–Kakali Das |
“As people have been spending a lot of time at their homes, it only gets better with a glass of wine”, I’m not saying this but reports from Beverage Daily indicate that the consumption of alcohol in the United States have risen up by 16% during the overall lockdown period. But is the case same in India, which is the 9th largest consumer of alcohol in the world?
Alcohols have made its way to the living rooms during this period of lockdown. In the US, for instance, people have been sitting at their homes quaffing glasses of wine, but only to be the opposite in India. It has come to a screeching halt in the country. Our Indian government, in their wisdom, decided to restrict alcohol sales including others amidst thislockdown and the retailers aren’t happy about it. In conversation with the Editor of Curly Tales, the CEO and Founder of Sula Vineyards, Rajeev Samant told, “It has been a struggle. We, for 60 days, could not manage to sell a single bottle of Wine out of our Winery.” The good news, according to him is that in those places where the markets have resumed again such as, Bangalore, Maharashtra, the Wine supplies have opened up completely well, at least in terms of retail sales. Sales are seen bouncing back strongly and it seems from July the Wineries will be able to sell as much wine as last year. Home deliveries of alcohol in most places have been started. In certain markets home delivery is allowed but in many it is still quasi-legal, highly ambiguous.According to the founders of the Wine companies, allowing home deliveries of alcohol has been a good move by the government. In many states almost all adults have excise permits and with technology it has become too easy to verify the persons who are ordering the wine and receiving it. “It’s a hopeful sign”, said by the Founder of Sula Vineyards.
Liquors, in India have been treated as something much graver than a hard drug in some cases. The penalties for being caught with a case of Wine is worse than being caught with drug. Although drinking as aculture seems to be evolving in India. Reports do indicate that there have been changes in consumption patterns with female consumers on the rise. Women have become much more comfortable in buying a bottle of Wine nowadays. According to Rajeev Samant, “Today, a drink is essential regardless of the prohibitions on it by the constitution”. “If you have a meal, a bar of chocolate, a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, why can’t you have a glass of Indian Classic Wine made of fresh grapes and which contains an alcohol content of 8 per cent?”, said by the Founder of Sula.
On asked about if the process of Wine making at Sula Vineyards is at halt, the CEO said that the process of making wine happens all the year round. It’s a wonderful process that starts with the harvest of grapes from January to March. He was the one who himself blended the batch of Wine in the year 2020. The production, the bottling and the dispatch have been at halt which might resume in a couple of weeks. Almost every workers working at the Vineyards are from various tribes from the local villages. Sula happens to be one of the biggest employers of the Scheduled Tribe workforce in the state of Maharashtra and probably the biggest in terms of the proportions of people they employ. People have gone to their villages next door and are all safe and sound; there has been no any inconvenience caused during this lockdown. No any permanent worker has been laid off amidst this chaos.
There are many preventive measures taken in place in order to ensure absolute sanitation and hygiene so that the bottle that reaches the consumer is absolutely safe. The Wine industries have made sure that everything that the state and central governments have put in place are followed. Each empty spots or areas in the Wineries have been filled with bottles of sanitizers available for everybody; strict checking of workers and others through thermometers, oximeters will be ensured. Wine tourism has been tremendously affected in India during this pandemic. Sula Vineyard in Nasik, to be precise, usually gets around 30,000 visitors a month, whereas it has been reduced to zero for the last 60 days. But the business is expected to bounce back as soon as the disease subsides. Maintaining social distance between the people, the tables would be primarily be measured by the Wineries. Sula, as said by the CEO will request authorities to allow outdoor seating within the Vineyard if possible. It would, indeed, be very challenging for a couple of months to cope with the loss.