Wine consumption and investments are witnessing a sea of change in the country, but still its a nascent segment which has a larger appetite to grow leaps and bounds, according to Indian wine broadcaster, wine educator and wine judge Sonal Holland.
Holland tells Moneycontrol, one can start investing in wines at a modest budget of Rs 10 lakh and slowly build it upwards. She cautions that wine afficionados should tread with caution and work with the experts for investments in the business.
Q) Has the Indian audience come of age when it comes to consumption of wine? Which part of the society has an appetite for wine? What is their age group?
The global Indian is increasingly exposed to the culture of wine on his international travels. We can see wine being depicted as the preferred drink of courtship in films and rapid urbanisation are making wine a mainstream drink in urban metro cities. Rising disposable incomes and increased availability of both domestic and imported wine is spawning significant interest in Indian consumers. However, as a market, we are still new to wine and most people are still exploring the taste of wine. The youth recognize wine as a drink for conversational, social occasions whilst the women are attracted to the softer image of wine, making it a socially acceptable drink among middle to older aged women. Then of course, there are middle-aged men and women taking to wine as a healthier alternative to drinking spirits.
Q) People buy wine even if it’s not in the country and let it age. How popular is the concept in India? What’s the spending budget in the segment?
Investing and making money from wine requires knowledge and understanding of how the fine wine world operates. It is best to be advised by a wine expert who can manage a collector's portfolio right from the start till liquidation. Wine can be quite an illiquid asset to hold and its not uncommon for people to either lose money on their wine investments or be stuck with their wine collection. But the great news is that great quality wine can always be consumed and enjoyed so you never really have to lose its value.
From an investment point of view, the golden rules are to buy only the best labels of superior vintages in original wooden cases that are stored in professional storage facilities, overseas, at full insurance value. All these factors ensure good provenance and high return on your investment value. One can start at a modest budget of Rs 10 lakh and slowly build it upwards. My advice would be to tread with caution and work with the experts in the business. Invest only the amount that you can afford to drink, in the eventuality of a failed investment!
Q) So what are the wines popular amongst Indian wine consumers? Are they India made or the imported ones?
Indians drink mostly red, perhaps because of its associated health benefits and consumers prefer the taste of red wine. Among reds, grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and Malbec are increasingly popular.
In whites, I see a lot of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio catching up among women. In sparkling, consumers tend to prefer the fruitier styles of Prosecco to the complex champagnes. Having said this, India consumes mostly Indian wine, mainly due to its easier accessibility and more attractive price points as compared to imported wines. However, consumers continue to voice their preference for trying out different styles of wines from around the world and would enjoy this change in culture and availability of imported wines, coming through.
Q) What is the average spent on wine? What is the maximum that people spent on wine? How much has the spend gone up over the years?
Research on India Wine Inside shows that more than 50% of Indians prefer to order wine by the glass whilst at a restaurant or bar. This alludes to the price sensitivity of the Indian consumer or perhaps the need to drink wine in moderation. Despite price-sensitivity, Indian consumers tend to spend more on wines to impress. So, while the average spend on a bottle of wine in a casual restaurant may be around Rs 2,000, consumers will tend to spend up to Rs 5,000 at a business meal or a special gathering. Wine is also gaining popularity as a gifting option among consumers to set a favourable impression, with average spends at Rs 1200 - Rs 1,500 on a bottle of wine for gifting.
Q) What would be the market size of the wine industry in India? Where do you see it going?
The Indian wine market is currently at 2.7 million cases of wine (each case is 12 bottles of 750 ml capacity). Of this, nearly 2.1 million cases consumed are Indian wines and the rest are imported wines. Growth rates for imported wines are higher than for the domestic wines. I see this trend continuing as consumers seek more options of wine styles from across the world. Additionally, there is a growing demand among consumers for wine education, awareness and opportunities to taste wine. The culture of wine among consumers is rapidly growing and it will only grow, with women and youth playing a significant role in its growing popularity.
Q) How popular is the concept of wine clubs in the country?
Did you know that there are over 3,000 different labels of wine available in the country? Yet, consumers find themselves drinking the same wine over and over again. In the past decade, the most common question I have been asked repeatedly by wine-loving friends is "what wine should we be drinking and where can we find it?" So I thought, why not start a wine club that answers these two questions. We founded SoHo Wine Club with the philosophy that drinking good wine should not have to be a lucky draw, and wine-lovers should have access to great wine.