Australian wine company Howling Wolves has set up a joint venture to produce wine in India with Indian distiller and distributor Brihans.
Producing wine locally is a way of reaching the lucrative Indian market, Howling Wolves CEO Damian Knowles said.
India is a notoriously hard market for wine exporters. Import duties and government surcharges reach 550% in some states, while others ban all alcohol sales.
Knowles also said the quality of most locally-produced wine was fairly poor.
‘Ninety-five percent of locally-produced wine is average or below. Indian growers are conditioned to growing quantity not quality.’
The new vineyard is at Shreepur, about 300km south of Mumbai. Knowles says the climate is half way between Western Australia’s Margaret River (where Howling Wolves is based) and the Swan Valley near Perth.
‘We have already planted 10ha of grapes as rootstock and will shortly begin grafting Margaret River scion tissue including Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, Chenin and a few rows of Merlot and Semillon,’ he said.
Margaret River viticulturalist Tim Quinlan, who flies to Shreepur every other month, is in charge of vineyard design and management in cooperation with the Indian farm manager.
When the winery is in operation an Australian winemaker will also consult.
‘We plan to start up winemaking early next year. We will buy in fruit for the first vintage,’ said Knowles.
Within five years Knowles plans to sell 25,000 cases of Brihan-Howling Wolves wine into the domestic market.
‘There has been a change in attitude to wine in India,’ he said. ‘Once five-star restaurants set out beer tumblers. Now they set out wine glasses.
Written by Frank Smith