It is that time of the year when I dust my crystal ball and peer into it, in the hope that the wine gods will jump out and make a power-point presentation of their 2015 plans. In the absence of that, I am once again left with only my nose to sniff out what can be, keeping in mind the wine trends that have been emerging lately.
After a few years of decreased consumption until 2011, the Indian wine industry has witnessed a steady growth in its wine consumption since 2012, recording double-digit figures in 2013 and 2014. Vinexpo studies forecast a striking recovery in the India wine market with an assumed growth of 73.5% by 2017. This translates to 2.4 million cases of wine consumed by 2017. Whilst these figures are a tiny speck in the face of China’s current consumption of 178 million cases of wine, for India, it is still little baby steps in the right direction. Indian wine business continues to survive and dare I say grow, in the midst of battling punitive import taxes on imported brands. Wine is still considered a luxury, heaven knows why. The central level tax on wine imports is 150%. Then there are state level taxes, all of which layer up as quickly as a polished diamond gathering lint and grease.
But don’t let this dim your sparkle. My crystal ball predicts that a vast majority of all wine consumed in 2015 will be produced in India. As wine manufacturing matures and quality of Indian wine improves, the consumer will opt for more and more Indian wines as their first choice for both quality and affordability.
Here are my top five wine consumption trends for 2015:
1. Premium Indian Reds: The Big and the Bold
Vinexpo studies confirm that Indians predominantly drink reds. Given that nearly 61% of all wines consumed are reds, it is about time we graduated from the poor excuse we’ve been drinking to something world class. The Indian wine drinker today is more informed and aware, and expects his wine to be like his ego - big and bold. Indian wine producers are pulling out all corks to meet the expectation by investing in expensive oak barrels, better quality fruit, sophisticated winemaking processes, gentler extraction methods, and international intellectual capital by way of flying in winemakers. In fact, at a recent judging, I was surprised to discover that from the 90 odd wines we tasted, some of the premium Indian Reds were absolutely fantastic – great balance, succulent, bright fruit with some ambitious winemaking. Hardly any of the wines displayed unclean funky aromas – a stigma long attached to Indian wines.
But, because it is “Made in India”, does not mean it is going to be cheap. Starting at Rs.800 for a Myra Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, a mid-priced Sula Rasa at Rs.1200 and all the way up to Rs.1700 for a Grover Zampa’s Chene Grand Reserve, these wines compete with entry-level imported brands like Jacob’s Creek, Yellow Tail and Mannara. Will consumers buy into the Indian wine story? I believe they will. Indian consumers are smart enough to quickly realise that they would rather pay up for more value of wine (than taxes) in a bottle.
2. Women, Prosseco and Sangria – taking big baby steps
A woman goes through two kinds of initiation rites in her life. Let’s talk about the third one that’s emerging. In many traditional homes, drinking alcohol is a taboo for Indian women. But as we all know, the fun is in breaking rules right? Wine has a softer tone and connotation thus making it more acceptable to consume in public.
Prosseco, Italy’s lighter, crisper, economically priced answer to Champagne seems to be the choice of the wine newbie lady. It’s bubbly enough to seem light, and heady enough for that much desired happiness. At 11%, is it even alcohol, they ask! Besides, who doesn’t love the feel of a champagne flute in her hand?
The once dubious sangria is also fast becoming a ladies’ friend! It has fruit, it is sweet and it is so enjoyable even during the day. So popular is this trend that Turning Point Wines has recently launched a ready-to-drink Sangria in a bottle in a truly creative packaging of a pint bottle with a crown cap. Simply uncrown like a soda bottle, add the fruit and you’re good to go!
3. Italy and South Africa lead the pack
We all know that French wines are losing ground in India with consumption of French wines falling over 20% over the past year. Australia on the other hand, has become the country’s leading supplier of imported wines, this growth mainly supported by brands such as Jacob’s Creek, Yellow Tail and Hardy’s. However, at higher appreciation and price levels, consumers are seeking more and more Italian and South African wines. Why? Indians are rampantly travelling to regions of Florence and Cape Town, from where the wine regions of Tuscany and Stellenbosch are just over an hour’s drive. Personal wine experiences resonate well with consumers, helping build loyalty to brands and regions as whole. This trend for Italian and South African wines has been witnessed strongly through growing sales in hotels, through retail shops as well as through direct-to-home shipment companies such as WineKart.
4. Pinot Grigio – the Food Pairing Star
The world cannot seem to have enough Pinot Grigio. There seems to be an insatiable thirst for Pinot Grigio across international markets of U.S.A and U.K. The light, crisp and dry Pinot Grigio typically made throughout the Veneto region in North East Italy, plays its part well when paired with any food, much because it is too unobtrusive and lends itself to manipulation by the food dish. Hence when consumed with Italian or Indian flavours, the piquancy of these dishes enhance the otherwise neutral fruit of this wine. Indian consumers will soon realise that its undominating character is in-fact its biggest strength, and its bracing acidity and refreshing quality is in-fact a boon for tropical climate countries such as ours.
5. Tempranillo and Malbec – rich rounded and robust
Sula’s founder Rajeev Samant admitted at the Masters of Wine Symposium held in Florence in May 2014in the presence of all top wine influencers around the globe that Cabernet Sauvignon in India has been a dismal failure and he has decided to replace its plantings in favour of Tempranillo. For the Indian wine industry, this could mean that soon we will be guzzling a lot of Tempranillo, the grape variety that traditionally originates from Spain used in the making of the much famed Riojas.
There seems to a definite liking towards rich robust reds with riper rounded tannins in reds. Speaking of which have you tried a Malbec from Argentina yet? Luscious ripe damson fruit, bold flavours, broad silky tannins, what more could an Indian consumer ask for?
So friends - raise you glass, trust your palate and enjoy wines all they reveal themselves to you and revel in all its greatness.