‘Wine produced even five years ago lying unsold in Karnataka’s wineries’

Hopcoms in the city could soon be stocking wine if a proposal with the Excise Department is accepted. The pilot project will begin with five out of the city’s 250-odd hopcom outlets creating wine boutiques, perhaps even as soon as two months from now, said M.K. Shankarlinge Gowda, Principal Secretary, Horticulture Department.

Although Hopcom employees are “reluctant” to sell wine in these outlets that traditionally only keep vegetables, this could in fact “help” expand their market base for them, Mr. Gowda said at the inauguration of a National level conference on wine organised by the Karnataka Wine Board and State Department of Horticulture on Thursday.

The State Government is considering introducing oenology (the study of wine) as an academic discipline in universities, he added. Joint Secretary Ministry of Food Processing Industries, U. Venkateswarlu said that the country lacks serious academic options for the study of wine. “We do not study the sector as an academic stream – how grapes are grown, issues with production and marketing strategies,” he said.

Memorandum

Meanwhile, the Karnataka Grape Growers Association have submitted a memorandum to the Karnataka Wine Board suggesting that the Karnataka Grape Processing and Wine Policy of 2007 be implemented for another 10 years to encourage the faltering industry.

While Indian wine has the image of being of “low quality” in the international market, it is considered too expensive for the domestic market, says the memorandum. Wine produced as long as five years ago are lying unsold in Karnataka’s wineries, which have therefore reduced their production. With the fall in demand for wine grapes, many farmers are going back to growing table grape (for consumption).

The Indian wine industry is going through its “toughest” phase in the last two decades, says the memorandum adding that “unsold stocks are now so large that they are… devaluing Indian wine, encouraging discounts and undermining profits…” Many in the industry believe that “there will be winery closures in the next two years.”

The memorandum also suggests that wine should be sold at winery premises. They have also sought subsidised electricity supply to the industry, which involves “huge consumption of power.” The two day conference will have technical sessions on tackling challenges faced by the Indian wine industry, on new viticulture practices, and on excise rules and policy with regard to wine. (eom)