European wines seek geographical indication tag with India proposing a steep duty cut

KOCHI: Popular European wine brands are making a beeline for geographical indication (GI) registration in India. This comes at a time when the country is considering a steep cut in the import duty on wines and spirits currently pegged at 150% as it negotiates a free trade agreement with the European Union. 

Thanks to wine regions of Europe, foreign products now outnumber Indian ones in requests for GI registration in India. Of the 227 applications pending registration before the GI Registry office, 125 are from European Union, mostly wine and spirit brands. The rest of the 102 applications are for registering Indian products from various states. 

GI offers protection of trademarks or brand names used in relation to products identified with a particular region. 

"Most of the GI registration applications from Europe have come in the last two years, We are awaiting proper documents for getting them registered," said Chinnaraja G Naidu, assistant registrar of Trade Marks and GI, Chennai. As on March 31, 2013, there were 193 GI registered products in India, including nine foreign brands such as Champagne and Cognac from France, Porto and Duoro wines from Portugal, Scotch Whisky from the UK and Tequila from Mexico. 

The list of European wine brands seeking GI registration has some popular ones like Bordeaux and 
Burgundy from France, Manzanilla and Cava from Spain, Rheinhessen and Mittelrhein from Germany, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo and Chianti from Italy, Retsina of Attiki of Greece Tokaj of Hungary and Commandaria of Cyprus. 

The growing potential of the Indian wine market, which logs an annual growth of 20-30%, is luring European wine brands. The cut in the import duty could open floodgates and the wine-growing regions are ensuring the protection of trademarks by getting the GI registration. 

"At present, Indian per capita wine consumption is 10-12 ml compared with 8 to 50 litre in
European Union countries," says Rajesh Jadhav, secretary of All India Wine Producers Association. The Indian wine industry is over a decade-old and there are around 90 players. In contrast, many European wine brands have been in existence for centuries. 

"With vineyards stretching thousands of acres and mechanized faming, the wine-growing regions in Europe deal in huge volumes which help them to produce at a lower cost," he added. 

Indian wine production is around 1.8 million cases (of 9 litres each) and the import is 2.2 lakh cases. "In fact, imports have fallen in the last few years with the growth of the Indian wine industry" points out Subhash Arora, president of 
Indian Wine Academy.