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India, a country set in the south part of Asia and showing today an exponential growth in all points of view, here is a fascinating destination that I propose to discover from an oenological perspective! Its population exceeds one billion inhabitants (1.34 billion to be precise) and we discuss its surface in millions of km ² (3,2 exactly). This is to say the variety of landscapes that appear in your eyes according to the states visited ... Therefore, where there is sun, land, heat and Humans, it is possible to grow vineyards!
The vineyard has 2000 years of history in India: did you know?
It is only from the sixteenth century that the vine started to be exploited for the production of wine by Portuguese colonizers who settled in the province of Goa. They brought their Portuguese grape varieties and developed the wine industry. Indeed, today, we can still find some Indian grape varietals. Grafting is also practiced on the latter ones. For some decades, a craze for European grape varieties, especially French and Italian, has developed within the vineyards. That's why we can now taste Indian Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon ... Most of the Indian vineyards are located north and northeast of Bombay (renamed city as ‘Mumbai’) around Nashik in the state of Maharashtra. Indian vineyards continue to grow with a surface area that doubled between 2000 and 2015 to reach 120,000 hectares!
The new Indian generation has travelled extensively, often returning from higher education and professional experiences in Europe and the United States. This generation perceives the consumption of a glass of wine in the evening or during a meal as a sign of social integration or refinement. This could explain the sharp increase in wine consumption: in 2014, 15 million litres were consumed while 3 years later in 2017, consumption rose to 41.4 million litres, which is an increase of 278% (according to the Wine Institute). But, if we look at this figure from another perspective by relating it to the size of the population in the country, this represents only 0.03 litre per person while the French are at 52 litres per inhabitant per year! A future opportunity on the Indian market?
Indian wines, Yes… but the journey will be long and full of obstacles!
It is only since 1988 that India has authorized the sale of 25% of the production to the national market. Many Indian states still prohibit alcohol consumption today, including Gujarat, Bihar but also Kerala (they are called "dry states"). Also, each state imposes its own legislation in terms of labelling and legal information, which complicates the marketing of bottles and imposes extra work and therefore, additional costs to the vineyards. The winemaker needs to adapt the process of packing and labelling for each bottle according to their final selling destination. As regards to the importation of foreign wines, yet acclaimed by the new youth generation, taxes applied are decided by each state and remain a major obstacle of settlement in the country: federal taxes can reach 150% of the price and each state can apply local customs duties, reaching sometimes 30%!
I just visited 3 lovely Indian vineyards and a whisky distillery (info to come soon, surprise in a future article!). And yes, India produces wine… and more than we could imagine! The methods used for winemaking are inspired from Europe and especially, from Italy for certain areas, promising a bright future for these Indian bottles ...
Wines aromatic notes influenced by the Indian palate!
In India, we retrieve very famous grape varieties: Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc ... Moreover, we can discover on our palate all the typical characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc with its freshness, notes of green pepper, green asparagus ... As for the Red wines, discover fabulous Shiraz (known as Syrah in France) and Cabernet Sauvignon with nice spicy an