the line, but like Kewadkar knew then-and
a host of competitors know now-wine sales tend to flourish in modern
times as an economy opens up. India is following that trend.
Some simple numbers. Wine consumption in India
has been growing at 15 to 20 per cent every year since the economic
liberalisation in 1991, while the developed world as a whole has
seen a sluggish 7-9 per cent growth rate. Of course, the base is
much, much smaller. Each Indian consumes a piffling 0.004 litres
of wine every year, compared to France's 72 litres per person or
Belgium's 163 litres per person. And though sales of wines are low-550,000
cases, less than 1 per cent of the entire alcohol trade (spirits:
68 million cases; beer: 72 million cases) in India-it is growing
fast. About 320,000 cases of grape wines (we also drink wine from
molasses) are consumed every year in India: 180,000 cases of local
produce, and 50,000 shipped from other shores.
The French dominated foreign
wines with a 59 per cent marketshare in 2001. But new world wine
makers (California, Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and
South Africa) are gnawing at its predominance. Though ordinary table
wines sell for as low as $2 (Rs 96) in their home countries, the
government slaps a duty of 264 per cent, down from 425 per cent
(on wines that cost less than $25 a case). Similarly, for wines
more than $25, the duty now stands at 212 per cent, down from 350
per cent. Today a decent 1999 Beaujolais is available for Rs 550
in Delhi, only Rs 50 to Rs 100 costlier than the best domestic wines.
It isn't just that a globalising urban society is taking to wine-even
marrying it with shammi kebabs and pomfret rechad-it's also that
the government is slowly beginning to accept that wine shouldn't
be lumped with booze.
|"Our marketing plans include recruiting
new consumers, especially women, and generating trials and sampling"
Managing Director, Moet-Hennessy
The Maharashtra Model Of Free Wine
In January this year, Agriculture Minister
Ajit Singh gave away 45 new wine licences to the Maharashtra government
so that as many entrepreneurs could set up wineries. This happened
after Singh talked about bringing wines into the fold of agricultural
commodities-which means considerably lower levies.
Maharashtra-now preparing to license exclusive
''wine bars''-is readying to set up a "wine park" near
Nasik where it is handing out licences to entrepreneurs for setting
up wineries for as little as Rs 20,000 per unit. More incentives
like a marked reduction in excise duty on wines that are manufactured
and sold exclusively in Maharashtra, lower wine label registration
fee and a host of other benefits. Kewadkar of Grovers', whose company
is based in Bangalore, is not amused.
''It is so discriminatory,'' he exclaims of
the wine registration fee. ''For outsiders, it costs a mighty Rs
2.25 lakh every year to keep the registration of a label going,
whereas for a domestic producer and seller, it's been brought down
from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 20,000 per year."
|"In India, the producer cannot advertise
his wines, and so innovative new measures of promotion have
to be adopted"
Country Manager, E&J Gallo Wineries
|ATHENA: Mumbai's first exclusive wine
But it's really hard to blame the Maharashtra
government if other states don't follow suit. Not surprisingly,
apart from Grovers', the other two companies that seriously maintain
vineyards in India, are located in Maharashtra: Chateau Indage and
Chateau Indage, founded in 1986, sold over
8 lakh bottles last year and is expected to cross the 11 lakh mark
this month. ''Our objective is to bring world wines to India and
take Indian wines to the world,'' says Hans Raj Ahuja, Senior Vice
President, Chateau Indage. The company has already introduced wines
from Australia, France, Germany, Chile, and South Africa to India,
a majority being in the bulk segment (low-grade wines that are imported
in containers with a holding capacity of about 24,000 litres). ''At
the same time, we are introducing new brands from new varietals
(grape varieties) planted at our vineyards.''
Even Sula-founded in 1998, by a former Oracle
techie from Silicon Valley, Rajeev Samant-imports a Chilean Merlot
to augment their estate wines. Sula says it is so enthused with
the Indian wine consumption patterns that it intends to expand its
30 acres of vineyards in Nasik to 1,000 acres in the next two years.
Grover, on the other hand, is strictly off
imports. It produces and sells its wines from Bangalore and Narayangaon
in Maharashtra and has got in 35 varietals in the country, of which
four are currently commercial, including the premium La Reserve,
specially matured in oak barrels.
| The food substitute
For a change, treadmill will
talk about food. Make that just food and no exercise. Not
an ideal fitness regime, I admit, but here goes. It's really
about longish periods when you can't maintain your exercise
regime and yet don't want to suddenly add all those pounds
or regain a small scooter tyre around your you-know-where.
Nothing can be a good substitute for exercise, but if for
some reason you're forced to skip your workouts for a week
or two, here's what you can do to keep the ill-effects of
abstaining from the gym to a minimum. Eating sensibly helps.
What's going to follow are some tips on what you could eat
and yet keep your weight under check. Although meant for a
no-exercise period, you could follow the same diet regime
and keep really trim if you're exercising too.
The basic idea is to keep from over-eating, particularly
when you're not consciously burning the calories. So instead
of three big meals have four or five small ones. And here's
a quick wrap on what you could eat during the day, morning
For breakfast, switch to just fruits. Apples, oranges, grapes,
whatever you like. Avoid bananas or chikus, but go for the
rest. High in fructose, fruits are quickly digested and have
the added advantage of supplying you with fibres. If fruits
sound too hermit-like for you-although a friend of mine swears
it's the right breakfast if you want to lose that face fat-then
go for bran (grain husk that is separated from flour after
milling) with a dash of low-fat milk and some fruit. Then,
three or four hours later, have an early lunch. A good bet
is a small salad: go for green leafy stuff like lettuce, baby
corn, bell peppers, some cheese (yes, why not as long as you
don't over do it?). Then, around early evening, have a snack.
One suggestion: a whole-grain bread chicken sandwich without
mayo or, if you're vegetarian, a cup of yoghurt, some prunes,
and a couple of crackers. That leaves us the last meal of
the day, dinner. Dinner could be light. My choice for a non-workout
week is a couple of pieces of grilled chicken, some lightly
sautéed vegetables, and a glass of iced tea.
I don't blame readers who may find all of the above really
frugal. But if you're going to miss your workouts for a while,
you'll have to sacrifice somewhere. An alternative? Well,
just restart your workouts and start eating the good stuff!
The UB group's Bosca is India's oldest table
wine. Its been around for 30 years, but no oenophile has ever taken
its unrefined taste seriously. But their foot's in the door, and
that's important. ''Today Bosca is doing 15,000 cases a year and
we'll soon be bringing in the French, Chilean, and Australian wines,''
says B.K. Pardal, ceo of McDowell's International Brands, a UB subsidiary.
But UB has lost its prime-mover advantage; it is to the wine world
what the Ambassador is to cars.
The Foreign Hand In The Vineyard
Indian vintners better get their act together
fast because the foreign hand is knocking the door, ceaselessly
lobbying to lower central and state tariffs. ''For the market to
expand, manufacturers should seriously get into wine promotion and
education,'' says Rukn Luthra, Country Manager (India & Area
Countries) of E&J Gallo Wineries, one of the largest wine companies
in the world in terms of volume. And since liquor advertising is
banned in India, innovative measures such as limited edition mailers
may have to be adopted for the purpose.
That's already happening with frequent wine
festivals in five-star hotels, often supported by the diplomatic
missions, says Aman Dhall, Executive Director of Brindco, a liquor
distribution major. Understandably, domestic wine-makers realise
they can't afford complacency. ''The domestic producer should not
kill the consumer on price and should never compromise on quality,''
says Pardal. Quality is paramount, says Kewadkar who believes a
shakeout is imminent. ''Only those with deep pockets can do it.''
However, Indage's Ahuja contends that there
is little threat to the domestic producers from foreign competition
''in the initial stages''. He adds: ''The protection available to
Indian wineries through higher import duties, which may continue
for another two years, will enable indigenous players fortify their
existing bases.'' But Ashwin Deo, Managing Director, Moet-Hennessy
India, retorts: "It is the foreign players who are actually
promoting wines on a national level. And domestic players are benefiting
The heartening thing is that Indian wines are
actually being exported. Grover sends 25 per cent of its total production
to France and the UK and plans to enter the US market in April this
year. Chateau Indage has similar export markets. Expected value:
$2 million (Rs 9.4 crore), this year. That's minuscule of course,
but substantive progress from that perception of elephants crushing