The country of India has experienced a period of massive expansion and growth over the past few decades, and the future of the wine industry here is bright.
While there is evidence of table grapes being grown in the area for over 2000 years, wine grapes were not introduced to India until the 19th century.
Today, there are two primary regions where the vast majority of the wines of India are produced, and the country’s consumption continues to increase year after year.
Some of the most famous and internationally recognizable wine grapes are grown in India, and everything from sweet wines to dry table and premium wines is produced here today.
Exploring the Wines of India
Wine Production in India
Table grapes have been used for food as well as the production of raisins and grape juice for over two thousand years in India. History suggests that the fruit was introduced to the region by the Persians as early as 500 BC.
In the 19th century, the British introduced wine grapes to India after colonizing the area. The intention was to establish mass local production of wine grapes for local consumption by British colonists who were unable to procure wine from other countries at the time.
Just as local wine production in India was beginning to hit its stride, the Phylloxera outbreak of 1855 swept through the area, greatly damaging local crops and hindering the local Indian wine economy from ever gaining a true foothold.
After India gained its independence from Great Britain, wine production saw another massive blow as cultural stigmas, religious influences, and local laws hindered the production of Indian wine to a great extent.
Wine production continued to remain dormant until the 1980s when factors like rapid expansion and globalization paved the way for the emergence of quality local Indian wine.
Today, wine production in the country continues to expand year over year, despite climate challenges.
The climate in India is not well suited to wine grape production whatsoever, and local farmers face a number of different ecological issues each growing season.
The region experiences both extreme heat and inconsistent rainfall, making the production of delicate wine grapes a challenge.
India’s wine-growing regions are also prone to monsoons, adding additional challenges on top of climate extremes and a short growing season. For these reasons, many of the country’s top wine-producing regions are located in areas of higher elevation.
India is an expansive country with different cultures, religions, traditions, and laws in place that vary from region to region. Many parts of India frown upon alcohol consumption, either for cultural or religious reasons.
It is illegal to consume alcohol in many parts of India, and Indian wine is only distributed to regions where both local laws and cultural norms allow for profitable wine sales.
The country continues to see an increase in alcohol consumption as a whole every year.
Indian Wine Regions
While there are a number of different villages and small wine-producing regions scattered throughout the country of India, the vast majority of wine is produced in one of two regions.
Maharashtra and Karnataka are the country’s two dominant wine regions.
The region of Maharashtra is home to India’s famous city of Mumbai, which is the largest in the entire country.
It is the largest producer of wine in the entire country and leads the way in terms of innovation and quality as well as the volume of wine produced.
It is estimated that over 60 percent of all individuals living in the Maharashtra region work in the agriculture industry in one capacity or another.
It is also estimated that about 90 percent of all Indian wine is produced in this region, making it the most important in India by far.
While the majority of grapes produced in Maharashtra are used as table grapes, the number of wine grape plantings in the area is constantly on the rise, as both increased demand and incentives from the state continue to spur massive growth to Maharashtra’s wine industry.
Today, there are at least 40 different wineries that are actively growing and producing some of India’s most well-known wines in the Maharashtra region, ranging from family vineyards to large-scale operations.
Many different wine grapes are produced in the Maharashtra region, with warm weather grapes like Syrah and Zinfandel being the most prominent and successful.
Winemakers have also managed success with traditionally cold weather grapes like Riesling as well.
Sula Vineyards is one of the two largest and most famous wine producers in the entire Maharashtra region. Sula Vineyards Shiraz is a classic example of quality Indian red wine using the Maharashtra region’s most important wine grape of Syrah.
Fratelli Wines is the second leading wine producer in Maharashtra, and Fratelli Wines ‘Sette’ Red is their most popular offering.
The blend is a unique mix of the French Cabernet Sauvignon grape and Sangiovese, Italy’s most planted wine grape.
While the Karnataka wine region produces significantly less wine compared to its northerly neighbor of Maharashtra, there is an impressive selection of high-quality wine being produced today, especially when considering the harsh growing conditions.
The region is located far enough south in India to be considered a “tropical zone” with warm temperatures and high humidity present year-round.
This is the exact opposite of the ideal wine growing conditions, which tend to be dry and of moderate climate.
Some of the best vineyards in the Karnataka region are located in the hills surrounding the famous city of Bangalore, making them strategically situated for sale and exportation into and out of the large city.
Grover Vineyards is the dominant producer in the Karnataka wine region, accounting for a vast majority of the region’s sales. Grover Zampa Vineyards La Reserve is one of the most famous and recognizable bottles produced by the vineyard, offering a balanced blend of French grapes.
The same producer is also responsible for one of the region’s most coveted white wines. Grover Zampa Vineyards Art Collection Viognier is a favorite among locals and wine critics alike, offering a straightforward quality Viognier for under $20 per bottle in most areas.
India’s Top Wine Grapes
There are a handful of large wine producers that make up the majority of wine available on the Indian wine market today.
While there is not a vast selection in terms of producers, there are a large variety of different wine grapes available in India today.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the number one selling wine in the entire world, and it is prevalent in India today.
Most often mixed with the Italian grape Sangiovese in India, this bold and tannic red wine grape provides both structure and flavor to red wine blends.
Hailing from the famous Nashik sub-region of Maharashtra, Charosa Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the few single varietal bottles of Cabernet sauvignon produced in India today.
At just under $40 per bottle, it is one of the pricier and more sought-after labels.
Syrah is another thick-skinned red wine grape that is well suited for India’s harsh growing conditions.
Usually referred to as Shiraz when produced in India, this is the most popular wine grape in the country when it comes to single varietal bottles of red wine.
Fratelli Wines Classic Shiraz is a popular everyday bottle of Syrah from one of the top wine producers in the country.
At under $15 per bottle, Fratelli offers a solid representation of the Syrah grape at a price point that is realistic for most wine enthusiasts.
Sangiovese is one of the few Italian wine grapes that thrive in India, and it is most often used in blends with Cabernet Sauvignon.
Sangiovese produces wine with a light body and plenty of acidity, making it a perfect candidate for blending with the low acid and bold Cabernet Sauvignon.
Fratelli Wines Sangiovese Bianco is one of the most unique bottles of wine produced in India today.
While Sangiovese is nearly always used to produce red wines, Fratelli has successfully created a high-quality white wine using the traditional red wine grape.
Zinfandel is one of the most popular wine grapes planted in warm-weather wine regions, and India is no exception.
This tough wine grape can withstand the brutal growing conditions present in India and produces a juicy and round red wine known for its sweetness and drinkability.
Sula Vineyards Zinfandel is produced by one of the top vineyards in all of India and offers a fantastic value on an easy-drinking red wine.
Many wine critics have awarded this bottle scores in the high 80s, which is relatively high considering the price point of under $15 per bottle.
Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most popular white wine grapes in the entire world, known for its strong and distinct aroma and elevated levels of acidity.
It is one of the most commonly planted white wine grapes in India today and is grown by most of the country’s leading wine producers.
Krsma Estates Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most popular wines from the entire Karnataka region, and it regularly receives awards and honors at international wine competitions.
It is one of the few white wines easily available for purchase online in countries like the United States.
The Viogner grape produces white wines that are generally full in body, high in alcohol, and low in acidity.
It is commonly planted across both of India’s major wine regions and is one of the top-selling white wine grapes in the entire country today.
Sula Vineyards Dindori Reserve Viognier has been awarded multiple scores in the 90s at the Decanter Wine Awards, which are particularly high marks considering that a bottle usually retails for around $15.
This bold and full-bodied white wine is one of the top sellers in all of India.
Wines of India – Conclusion
While India may not currently be a major player in terms of the international wine market, this may change over the coming decades.
India is one of the fastest-growing wine-producing countries in the entire world, and more Indian wine is available for purchase on the International market every year.
Increased domestic consumption coupled with various wine-growing incentives from the state makes the future of India’s wine economy look very bright.