It is not every day that one sees wine connoisseurs flaunting glasses of their favourite drink in public space here. But, come July 10, select residents of India's IT hub are expected to revel in the taste of the best, produced in Karnataka.
Conceptualised by the Karnataka Wine Board on the lines of wine festivals popular in many western countries, the city's first wine festival is targeted to promote wine tourism in the state. The three-day mela (festival) will be held in the Lalbagh Botanical Garden.
Connoisseurs will get a chance to sample white, red and rose wines made in the state.
"Along with free tasting of wine, a seminar will be a part of the wine festival to educate farmers, industrialists and the public about wine cultivation, production and contract farming in Karnataka. Opportunities available in the state will also be highlighted," L Shantakumari Sundar, development commissioner and board chairperson, told IANS.
"Visitors will also get a chance to buy varieties of wines at lower prices in the festival," added Sundar.
A 750-ml bottle of Indian wine costs around Rs.400 in Bangalore. The board will soon decide on the discounted price at which it will be made available at the festival.
"During the festival, visitors will be also taught the art of wine-tasting and sampling. The ultimate aim of the festival is to develop people's taste for fruit-based wines and thereby bring benefit to the farmers engaged in fruit cultivation," said Sundar.
The government recently had amended the Karnataka Excise (Lease of Rights to Retail Vend of Wine) Rules, 2008, to facilitate setting up of boutiques for selling wine.
The chairperson said now it was possible for customers to carry wine outside, which they were prevented from doing in the taverns set up to sell wine in government premises.
"Shopping malls, super markets and multiplexes with not less than 15,000 sq. ft floor area will be allowed to have wine boutiques. Licence fees of Rs.1,000 and Rs.5,000 have been fixed for taverns and boutiques respectively," she added.
Around 600 acres in Karnataka are under grape cultivation, with most of the produce ultimately turned into wine.
Nandi Valley in Chikkaballapur and Krishna Valley in Bijapur are the largest grape cultivating regions in the state.
Karnataka produces about 1.8 million litres of wine annually. In 2008-09, the state sold around 300,000 litres to other Indian states and abroad.
The state is second only to Maharashtra in terms of wine production. Maharashtra produces almost 10 million litres of wine annually.
"The government seems to have opened up with the idea of promoting wine drinking in a big manner. Wine can earn good revenue for the state and benefit the farmers also. Moreover, wine consumption in moderate amount has health benefits too, unlike other alcoholic drinks," said Pramod Jalan, a self-confessed wine lover.