Even as the rest of the economy flounders in a downturn, this is one segment where entrepreneurs are smiling all the way to the bank. The wine industry, which has been growing at a healthy rate of 25 per cent over the past year—is showing no signs of slowing down. With half a dozen foreign labels launching in India last month alone, the graph seems to be swinging continually upward.
A quick look at the trend of wine label launches in the last month is proof enough. If United Vintners brought in four new wines from the South African label 10 Chapters (coowned by cricket legend Jonty Rhodes), importing firm Finewinesnmore followed suit by introducing wines by the famed designer label Ferragamo. Sula launched the Argentinean label Trapiche. Opera Wines introduced Barbera from Italy under its own label, while Wine Park in Mumbai picked up Austrian Johann Donabaum and Sovereign Impex introduced Drappier Champagne and Delicato wines from Napa—all in this quarter. The list goes on. What’s the story here? “I have been talking to my friends in the wine industry and surprisingly, no one is reporting any slowdowns at all. As a matter of fact, most of us are showing a great upwards sales graph. This is peak sales season for us. Compared to last year at the same time, the growth is fantastic,” says Dharti Desai, CEO of Finewinesnmore.
Rajeev Samant, Owner of Sula Vineyards, is also optimistic. “There is a growing demand for wines in India and there is no real slowdown,” he says. Indian Wine Academy President Subhas Arora, however, doesn’t completely agree. “Sales in restaurants and retail wine shops have gone down. However, it is also true that new labels are being added. Newer importers need to have a portfolio of different countries. No one can survive by selling only French, Italian or Australian wines. So, new countries like South Africa, Spain and New Zealand are being added. Sometimes hotels also ask for a particular region or a wine label. So, the importer may be pruning his existing labels, but he is obliged to add new labels,” he says.
Whether it’s obligations or a natural growth in demand, the fact remains that more consumers are buying wine than ever before. Will this growth story continue further? “By all estimates, it does look like India will continue to record a 20-30 per cent growth for the next few years,” says Desai.