What has really changed in the last 10 years with respect to wine and its consumers, is that you can have an instant wine conversation today. The subject is no longer alien for many Indians now, although the content and potency of the conversation may vary.
Wine is, primarily, “fermented grape juice” and although wine lovers would wince at this description, that’s what the Indian food authorities want it to be called. In fact, they have made it mandatory for every wine label to carry that statement. The Indians who consume wine is a ‘phenomena’ that’s been growing for some time now.
The forecast of the annual consumption of alcoholic beverages in India from 2016-2020, in billion litres. Source | Statista 2019
- As per the annual consumption of alcoholic beverages in India forecast by Statista, it is expected to reach approximately 6.23 billion litres in 2019 and 6.53 billion litres by 2020.
- According to WHO's 'global status report on alcohol and health 2018', the per capita consumption of alcohol in India went up from 2.4 litres in 2005 to 5.7 litres in 2016. The report observed Indians, mostly, drank spirits, 8% drank beer and the wine drinkers were less than a per cent.
The wine drinking audience in India is as vast and diverse as our country itself and this is where a few observations about consumers make this piece interesting and at certain points hilarious.
Here’s where the wine lover follows wine trends and would like to make an impact with a personal choice of new age wines. This conversation also brings us to the first category of wine consumers; the one that doesn’t consume wine really but likes to gift or showcase wine labels at home.
Consumer: Ek Australian wine dena. (Give me one Australian wine)
Shopkeeper: Red ya white? (red or white)
Consumer: Kaunsi badhia hai? (which one is better)
Shopkeeper: Ye wali (this one)
Consumer: Kitne ki hai? (for how much)
This is a moment of truth. This is how easy or difficult a wine bottle gets purchased/sold from the retail segment that comprises roughly 65% of the wine market.
Wine peene se kuchh hota nahi hai mujhe (I don’t get drunk after having wine)
Ek bottle aur khol lete hain (let’s open one more bottle)
These are some classical features of this category.
The Series 1100, 2100, 3100…
These consumers have the money and are aware that wine is something special, know that it takes slightly more than money to appreciate a bottle of wine (but are, not sure of what that “more” is) believe that wine is a special occasion drink and that a bottle of wine makes for a notable gift and a great impression, just like a book of literary fiction. So, based on the amount one wants to spend, the look of the label, packaging options, prefers imported over Indian and is comfortable moving upwards in the series mentioned. The consumer here normally buys for gifting purpose or keeping one in his/her fully stacked whisky bar, probably never orders for wine in a restaurant but surely purchases it from retail.
Wine Glasses Filled up to the Rim
Probably some ice, soda or juice in the glass as well.
Occasionally (occasionally is an understatement) getting drunk on wine are some classical features of this category.
Preferences based on styles, region or grape varietal
This is a gender-biased category, I have seen more women flocking this category than men (Indian men with their whisky pani can be comfortable in being ignorant to wine). But that’s not the case with their counterparts. With having a minimum of two to three social gatherings a week over food and beverage, wine becomes the more urbane choice to a vodka cocktail. Also, the wine glass compliments the Indian sari beautifully as an accessory. This group is brand conscious and will only consume something that is well-known and regarded as a benchmark in that category. They normally don’t experiment with wines; they stick to doing what they have been doing.
Wine in one hand is always good at social gatherings.
The obvious interpretation of wine being healthier irrespective of the quantity are some classical features of this category.
The soft and supple tannins, with the mellow oak, black fruit and spice make it a winner.
These are the early movers; people who took up to wine before anyone else – got hooked and fell in love with the beverage. They are part of the ever-increasing wine fraternity and are also responsible for its growth. Some are formally trained and some have been around wines for decades. They are influencers; wine gurus; wine club regulars; they travel for wine (in India and abroad); they promote it, and they act as a critique and help consumers take up to wine. Wine dinners, food and wine pairings, vertical and horizontal tastings, limited edition bottles, etc. is all common fodder for this group. They are the wine elites who walk the walk and talk the talk. The entry to this category is a touch difficult, the people who are already a part, are slightly territorial about it. It’s a close-knit unit and though outsiders are welcomed, it takes time for an outsider to become an insider.
Wine is a beautiful beverage, meant to be enjoyed and celebrated by anyone who wants to. The single largest barrier today for wine is that it’s been made to appear more complicated than it is. The rituals, the glassware, the pour, the service temperature, the legs, and the cut grass have acted somewhat as a deterrent. There is much more to wine than this, but it’s the consumers who have to find their own pace and comfort.
As told by Tarun Sibal
Tarun Sibal is a product specialist having core competence in the food and beverage category, across production, operations, formats, food heritage and food and liquid culture. He is the owner of One Fine Meal and a partner at Cafe Stay Awoke, voted as Gurugram's finest cafe.