When I openend my morning newspaper today – for insiders it’s the International Herald Tribune, (IHT) delivered at about 6-6:30 h every morning to my home in Jakarta so that I can read it while having breakfast and after my children have left for school – I was quite surprised to find on page 2 an article with the headline: “Days of wine and roses, sobered by high tariffs” desribing the situation of the infant wine industry and increasing wine consumption in India.
Jaipur street in 2003
It reminded me of our two years in New Delhi, almost 10 years ago. It was hard to get access to wine, any wine. We needed a personal reference from a friend so that a wine dealer would accept us as his new clients. This took quite some time. Only white and/or red where the choices available to us. The stuff was delivered after nightfall. A van drove into our driveway with turned off headlights. Then the bottles were delivered in secret, tucked into inconspicuous boxes. When we openend them the very first time, we found to our surprise the cheapest of French white wines, which might have costs a dollar or two in France but for which we had to surrender about 15 US$ of our hard earned money to our mysterious benefactor. I remember how happy we were. Over time and with the approprite consumption level, the quality of the wine and the choices available to us would improve. However, we never quite made it to get our true choice of wine delivered. But better ordininary wine with a delicious meal than no wine at all, became our daily and pragmatic attitude.
Ten years later, not much seems to have changed in New Delhi. The article in the IHT calls our mysterious benefactor a “bootlegger” which he certainly might have been. And despite a surge in domestic demand, wine cunsumption seems to be still hampered by a series of religious, cultural and bureaucratic hindrances. When I attended an international seminar in Jaipur in 2003 we had some very delicious Indian reds. Unfortunately, I did not take a photo of the bottle at the time but the three “dancing derwishes” are proof that we had great fun at the event. If you want to learn more about wines made in India please visit www.sommelierindia.com.
With my friends
In the long run, I feel, prospects for Australian wine in India should be good. My two daughters, if they should take over the family vineyard after I have “transcended” my earthly existance, might be the beneficiaries of this. 30% growth of wine sales as we can observe today will have subsided but the total bottles sold will go into the millions. When I think of the values, I become dizzy: total wine exports value of the US to India stands at only 1 Million US$ today. With an ever increasing number of consumers and average income increasing even faster, a small family vineyard as Two Hills should have a chance to sell to a few boutique wine shops in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai. How I love the future.