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Hospitality: interview with Rajeev Samant and Craig Wedge

Rajeev Samant, MD and CEO, Sula Vineyards and Craig Wedge, wine consultant, JW Mariott give Purva Mehra the lowdown on India's burgeoning wine culture.
Hindustan Times | By Purva Mehra, Mumbai
UPDATED ON MAR 09, 2008 12:37 AM IST

Rajeev Samant, MD and CEO, Sula Vineyards and Craig Wedge, wine consultant, JW Mariott givePurva Mehrathe lowdown on India's burgeoning wine culture

How big is wine in India?
Samant - There has been a 30 per cent increase in consumption every year for the past three years. That makes India the fastest growing market. For the longest time hard liquor has been the most popular option, but people are getting more health conscious. Drinking wine is no longer taboo for working women and the shift of women as non-drinkers to social drinkers is fuelling consumption in a big way.
Wedge - The more informed of us realise that wine is truly a global commodity. Produced in over 70 countries, with a history dating back 6000 years, wine will be at the forefront of the culinary revolution that is certain to take place in India.

Do you think ours is a conducive market for a wine revolution?
Wedge - Every wine company and producer from around the world covets what India offers to the global wine market. Its huge middle class is possibly the biggest wine market on the planet.
Samant - There's a lot of grape growing potential in India. Local production is a great way to stimulate wine consumption and that has been the most exciting development in the past decade. The Government is also facilitating this by liberalising wine production in a big way.

Where do we stand in terms of imports?
Samant- Imports are about 50 to 60 per cent a year over the last three years. This year has been a milestone for India as we crossed the one million case consumption mark. That's a significant leap from 500,000 cases three years ago. We at Sula are bullish about the future and expect the growth to continue. The industry will grow at 25 per cent a year for the next five to six years and we can expect to cross the two million case consumption mark over the next three years.

What is the future of wine in India?
Wedge - I see an array of imported wines filling our wine lists and retail stores. I see a plethora of wine bars and wine lounges focused on spreading the word of wine to the people and an end to outrageous excise and custom duties. People will be incorporating good wines as a part of their daily rituals and the Indian wine industry is set to produce world-class wines, comparable to the best.

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