The rise of wine brands and local wineries in India

As young Indians seek accessibility, affordability and sustainability in their wine choices, local brands and wineries are responding, eliminating snobbery with cans, easy-drinking spritzers and Syrah-flushed cheese.

As young Indians seek accessibility, affordability and sustainability in their wine choices, local brands and wineries are responding, eliminating snobbery with cans, easy-drinking spritzers and Syrah-flushed cheese.

Indian wines are maturing, and how. Indian viticulture has seen a resurgence during the pandemic as consumers explored wines across categories and price ranges, to drink on their couches during lockdowns, and then, during last year’s home dine-in flurries. .

As brands innovate to attract new consumers, with pandemic restrictions lifted across the country, wine sales have seen a surge, which is good news for an industry that thrives on festive occasions. With a renaissance in rosé, a focus on sustainability and a growing base of enthusiastic consumers, the industry is expected to grow by $274 million by 2026, growing 29.3% year-over-year in 2022, according to a recent report by Technavio, a global group. research and consulting company. “Wine consumption in retail and at home has seen a steady increase over the past two years; currently almost 3/4 of our sales are off-trade, and only 1/4 is on-trade,” says Chaitanya Rathi, COO, Sula Vineyards headquartered in Nashik.

Locked up with wine

At Fratelli Wines, based in Akluj, Maharashtra, in-state home delivery pushed sales during the 2020-21 lockdowns, but, “once the stores opened, we saw people in all walks of life, preferring browse wine selections and are back in department stores,” says Jayanth Bharathi, DGM, Marketing, Fratelli Wines. The All India Wine Producers Association, led by Jagdish Holkar, has benefited from the streamlining of excise taxes and duties in Maharashtra and West Bengal, but the industry wants a separate category for wine in the excise lexicon.

Sparkling Rose Noi

Sparkling Rose Noi

“Wine can be removed from the Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) category, and giving us a separate fork will be good for business. Currently, the majority of our sales come from Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and the state of Goa, but breaking down interstate barriers will also be key to making Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and other cities great wine markets.” , adds Holkar.

Sonal Holland, a Master of Wine and founder of the Sonal Holland Wine Academy, which offers online courses in wine appreciation and education, is excited about the outlook for the industry in 2022. India’s wine industry relied on international tourists to drive consumption, but that’s changing. There is also a 200% increase in wine education course enrollment among Indian consumers. Single-serve wines are popular now, easy to pack and enjoy. We are also seeing an increase in demand for rosé, the fastest growing category in the market. Once considered a women’s brunch staple, rosé is now a gender-neutral beverage of choice in its still or sparkling variant,” she says.

Fratelli Wines has spent the past two years, during the pandemic, focusing on wine education within the hospitality industry in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. Gaurav Sekhri, MD of Fratelli Wines, says that he too noticed that the rosé was flying off the shelves. “First-time drinkers usually start with white wines, as they are easier on the palate, and reds with their tannins offer a drier mouthfeel. Rosé goes well with the accessibility of a white and the aromatic complexity of a red. Our Shiraz Rose at ₹800 and M/S Rose at ₹1,250 (Maharashtra) were very popular.

Gregoire Vardein-Sula

Gregoire Vardein-Sula

The brand’s Noi Sparkling Rosé (₹980 in Maharashtra) in a blush decorative bottle, launched in early 2022, has been doing good business. The company’s vertical Tilt sold in single-serve cans – in its Red White, Sparkling, Sparkling Rosé and Noi Spritzer variants is popular for all-day drinking – lighter than a bottle and lighter on the pocket too, at from ₹180. “Spritzers with 8% ABV (the amount of alcohol in a drink by volume) are lighter than wines and great on their own or even mixed with gin or vodka,” adds Sekhri.

The art of aging

Grover Zampa, one of the oldest winemakers in the country, with vineyards in Nandi Hills, Karnataka and Nashik, Maharashtra, weathered the pandemic with the launch of his Signet Collection in December 2021, a range of premium aged red wines in traditional European ships, one first for winemakers. Signet is India’s first range of wines to be aged in vats, amphorae (two-handled jars with a neck narrower than the body, used as decanters in ancient Greece) and concrete vats. While the brand uses Italian steel tanks for its wine processing, the Signet range uses different earthy materials traditionally used in Europe, which interact differently with wine, providing unique mouthfeel and tasting notes.

Bringing wines to the table during the pandemic has been an uphill climb, with pandemic restrictions during the harvest season from April to June in 2020 and imports from special aging vessels suspended. “Wine being a living liquid, we had to be careful about the time it spent in the vats and bottles, letting the sommeliers do their part as we faced the logistical challenges,” says Sumit Jaiswal, AVP, Marketing and EXIM , Grover Zampa .

Signet Spectrum is a dry red wine: a blend of Shiraz, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet, Franc and Muscat grapes, all hand-picked from the brand’s vineyards, fermented and aged for 12 months in concrete vats in egg shape. Signet Shiraz (Amphora), was fermented and aged for 12 months in terracotta amphorae. The porous structure of terracotta clay allows for micro-oxygenation which helps soften tannins, resulting in a deep, rich structure with no added flavors. Other wines under the Signet umbrella are fermented for 12 months in 2,000 liter and 1,000 liter French oak vats (large wooden vats, popular in France’s Rhone Valley, significantly larger than casks typical oak barrels), Signet Shiraz (24-month-old French barrels) is aged in 225-litre French oak barrels for 24 months and 12 months in bottle.

Nikhil Agarwal, Sommelier and Founder, All Things Nice, opines, “Indian wineries offer high-quality premium wines, and the Signet is very impressive, with the kind of treatment it has received at Grover. Zampah.

Rasa by Sula

Rasa by Sula

2021 also saw the launch of Rasa from Sula Vineyards in Nashik. Sula, inspired by founder Rajeev Samant’s mother, Sulabha, was established in 1999. While Rasa has been around since 2007-08, alongside brands Dindori, The Source and its classics, “with Rasa in September 2021, we went with a revamp – from identity to winemaking. We are currently working to make the three grape varieties – Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel, available across India,” says Grégoire Verdin – Global Brand Ambassador – AVP Tastings and Marketing, Sula Wines With a significant increase in D2C (direct to consumer) sales, Sula Wines is optimistic about its new consumers, “Many Indians have rediscovered Indian wines due to the shortage of imports, and they have realized that the Indian wines are as good and quite often better than imported ones.

As the wine lifestyle appeals to rising young oenophiles, brands like Fratelli are augmenting the wine experience with Asia’s first selection of wine-inspired cheeses, created in collaboration with artisan cheese brand Käse based in Chennai. The A2 cow’s milk cheese, is wrapped in Sangiovese vine leaves or rinsed in wine-infused brine, then aged. “While we had fabulous reception for our first batch of wine-inspired cheeses, we are excited about the new launches,” says Sekhri. In addition to the gusto rinsed syrah, sunburst rinsed chenin and sangiovese leaf aged cheddar, the recently launched barrel aged feta and smoked provolone are all available separately at ₹465 for 150 grams, or paired with a spread of mango jalapeno and raspberry jam as part of morning, evening or brunch platters, available on the Fratelli website. .

Price Pivot

India’s leading wine brands have launched a range of wines during the pandemic, varied in both treatment and price, Agarwal is optimistic about India’s wine industry, “India’s wine industry has come a long way in a relatively short period of time, which makes for some exceptional wines. While the ₹1,000-1,300 bracket is doing very well, there are premium wines like Rasa that sell closer to ₹1,800 and there is a market for this range as well. Madhulika Bhattacharya Dhall, founder of La Cave, a boutique liquor store with branches across India, agrees: “₹1,500-2,000 is the sweet spot for people buying wines in India, and red wine is preferred to white wine”. While Indian winemakers also cater to Tier 2, 3 and 4 cities, there are wines for new consumers who prefer “fruitier selections like Chenin Blanc, but drier wines are also popular,” concludes Agarwal.

The Indian wine industry is not only looking to increase sales through liquor stores, but also to increase visibility and accessibility. Maharashtra is the first state to allow the sale of wines in large supermarket chains. In Kolkata, one can order wines through food aggregation apps, while Odisha in Jharkhand also offers home delivery of wines. Holkar adds that offering wines in different packaging can make it more accessible. “In Maharashtra, the AIWPA is looking to ask wineries to sell wines in value-priced boxes and growlers under five liters – these are great friendly options for small parties. Allowing wines to be more accessible is great for producers, and it is an agri-food industry, ideal also for those who work in the vineyards.

Fratelli- Plate of cheeses and condiments

Fratelli- Cheese and condiment platter | Photo credit: PRAMEET

Sonal Holland

Sonal Holland

Elisha A. Tilghman