Grape expectations: India’s biggest winemaker aims to create new drinking habits

India’s largest winemaker, Surah Vineyards, is now on the stock market and targets the middle class.

“The time has come for wine in India,” says Rajeev Samant, CEO and founder of Surah Vineyards.

The Stanford graduate is betting on the diversifying tastes of the burgeoning urban middle class in a country that has long favored hard liquor.

Named after Samant’s mother Slava, Surah planted its first vines in 1996 and later built a sprawling resort that helped cultivate Nashik’s new reputation as India’s wine capital. did.

“India is one of the world’s largest grape producers, and Nashik is one of its key regions, but all the grapes back then were table grapes and raisins, not wine grapes,” he says. adds.

“Where Sura is today, it was just grassland. There were leopards and snakes. There was no electricity, no telephone lines. It was like a century ago,” says Samant.

Samant was inspired by a visit to California’s Napa Valley wine country.

The Californian first tried growing roses and mangoes on family-owned land near the ancient holy city of Nashik, about 100 miles from the financial hub of Mumbai.

‘Why not here in India try to make a decent, easy-to-drink wine made in India with pride?’ he thought. “And that’s what I decided to do.”

After a weaker-than-expected reaction to last week’s initial public offering, Seura Vineyards fell more than 5% in its trading debut on Thursday in a sluggish market, valuing the winemaker at around €324 million.

Wine accounts for less than 1% of India’s huge alcohol market, while spirits are by far the most popular in a country of 1.4 billion people.

On average, Indians drink only a few spoonfuls of wine a year, but producers hope India will replicate China’s wine boom when the economy took off in the 1980s. .

Still, experts warn that rosé ambitions are dampened by uncertainties such as the impact of climate change on viticulture and lower import tariffs from Australia’s trade deal.

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