India Blog

Friday, November 12, 2021

There have been a number of articles written recently on the opportunities for imported wines in India, including this one from the IWSR, “Will wine take off in India?” (See link at end of Blog.)

The revived interest comes as the South Australian Government launched their, “South Australian Indian Wine Expansion Program”, for the next twelve months – a drive to sell more wine to India. This has being generated by the fact that the lockout by China means that Australia needs to find around half a billion dollars’ worth of additional exports on top of the resurgence that is happening in the UK and USA.

There are a number of markets where Australian wine could be doing quite a bit better than what it is but I do not think that India is one of them at this point in time. To put the Indian market into context, the country is run by old whisky men who have no interest in wine and often see it as a threat to their way of life. India consumes more whisky per annum than Scotland produces whiskey. The federal government does not even favour the local wine producers and has been, in part, responsible for the failure of several wineries over the years.

More context, the biggest selling wine brand (overall) in India is, Jacobs Creek, with sales of around 50,000 cases a year – which is roughly the same as the amount of wine that Australia exports to Fiji in a year!!

Whilst there are over a billion people living in India, most don’t drink wine, and those that do usually can only afford to do so very sparingly, as the import duty on wine into India is 148.2%. This is even before you get to the state taxes that are levied on top of that. India is divided into 29 states and seven territories, each with their own liquor laws, several of which are “dry” states, where the sale of alcohol in not permitted, and others have exorbitant fees on wines.

It has been 17 years since I visited India to promote Australian wine as part of South Australian Premier, Mike Wran’s first visit to the country. At the time there was an air of excitement that the federal government in Delhi “might” be looking at relaxing its “death grip” on wine in India. To date nothing much has changed nor will it until there is a generational change in government in India. Today’s leaders are part of the old whisky generation who have no need or incentive to change the alcoholic status quo in the country. In my opinion it will not be until younger (much younger) people get deeper into politics and focus more on the health and wellbeing of the country’s citizens (benefits of wine vs whisky) that changes will start to happen.

Apart from which, twelve months of the SA program is an insignificant amount of time for this program to run due to the naturally, very slow pace of business in India.

Sorry to be such a killjoy! I would dearly love to see a much wider rate of wine consumption in India, especially of Australian wines, but after 17 years of hearing, “it’s about to happen”, I have given up.

Cheers! Have a great week, stay safe and enjoy great Australian wines.

Article Link:

This Week's Wine Review:

This week I am talking about a unique wine, or as one of my wine mates would say: “truly unique!”

On a recent visit to the Riverland to attend the sensational Riverlation Wine & Food Festival, I dropped in to see, Andrew Duncan, at BACK VERANDAH WINES.

Andrew is officially the only Permaculture farmer in South Australia. Permaculture is defined as “the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to sustainable and self-sufficient” or in other words, total chaos, with stuff growing everywhere. The rows of vines aren’t all in a neat pattern. They are spread right across the property and each face in a different direction with all sorts of things growing around them, from snow peas climbing up the vine trunks, to a fruit tree in the middle of a the row, etc. The property is jam packed with edible flora and a fair few animals as well. Quite an enlightening and challenging experience.

Whilst each of BACK VERANDAH WINES is unique, the BACK VERANDAH 2020 REMNANT RED is truly special. In 2019 the vineyard was devastated by a massive hailstorm which resulted in severe damage to most of the vines on the property. Come vintage 2020, Andrew harvested the small amount of grapes that had survived and developed, across all of the different varieties he grows. He then co-fermented them to create around 700 litres of the “REMNANT RED” with no preservatives added. The wine consists of Shiraz, Viognier, Graciano, Tempranillo, Dolcetto, Mourvèdre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tarrango, Tannat, Petit Verdot and as Andrew says, “plus a few other varieties”. Andrew worked it out that the yield was at most around half a tonne to the acre, with more than two-thirds of the normal crop having been destroyed.

The wine is amazing! It is deeply, densely purple in colour, the bouquet is subtle with a dash of dried herbs, a touch of earthiness and a slightly medicinal note. On the palate it is huge, deep and dense. It has just a hint of fruit sweetness on the front palate tucked away in its complexity, along with a smidge of vanillin oak and a dash of savouriness in the broad spectrum of flavours which are superbly balanced. The wine finishes a bit tight without being really grippy and the finish lingers for eons.

This is an absolutely amazing once-off wine that demonstrates that almost anything is possible to achieve in wine, even making, “a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”.  Congratulations Andrew, you deserve a wine “Oscar” for this performance!

So when you come across the unconventional, please embrace it and give it a go – you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised as often from chaos great things arise like, BACK VERANDAH WINES.

Cheers! Have a great week, always #chooseaustralianwine and where possible drink #emergingvarieties.