Sunday, November 14, 2004

Wine in India

My wife and I are taking a vacation and traveling in India over the next several weeks. I hope to try some Indian made wines and discover the country's small but growing wine culture. I've been doing a little research and have even been in contact with some local wine enthusiasts. Unfortunately our travels won't be taking us to areas where most vineyards are located - cities such as Nasik, Pune and Bangalore. However, we'll certainly be seeking out wine bars and restaurants with quality wine lists in New Delhi and Bombay.

Wine still enjoys only limited popularity in India where beer and spirits (particularly scotch) are the drinks of choice. Average per capita wine consumption is only 4.5 ml (less than a glass). Compare that to France where the average Frenchman drinks 40+ liters per year! My hunch is that a few key factors drove this fact:
  • Exorbitant national, state and local import duties drive prices to insane levels. A bottle of Gallo Chardonnay that typically sells for around ten bucks here in the states can go for as much as $70!
  • An historic lack of grapes grown for the purposes of winemaking
  • Conservative social views on drinking
  • A difficulty in pairing and enjoying wine with spicy Indian food

I'm happy to say all of these challenges are being overcome and wine is building a presence in Indian culture. My initial homework has pointed to three leading local producers - Chateau Indage, Grover Vineyards and Sula Wines. Its exciting to note that these wineries are producing wines across the gamut of varietals - from big Cabernet reds to sparkling whites to Sauvignon Blanc!

We arrive in New Delhi on Friday, so stay tuned for some Sub-continental tasting reports...