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!
July 20, 2009 5:36 pm
I have lived (survived) in India without drinking any wine for 6 months – amazing for French people, especially if you love good wines. The reason for this is exactly what you say in your article : How can you only think about buying any good wine in these “shops” ? If ever there was a (reputated) good wine available there, it simply can’t stay good for long, first of all. Second, you would pay a medium quality wine a horrendous price, which makes it taste sour.
By the way, don’t you think that not only tax policy should change, but also people’s mentality ? Wine is not just alcohol for making you drunk – which seems to be the main purpose of drinking any alcohol in India in the eyes of many people. I didn’t even dare going to these shops, and it’s my third reason for staying without drinking wine in India…
July 20, 2009 9:13 pm
As long as we have babus, who first make the hurried and shortsighted policies to gain favor with one lobby and then come up with even more myopic(or was it hypermetropic?) amendments to please the other lobby , are at helm, the future of good wines in India is very sour.. Someone needs to explain to these ignorant babus that customers are not fools nor are they made of money.. when they bring in the imported wine with all sorts of discounts and then suddenly increase taxes, once it reaches the shelves, They are killing the proverbial golden egg laying hen… this “good idea” out prices any decent wine that we may have bought regularly.. Instead, we are now forced to experiment with some cheaper (read pocket friendly) wines.. Obviously the quality is directly proportional to the price of the wine and some might say that the price of the wine would go up exponentially if the shop-owner was to properly store and sell the correct wine at correct temperature.. but this is not essentially true..It does not take too much to buy a wine cooler, but the lack of will to do the right thing is tremendous.. “sahnu Kee??” (what’s it to me?) is the famous punjabi expression that covers our psych as a nation..why should wine shop owners be different..?? It might be helpful if the wine companies took active part in extending knowledge to the shop owners about storage and sale of correct wine..provided they are willing to learn!!
July 20, 2009 10:39 pm
Surprisingly there is Wine Association in India and wine has been termed as a drink with health benefits. It is but a joke with reference to India. Everything works sporadically here. So controlled by lobbyist and the government. In terms of prices, the good wines are too expensive for mid level people disabling us from stacking a wine cellar. Some of so called affordable Indian wines taste like vinegar. Ramadoss created a hullabulla over spurrious alcohol, drinking age, blah blah and then went silent for a complete year! Things work really strangely.
Coming back to the point, Magandeep, you are completely right, Alcohol joints should not be termed as Wine shops. It is but demeaning the heavenly drop of joy.
July 21, 2009 1:23 am
I truly enjoyed reading this blog. A perfect insight into the sorry state of the wine industry in India. To add insult to injury the local liquor shops or “Thekas” are called wine shops.
I enjoy the “intellectual high” that wine gives in addition to being a health drink. Don’t wanna elaborate on kinds of high that other spirits give, but I would drink red wine everyday, if I could afford it. I only wish that quality wines were available in India at a reasonable cost.
Of course we will never match the wine culture of Europe, but I sincerely hope for things to improve here in the next 5-10 years.
All the best to you Magan. Keep up the good work. Cheers…
December 3, 2010 4:42 pm
I want to start wine industry .Help me? ple
December 5, 2010 10:38 pm
mail us firstname.lastname@example.org
December 20, 2010 9:53 pm
i like it
May 21, 2011 1:30 pm
hey magan, i wants to start a new business of wine store… only imported wines will be available… can u help me in providing the maximum knowledge about this project…