Viticulture in India has a long history dating back to the time of the Indus Valley civilization when grapevines were believed to have been introduced from Persia. Winemaking has existed throughout most of India’s history but was particularly encouraged during the time of the British and Portuguese colonisation of the subcontinent. The end of the 19th century saw the phylloxera louse take its toll on India’s wine industry followed by religious and public opinion moving towards the prohibition of alcohol. Following the country’s independence from the British Empire, the Constitution of India declared that one of the government’s aims was the total prohibition of alcohol. Several states went dry and the government encouraged vineyards to convert to table grape and raisin production.
The turning point in India’s wine industry occurred in the early 1980s with the founding of The Tonia Group in the state of Goa (see Grape Varieties), and India now produces around 13.5 million litres of wine each year. This figure is set to grow as new players emerge and wine taxation is relaxed. Based on the quality of the wines from such producers as Sula and Fratelli the growth will be exponential both at home and abroad.
India is also home to several indigenous table grape varieties that can be used in wine production with Anabeshahi, Arkavati and Arkashyam being the most common. Popular non-native grapes include the Bangalore Blue (Isabella) and Gulabi (Black Muscat). The Turkish grape Sultana is the most widely planted grape in India, covering more than half of the 148,000 acres planted in the country. In addition to the imported French varieties Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Chenin Blanc and Clairette Blanche have started to establish a presence in the Indian wine industry.