With a record production of 18 million litres of wine in 2016 India has evolved into a rapidly growing wine market. Domestic consumption alone increased 20% year-on-year in 2015, and it is becoming a drink of choice for many in the country. Gauging this shift in the palate, the Karnataka Government is uncorking all bottles to become the wine capital of India.
From wooing farmers to organising wine festivals, from tax-breaks, to policies incentivising production, the state is going the distance to promote wine. And it seems to be working. A 30% increase in wine consumption helped the Karnataka Wine Board rake in a revenue of ?193 crore ($30.1 million approximately) in 2015-16 alone. last year, Karnataka consumed 4.95 lakh cases of wine, through 17 wineries, 190 wine taverns, and 39 wine boutiques.
Bangalore Blue variety of grapes have grown in the Nandi Hills area for over 150 years.
The game changer was setting up the Karnataka Grape Processing and Wine Policy in 2007. Since then, the area used for wine grape production has shot up by 300 percent, from 500 acres in 2005-06 to 2000 acres in 2015-16. The volume of wine production has increased from 5 lakh litres in 2006 to 1 crore litres in 2015-16. The state now ranks second only to Maharashtra in wine grape production, with acres of vineyards across Nandi Valley, Cauvery Valley, Krishna Valley, Mysuru, Koppal, and Chikkamagaluru. The Board plans to amp this up even more and is establishing a 141-acre wine park in Vijaypura, and plans to launch its own brand over the next two years.
The Great Grover Wine Festival, 2016 Image Source
The board's most engaging effort so far has been wine festivals. Bengaluru has played host to 30 international wineries from France, the US, Australia and New Zealand at the International Wine Festival earlier this year. Home-grown wineries like Grover Zampa Vineyard, Elite Vintage Winery, Krishna Valley Vineyard, Soma Vineyard, and Black Buck participate in domestic festivals, both to build brand awareness and to network.
"Successful wine festivals are those that not only attract consumers wishing to try and buy wine products but ultimately lead to ongoing brand recall and sales," says Abhay Kewadkar, Business Head - Wines & Chief Wine-Maker, UB Group. "Apart from cultivating a love of wine among people, the festivals also help to promote Indian wines, and a subsequent increase in wine sales with such sustained efforts, will also benefit grape farmers," he adds.
Smaller towns such as Belagavi, Mysuru, and Madikeri also host these festivals. Mangaluru is organising one in November, while more are being planned in Davangere, Hubballi and Tumakuru.
A wine festival is not only about tasting wines. Grape stomping, tours, live music, all go together to create the perfect environment for a sip of your drink. These events are perfect for a greenhorn to sample their first wine, or for a wine connoisseur to try newer brands. Who knows, a wine sceptic, lured by the carnival-like atmosphere, could even emerge as an oenophile, which to the uninitiated, means 'a lover of wine'.
Featured Image: Abhay Kewadkar, Business Head - Wines & Chief Wine-Maker, UB Group