THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:When the UDF Government decided to allow bars to mutate into ‘Beer & Wine’ parlours, wine was tipped to be the poor cousin. Predictable, since tipplers in Kerala have never been great admirers of the sparkling reds and whites. But current statistics show that wine - although still light years behind beer in sales - is not that poor a cousin.
Keralites, in fact, have started uncorking more wine bottles than ever before, reveal sales figures of the Kerala State Beverages Corporation (Bevco). With hard liquor becoming a tad hard to come by and more than 300 beer and wine parlours beckoning, wine sales have doubled, which has come as a surprise to even Bevco officials.
‘’Where we used to sell, on an average, 6000-6500 cases of wine a month, we now sell around 12,000-13,000 cases,’’ a senior Bevco official said. Twelve 750 ml bottles make a case. Numbers aside, connoisseurs nonetheless would refuse to be impressed by this new ‘wine culture.’ The reason being that the sales have accelerated in the low-end spectrum of Bevco’s wine list. Higher-end Indian wines which cost upwards of ` 600 a bottle continue to be sought after by the more discriminating drinker. The cheaper, port wines and the smaller bottles are the ones that have gone up in demand. Bevco officials say that the buyers are also ‘fortifying’ the wines with harder liquor to give them punch.
Despite the longer queues for wine, no one has yet approached the Excise Department for a licence to start wineries in the state, Anil Xavier, Excise Commissioner and managing director, Bevco, said.
An Excise Department permit under the Kerala Winery Rules, 1970, is needed to start one. A different piece of legislation - Cochin Mass Wine Rules - governs the production of church wine. “No one has applied for opening a winery so far. Bevco takes its winesthrough an all-India tender,’’ Anil Xavier said. But it remains a fact that, in Kerala, nowhere in the near future is wine going to outrun other big-selling alcoholic beverages like beer, brandy, whisky or rum. In December 2014 alone, beer sold 6.23 lakh cases and brandy, a stunning 9.7 lakh cases.
Wine sales for all of 2014 stood at just 63,493 cases.