Passage to India

George Bush will take a 13 hour plane trip to New Delhi today to spend three days in the world’s largest democracy. If the Teetotaler-in-Chief stopped to look at the Indian wine industry, what would he find?

Most importantly, that the industry has friends in high places. The Minister of Agriculture, Sharad Pawar (photo right), is a grape grower who even has a the Sharad seedless grape named after him. He is a champion of the view that wine is a drink of moderation and recently tried to get wine classified as food and be as easy to sell as soft drinks. His efforts were rebuffed. However, his home state of Maharashtra has doubled tariffs on imported wine (states with the ability to add tariffs!), making local grape sources more attractive and more difficult for wineries to pass off Chilean wine as their own.

Viv Menon recently won a Geoffrey Roberts Award to travel to India to examine the wine industry. In his comments on, Menon calls Grover‘s wines “quite incredible.” Michel Rolland is a consultant. Indage has opened a wine bar on the premises with no beer or spirits available and she is surprised to find some people there have traveled over an hour for a glass of wine. He describes Sula as “the slickest of all in terms of marketing” and that they have good viticultural practices to boot. The most promising sign for consumers he writes is that the Oberoi hotel in New Delhi now has an enoteca.

While wine gets frequent mention in the Bible promoters of wine in India can find support even in the Bhagwat Gita: “Yea! those who learn The threefold Vedas, who drink the Soma-wine, Purge sins, pay sacrifice — from Me they earn Passage to Swarga.”

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