But despite demand, it’s still the blues for Bangalore Blue growers

Grape wines from the wineries of Karnataka may not be doing well, but makers of fortified wine, brewed from the famed Bangalore Blue grapes, report having almost doubled their sale following changes wrought in Karnataka’s Wine Policy last year. Not only that, demand for the fruit has gone up though farmers’ leaders claim that the spike has had no impact on the price.

The State government, in April 2012, recognised fortified wine made from Bangalore Blue as wine under the policy, which, industry sources say, resulted in increased sales. Prior to that, fortified wines, governed by excise rules, were only sold in liquor shops. Now you can get them outside these premises.

What is fortified wine?

Fortified wine is distinguished from fruit wine for having additional spirit added along with the alcohol derived from the fruits.

Heritage Wines managing director P.L. Venkatarama Reddy told The Hindu the total sale of fortified wines almost doubled since the change in State policy last year.

“Earlier, a total of around 18,000 cases (each case has 12 bottles or a total of nine litres) was sold a month. It is now 35,000,” Mr. Reddy said.

This comes as the pure grape wine industry in Karnataka reported a decline by nearly 10 per cent over last year.

Cost is also a factor, industry sources said, and added that a bottle of fortified is available for as little as Rs. 100 while grape wine price starts at around Rs. 300.

Manufacturers now sell fortified wine produced from Bangalore Blue grapes in wine boutiques/ taverns, which was not so earlier.

Karnataka Grape Growers Association director P. Venugopal acknowledged the increase in demand for Bangalore Blue from the wine industry but lamented that farmers were still not getting good price for the produce. “While demand is more, cost has not gone up [appreciably].”

He attributed the increased output to expansion in area under cultivation too, particularly as Bangalore Blue yields two crops annually.

However, L. Narayanaswamy, a grape grower in Doddamaralli in Chickaballpur, said: “Wine industry is only one of the end-users. Blue grapes are also sought by the spirit industry. The government should promote this grape variety to help farmers.”

The average price of Bangalore Blue has been high (average Rs. 15 a kg at farm gate) this year, he said, though the current price is Rs. 8.

Bangalore’s own fruit

Exclusive to Chickballapur, Kolar, Bangalore Urban and Rural districts that fall in the Nandi valley, Bangalore Blue is grown mostly by small and medium farmers numbering around 15,000 in a tleast 13,000 acres.

Incidentally, the Horticulture Department has applied for the Geographical Indications (GI) tag for Bangalore Blue.