Indians have embraced whiskey, rum and brewpubs, but the alcoholic beverages scene in the country is still in its infancy, says wine expert Daniel Beedle.
“The selection is rather limited. Some of the big players are available, but the price is pretty steep compared to what you see in other countries. Most of what everyday wine drinkers have available to them is bulk-shipping wine, so there isn’t as big an interest as there could be,” Beedle told IANS in an e-mail interview.
Beedle is the Group Wine and Beverage Director for Indian Accent Restaurants chain, which has outlets in New Delhi, New York and will soon open in London.
He pointed out the issues facing the liquor business in India.
“One of the main issues is how the local authorities handle liquor. It is near impossible for the distributor to get things consistently, as every single wine has to go through a very complex national import system and then through an even more complex regional system. It brings progress to a slow crawl.
“Everyone in the business says this is the hardest thing to deal with. However, it seems to be improving now with new players coming to the country. People are willing to explore new stuff,” he added.
Beedle has extensive experience overseeing the wine and beverage programmes at some of New York’s most acclaimed restaurants including Juni, Betony, Boulud Sud and The Nomad.
He is in India to expand and enhance the existing wine list at Indian Accent here. He has also created a new range of cocktails that showcase an amalgamation of global techniques and Indian ingredients.
“The potential for growth is huge and something that I think everyone wants to see. Whiskey is big here, but I can easily see rum becoming popular once some better products come into the market. Beer is also going to be on the rise and I saw a big surge in brewpubs in the last few years. But without a place in India that makes its own speciality malts, the quality won’t be there,” he said.
Elaborating, he said given that India has to import its barley, the cost will be too high or the brewer has to stretch their recipe.
“There is a famous yeast library that stores and records all the best types of yeast for beer production called White Labs. Currently, there is no access to it; so some of the brewers I’ve spoken to have to sneak yeast strains back in after visiting Europe,” he said.
On the relaunch programme that Indian Accent is coming up with, he said the wine list is going to take on a more adventurous tone when it comes to varieties and regions that are fairly new to the market.
“We are all prepared to offer wines from Alsace (eastern France), Austria, New Zealand and Australia to our guests,” he said.
“For cocktails, we are going to use fresh juices, house-made syrups, bitters and will make our own liquors. Since there are a lot of classic liquors that have not yet made it to the market in India, we plan on making our own, using local herbs and spices,” he added.