Maharashtra: You can soon buy wine from department stores
Citizens may soon be able to walk into a department store in Maharashtra and buy a bottle of Chenin Blanc or Cabernet Sauvignon. The state government has proposed to allow “walk-in stores” to retail wine under a new policy, which is being finalised.
A proposal to impose a nominal excise duty of 10% on wine is in the pipeline as part of this policy.
If implemented, this will end the 20-year tax holiday (in force till December-end) for wine made from grapes produced in Maharashtra. At the same time, the policy aims at boosting the retail sales of wine.
Besides allowing sales in retail outlets, the policy also proposes to allow private establishments to open wine bars, where just wine can be sold. Currently, only wineries can open one such retail outlet.
State excise department officials said the new policy will focus on creating new marketing channels to promote wine sales.
“Walk-in retailers such as department stores and supermarkets may stock wine in separate wine racks,” an official said.
A notification is likely to be issued in August and other elements of the policy may be announced soon.
The government will define the “walk-in store” category as it covers a wide range of retail outlets, including grocery shops that go beyond the usual over-the-counter sales.
In 2005, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president and then Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar had spoken against wine being classified as liquor and called for it to be accessed at the grocer, leading to a pushback.
Industry sources admit that despite the tax holidays and wine’s status as an aspirational drink, its consumption has been sluggish. In 2020-21, wine sales were just around 700,000 litres as compared to a much higher consumption of country liquor (320 million litres), beer (30 crore litres) and Indian-Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) that saw sales of 200 million litres.
Another official said that a reason for the tepid sales of wine was the lack of alternative marketing channels apart from wine shops which hesitated in stocking smaller brands.
“At present, the wineries can launch an outlet to sell wine. These licences may be opened up to allow establishments retailing just wine,” said the official.
Wine festivals and tasting sessions may also get a boost with a new daily licence worth ₹3,000 being launched for them. At present, the organisers of such events have to seek a temporary one-day licence, which covers all categories of liquor, but costs a steeper ₹10,000.
Though the state government is planning to impose a 10% tax on the maximum retail price (MRP) for wine, thought is being given whether some of this amount can be diverted to a ‘wine board’ which will work on quality and marketing.
Rajesh Jadhav, former state secretary of the All India Wine Producers Association (AIWPA), said it was necessary for the government to allow wineries to home deliver products. The elimination of intermediaries from the supply chain will push down prices and work to the advantage of smaller producers.
AIWPA president Jagdish Holkar said it had taken the industry 25 years to reach ₹1,000-crore turnover. However, they set a target of attaining ₹5,000 crore turnover by 2026.
“Wine is a healthy drink and will also boost the agro-economy,” he added.
Of the 110 wineries in India, Maharashtra has the highest (72). However, only about 20 of these units are producing wine, with other wineries contract manufacturing it for larger producers. Most of these wineries are located in Nashik – which is referred to as the ‘Wine and Grape Capital of India’ – followed by Sangli, Pune, Solapur, Buldhana and Ahmednagar. The grapes required for wine are mostly grown in Nashik and Sangli districts.
Another reason for the depressed sales of wine is the drinking pattern of the masses, which includes consumption of hard liquor.