Industry experts and watchers wield a massive amount of influence when it comes to determining outsider’s view of the sector. That’s why, while we need those who support and promote nascent sectors, we also need dispassionate journalists who can evaluate facts, write with a global perspective; and state things as they are so everyone is wiser.
Against this background, you will notice a massive void in Indian wine writing. Though I have never been much interested reading about wines and must confess that have not searched a lot for good writers, the ones I have come across don’t inspire much promise.
Missing are the articles or insights about wine pricing, critical comparison of Indian wines with their imported counterparts or even general long form journalism about the evolution of the Indian sector and how it compares with the trajectory in other parts.
I have enough pieces about how great Indian wines are, how they are being appreciated around the world and blah blah. But how much brochure can one read! I am surprised there are no interesting pieces from such a new industry – of product trials, failures, struggles etc. Something that will get an average reader interested and involved.
We had a few expat friends at home yesterday. They got these fine wines from an Embassy canteen, if I can call them that. And, we got talking – how Indian promoters erred by positioning wine as this really niche indulgence and then struggled to expand market share. What followed is frantic events, promotions and rounds and rounds of communication, all of which do the same – position wine as something that only the millionaires should drink.
When Mac Donald’s came to india, they were surprised that the fast food chain had become a family dining place in India. When Arvind Mills launched a cheap denim brand that came for 299 rupees per trouser, they were surprised to find out that many used these denims as festive/occasion wear. Then the cart of Europe – Skoda – is a luxury car in India. Those are unintended consequences, may be, not the last one. And, then you have the wine industry which wants to compared to the best of the world within two decades of coming into being.
World over, wines priced around 5 dollars are seen to be good for regular drinking. Not here, wines are a status symbol. Indian wines in a restaurant are marginally cheaper than imported wines which bear hefty import duties.
In Pondicherry, having no other option, I once bought a wine that I had never heard of for 300 bucks. The path to that wine shop was littered with drunkards and people were drinking at the door too. I had to shout out my password across a yard full of drunkards. But this wine from Karnataka was a good one.
The question is when the import duty is gone and there is level playing field, how will the Indian wines fare? Will there be enough wine writers who can still write unbiasedly or will we have to live with brand ambassadors only?