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Ambassador's speech at "An evening of celebration of Indian Wines" - Wine-tasting event, January 28, 2013

It is a great pleasure to welcome you all to this Embassy event that introduces Indian wines to China.  Our partner today is China Wines & Spirits and I thank them for their initiative and cooperation.  Some of you, when invited to the function, expressed surprise that there was such a thing as an Indian wine.  Let me therefore give you some context before addressing that issue. 

2.     In professions like diplomacy, finance or media, we readily recognize the globalization process that characterizes our contemporary world.  But where globalization has actually made the greatest impact is in our eating and drinking habits.  An Indian cannot imagine a world without chillies, Russians without potatoes or an Italian without tomatoes.  Yet, such worlds existed just a few hundred years ago.  We speak of Brazilian coffee when that product originated in Yemen.  Or Darjeeling tea that actually came from Fujian. This interpenetration of cultures has only become more intense with time.  A decade now holds more change than a century earlier.  Proof of that is in Chicken Tikka Masala as a British national dish, a Gobi-Manchurian in India or the California roll. 

3.     Our drinking habits have been equally influenced by the growing mobility of peoples.  In the case of India, our climate can claim some credit for the invention of gin & tonic.  The concept of punch also originated from us. We played a part too in the triumph of whisky over brandy as the world’s most consumed spirit.  The wine story is the latest chapter in that regard.  Wine drinking is not new to India.  We were big importers of the original Shiraz from Persia.  Madeira was a core export of the British East India Company.  Production in India came later, the first center established in 1608 by the British. Yet, wine drinking has long remained second to consumption of spirits and it is only now that growing prosperity is creating new demands. The situation is similar to China some years ago. The new wine powers of the south serve as our inspiration.  I am sure that Indian wine will be no less improbable or successful than a Japanese whisky.  Let us regard it as a subtext to the revival of Asia and of greater international cultural understanding!

4.     India’s is still an infant wine industry that produces 15 million liters per annum. There are 4000 hectares of grape plantation and 100-plus processing units in an industry that is now crossing the half billion USD mark.  Our wines are entering foreign festivals, and sometimes even– as with Sula’s Sauvignon Blanc 2010—winning awards.  They are exported to Europe, the Gulf and South East Asia.  The two red wines you will be tasting today are from Grover Vineyards in Bangalore, one of the oldest wine producers in the country.   Both are Cabernet Sauvignon --Shiraz blends,one 80:20 and the other 60:40.  Given China’s growing appetite for red wine, it is natural that we now seek to enter this market.  We do so with your support and encouragement.  This evening, the wines are paired with Indian food but we hope that many of you will be more creative in that regard.

Thank you once again for joining us this evening and I wish you all happy wining and dining.