It is very deplorable the way our liquor vends are so ineffectively called “wine shops”. You would sooner call my hair style an afro rather than refer to these caged holes-in-the-wall establishments, wine shops. Walk into any one across the country (barring a few cities) and chances are you will find that wine occupies the least amount of shelf space and still manages to collect the maximum amount of dust!
The reasons for drinking wines are many, and as good as any – social consciousness, health concerns, curiosity – whatever the excuse, the fact remains that the market is growing at a stunning and stable 30% per annum.
The government sadly can’t seem to match step; they only move forward by first taking a few leaps back. More fickle-minded than a runaway bride, first they relaxed duties to allow more imported wines onto our shelves, and then they raise the duties inexplicably to prohibit them from selling a drop. The state and central governments are a classic example of an inherent contradiction where the work of one automatically negates that of the other.
Indian wines however enjoy tremendous benefits especially in the state of Maharashtra where local levies
have being waived off for long for home-grown produce. This protectionist policy has inspired the locals to make just-about-average wines and sell them at ridiculous prices knowing well that other producers (even from other states can’t compete with them). Analysed from a distance, they are the only example in the world to show that bull-crap can get you to the top, or at least park a sports car in your drive-way.
Neighbouring states have responded with levying their own brand of yet-encore mind-numbingly illogical taxes. As if a certain Thackeray was causing enough divide-disaster, this is a great way towards national integration.
Sure there have been improvements in our winemaking but estates here have taken decades to do what they could have achieved in less than half a decade. They have all their reasons but sheer and callous laziness and not-give-a-damn-as-long-as-their-are-profits unsurprisingly seem to not find mention. I did a blog entry on Indian wines sometime back which generated much heat but didn’t do anything for wine quality (sadly). However, in the interest of updates, I shall be conducting a trip to Nasik soon and will try and taste my way through the valley. I am hoping that Aspirin will part-sponsor my trip.
But back to the shops, the situation gets worse. Without proper storage and cooling equipment, wines spoil faster than a kid in a Punjabi family. They don’t sell and retailers complain that wine is a no-go and stock lesser and lesser. Conversely, consumers register their ire that there is little variety in a shop when they want to try some wine and what they do find is not good to taste and horribly expensive.
In short, it all boils down to taxation. At some point, we may just see a lowering of taxes but I think by then I would have gone to that great big Cellar in the sky. If the World Bank can’t do it, I doubt a few erstwhile importers will manage to make these legal lard-heads see light. Bombay revised their taxes to a level that even the insane consider insane and now recently Delhi has quasi-followed suit. Hyderabad has always been two steps ahead of the ridiculous and Chennai seems consistently determined to revert to a system of
efficiency circa 12th century. Gurgaon, the little NCR suburb, seems to have a smart policy, thanks to the state of Haryana. I won’t be surprised if Delhi shifts its drinking to across the border. Someone somewhere needs to tell the people who decide that raising taxes is their worst idea ever, till their next taxation policy comes along. Somehow, our administrative systems seem to thrive on stupidity and they manage to out-do themselves every time they speak.
Even the amendment of the notorious Section 377 doesn’t necessarily mean intelligent respite from the system. The drinking age remains 25 in the capital and I fear, may soon be revised to coincide with retirement.
Then we talk of and try to compare ourselves with other countries and their living standards. I have long given up on electricity, drinking water and roads as expected requisites; now I just worry myself with lesser pertinent issues. Therefore, I demand that it should be considered punishable by law to call our local thekas ‘wine shops’. It must be thought of as equally if not more insulting than calling a roadside song n’ dance act Pink Floyd!