Wine can be a winner for northeast India

Subhajit Poddar


Production and consumption of alcoholic beverages, including wine, is part of the ethnic culture of northeast India. However, the industry size is small when compared to Nashik, in Maharashtra, which contributes 90 percent of the total wine production in the country. 

Traditionally, wine was produced from locally grown fruits and rice by the hill tribes of the region for household or community consumption. The arrival of some start-ups and local manufacturing companies gave it an industry status, which needs to be nursed for greater economic benefit to the region. 

This year, 'Judima' wine, produced by Dimasa tribes (who reside majorly in Assam and Nagaland) has been accorded with the Geographical Indication (GI) tag. A local fermented drink made from rice, the word Judima derives from ju which means wine and Dima means ‘belonging to the Dimasa’. 

Judima is a ceremonial drink of the Dimasa tribe and is made from three different varieties of rice: red or white bora rice (the glutinous sticky variety), non-bora rice (the non-sticky variety) and the bairing rice, a special variety cultivated in Jhum style (terrace farming). 

Out of the three, the bairing rice is cultivated by the Dimasas solely for preparing Judima wine. 

Meghalaya too has a long history in wine production from locally grown fruits. The State has also played a role in popularizing wine culture. Beginning 2002, local winemakers display and sell their products at the annual “Shillong Wine Festival”. Participation in the festival grew over the years. 

The sale of wine through any other channel was not permitted in the state until 2020 when Meghalaya Government introduced the ‘Manufacture and Sale of Home-Made Fruit Wines Rules, 2020’ and started issuing licenses to winemakers. The move will help winemakers to tap wider national and international markets. 

In Mizoram, wine is produced from locally grown premium quality grapes (Lubrusca variety). The wine is of high quality. The wineries are mostly located at Hnahlan and Champhai in the state. The first commercial launch took place in September 2010 under the brand ‘Zawlaidi’ which means “Love potion”. 

Wine is also manufactured in select pockets in other northeastern states. The region has also been witnessing a gradual growth of Start-Ups, who are coming up with new varieties using ingredients like tea, dragon fruit, etc. These products are witnessing good demand potential. 

Improving market potential and rising production of wines has an impact on the agri-horticultural sector of the region. To optimize the potential and emerge as a major employment generator, the region should pay more attention to the branding and marketing of alcobev. 

The GI tag to Judima wine is the right step. The initiative should be widened to other products of the land. Investment might be required in repositioning back-end logistics and particularly in brand-building. 

With sustained growth, India is witnessing a rise in wine culture. Consumers with high disposable income are niche premium products. Nashik has already done its bit in popularizing wine consumption. It can be Northeast’s turn next to take it forward. 

For greater value addition, the focus should be on premium quality wine. Better still if they are GI tagged.



***Subhajit Poddar is an expert on business and industry. He is based in Guwahati. Views are personal.

** Photo by Kelsey Chance on Unsplash.  

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