THE NEWS DESK: Wine connoisseur Magandeep Singh says India loves its spirits. For one simple reason, spirits have gained the Indian drinkers’ preference vote – pocket- friendliness.
Dark spirits dominate the Indian market.(Shutterstock)
Spirits have gained Indian drinkers’ preference vote for one simple reason – pocket- friendliness and given a choice and a long evening of heavy binge drinking ahead of them, most of them will opt for the strong spirits rather than wine, says a new book. In The Indian Spirit: The Untold Story of Drinking in India, wine connoisseur Magandeep Singh tells readers how to enjoy their drink while relishing the unique story of how it reached their glasses.
“India loves its spirits. For one simple reason, spirits have gained the Indian drinkers’ preference vote – pocket- friendliness. Not to say that we don’t make some good spirits – we do, really – but when you break down costs drink for drink, nothing gets you higher for lesser,” argues Singh.
He says wine was never native to India. “They imported it, drank it, and eventually even made some, but it was never the tipple to win any consumer choice awards. More than 2000 years ago, it was an elitist drink. Surprisingly since then, a lot has evolved but this attitude has pretty much remained unchanged,” he writes in the book, published by Penguin Random House. Wine, according to him, in India is only a fad and is not consumed as frequently or as comfortably as any strong spirit.
Wine is seen as an elitist drink. (Shutterstock)
“It costs a lot for one, a major deterrent to sales and proliferation. A bottle of wine is good for two people, at best, but costs the same as a bottle of spirit which could sort out at least half a dozen of our friends. We as Indians don’t drink wine enough, preferring spirits which are clearly the pocket-friendly choice,” Singh writes.
“Given a choice, and a long evening of heavy binge drinking ahead of them, they will mostly opt for spirits. This explains the overall unimpressive volume of wine as compared to the figures for whisky, vodka or even beer: it’s not because we lack a degree of culture or an idea of how to pair wines with food. We just understand economics better,” he says.
Singh, a French-qualified sommelier, describes his book as a narrative on alcohol, one that flows through the history of this glorious country. “It’s an observation on the love-hate (but mostly love) relationship that alcohol in all its delicious forms has had with the subcontinent.” Dark spirits dominate in the market, he says, adding white spirits may show more growth potential – double-digit percentage growth year on year – but in volumes they remain a tiny blip as compared to the dark spirit sales figures.
“The southern states are generally ruled by brandy (Telangana and Andhra Pradesh prefer whisky but Kerala and Tamil Nadu are brandy bastions) while most of the north is whisky county. In the middle as also in the metros, the figures are mixed. The big city is where one finds vodka consumption the highest; the trend shows a distinct positive streak around university campuses, student accommodation, or establishments that have loud music and a dance floor for daytime revelry,” the book says.