The Hindu Business Line
Aman Dhall, Executive Director of Brindco Ltd, the exclusive distributor of Frescobaldi wines in India, said that in retail, and after paying the stiff import duties, a bottle of this wine would cost Rs 1,800 in Mumbai, Rs 1,400 in Delhi and Rs 1,200 in Bangalore. Needless to say, one cannot buy good wines in retail in Chennai, except for the domestic duty-free shops at the airport, thanks to the strange liquor policy of successive Tamil Nadu governments.
High cost of imported wine
Brindco is the largest importer of wines in India, bringing in wines from 11 countries. “We have over 600 labels from California and Washington, Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, France, Spain, Italy and Hungary,” said Dhall. He ascribed the high cost of wines in India to steep import duty (160 per cent) and stiff State taxes. “So 85 per cent of the price you pay for a bottle in retail in India goes towards these taxes.” While Maharashtra has the stiffest State tax — 200 per cent — on imported wine, obviously to protect the domestic wine industry, “Karnataka is one of the most wine-friendly regions in India”, he added.
For him it’s an exciting time to be in the wine import business, as the “Indian urban elite is shifting to wine”. He finds Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore to be “far-advanced wine markets of India, as people from these cities do a lot of international travel. A lot of people also want to move away from hard liquor to wine because if you consume good wine, you don’t get a hangover the next day.”
India vs China
Pariani is extremely bullish on the Indian wine market and thinks there is much more potential in India compared to China. For one thing, “wine is more integrated into the culture of India. Also, in India there is an important and growing middle-class with disposable income.”
Another limitation in China for wine marketers like him is the local custom where “people first eat and then go out drinking”, something that is not amenable to wine, which normally accompanies food.
But even though Pariani, as well as international wine producers like him, see India as one of the fastest-growing markets in the world, one made the mistake of asking Dhall about the per capita consumption of wine in India and got this depressing reply. “Oh, it is less than a teaspoon, about 0.4 ml per person!”