India Gradually Acquires a Taste for Wine

    15 December, 2014

    From VOA VOA Learning English, this is the Agriculture Report.

    Indians who like alcohol, usually choose whiskey as their drink. But slowly, wine is growing more popular in the country. India's first vineyard, a farm where grapes used to make wine are grown, is named Sula. It began operations 15 years ago.

    Sula vineyards is in Nashik in northwestern Maharashtra state. Software engineer Nagesh Kamble and his wife Snehal have come to the hilly vineyard from Pune, about 200 kilometers south. The young couple wanted to learn how wine is made. They began drinking wine at special event two years ago.

    India Gradually Acquires a Taste for Wine
    Visitors learn about wine at the tasting room of Sula Vineyards in Nashik, Maharashtra, India. (Anjana Pasricha for VOA)

    "It was in Pune when there was a wine tasting festival going on," said Nagesh.

    Snehal Kamble tells why the couple chose this time to come to Sula.

    " is our anniversary this week, so we are kind of celebrating," said Snehal.

    Sula Vineyards is India's largest Indian wine maker. Ten years ago, it opened a tasting room to create a wine culture among people like the Kambles. About 200,000 people visit every year. It is especially busy on weekends.

    Visitors explore the vineyards. Then, they learn how to taste wine, to best enjoy the blend of flavors.

    Indian tradition has not been approving of alcoholic drinks. And until now whiskey is the kind of alcohol that the general public has accepted.

    Nashik in Western India, where the sub tropical climate is suitable for growing grapes, is home to sprawling vineyards. (Anjana Pasricha for VOA)

    Neeraj Agarwal is vice president of Sula Vineyards. He has seen the change that has taken place since the company struggled to sell its first several thousand bottles of wine in 2000. Last year, Sula sold more than seven million bottles. Mr. Agarwal believes that wine is helping change opinion about alcohol.

    "In five years, the scenario has completely changed. Earlier, talking about alcohol in the open and seeing a woman having a glass of wine in hand was a taboo. Now, it's wonderful, families coming, sitting together and enjoying," Agarwal said.

    Young professionals are the main supports of the growth in India's wine market. The market is expanding at about 13 percent a year. Over the last 10 years, 90 wineries have opened across Karnataka and Maharashtra states, where the climate is favorable for growing wine grapes.

    Indian women still represent a very small number of the wine drinkers in the country. But their numbers are growing more than twice as fast as men.

    There are several reasons for this. One is that more women have joined the workforce in the last ten years, and have independent incomes. In big cities like Delhi and Mumbai, women buying wine or having a drink is no longer considered unacceptable.

    I'm Caty Weaver.