Now Spanish wines woo the Indian connoisseur
May 6, 2007 - 12:21:33 PM

Ciudad Real -, May 6 - With Indians increasingly developing a taste for premium wines, a dozen Indian importers and traders are participating in Fenavin, the Spanish wine fair that opens in this balmy wine haven, 188 km from Madrid in southern Spain Monday.

Over a thousand wineries are showcasing their produce and knowledge to connoisseurs and traders from around the world who will be flocking to Fenavin, one of the world's largest wine fairs and fiesta.

Among the Indian participants are Brindco, Sonarys, Aspri Spirits, Mohan Brothers, High Spirits, Diplomat Impex, World Wine&Spirits, Dhall Foods&Beverages, Delhi Wine Club-Indian Wine Academy and the public sector India Tourism Development Corporation -.

Says Subhash Arora, president of the Delhi Wine Club: 'Spanish wines are making lots of noise and efforts to enter India of late. They can offer great value as one has seen already with Torres and Freixenet wines. It is a matter of time that the barrage of value for money wines as well as the top level wines like Pingus, Roda and the mighty Vega Sicilia - will capture the consumer palates and purse strings.'

India has been both an importer of wine and also an exporter, a small one though, of premium wine. What is attracting wine producers around the world is its large market.

The domestic industry, that picked up in the 1980s, now has about 40 wineries producing 6.2 million litres annually. Many of them are in collaboration with France, US, Canada, and relatively new entrants like Australia, Chile and Italy.

There is, however, heavy intake of foreign wines, with 72,000 cases imported every year and the Spanish hope to get a slice of this expanding market.

Although wine producing and drinking was prevalent in ancient India, and Shiraz was imported from Iran during the Mughal era, the country is not generally associated with wine.

This is because much of the marked preference for whiskey, rum, and other 'hard' drinks, consumed for the 'kick' they give. Scotch whiskey is considered the ultimate, experts say, with only a microscopic minority patronizing wines.

Finally, though, wine is nosing its way onto the scene. The domestic wine market is expected to grow to 9.76 million bottles by 2010, an increase of 30 percent, according to a report by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry -.

Indians drink 5 million bottles a year - a mere half a teaspoon per head - as against the lakes of whisky, rum and vodka that are consumed. There are an estimated 200 million regular whisky drinkers, compared with 700,000 regular wine drinkers, but a shift is under way, experts say.

'We have leapfrogged in computers, Internet and mobile technology but change in attitudes or wine knowledge is still slow. Most people still do not appreciate finer nuances of wine,' Arora told IANS.

But this is bound to change swiftly, Arora said, with India expected to emerge as the fifth largest consumer by 2025, outstripping Italy and Germany.

Citing a recent study by McKinsey Global Institute, Arora says it reflects 'a very rosy picture for growth in alcohol consumption. With a projected 10-fold expansion in the middle class and the new rich class growing, wine would take even a bigger share of the alcohol consumption growth.'

This is Fenavin's fourth edition. The earlier ones in 2001, 2003 and 2005 had led to the conclusion of 21,369 commercial contracts. The participation of wine producers, 789 from domestic industry alone, and 24,512 professionals is expected to go up this time.

Fenavin's organizers say that they had to put 169 wineries on the standby last time. This time the 19,375 square meters of space is being better managed to ensure fuller participation with 275 more wineries coming in.

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