New Delhi/Bangalore: Krithika Iyer, 32, lives in Bangalore and is a human resource consultant with a multinational. She comes from a conservative family, well versed in Carnatic music and other spiritual and cultural facets that come with her upbringing.
But that doesn't hold Iyer back from stepping out of her plush Brigade Gateway apartment on a lazy Saturday noon and head for the Orion Mall within the gated complex to pick her choice of wine - her chats with the sommeliers at restaurants come in handy!
A Sunday brunch with her husband with some wine to pair is a ritual the couple has been following for the past couple of years and helps them unwind and catch up with matters which their busy schedules otherwise prevent them from doing so during weekdays.
Krithika's story is not an isolated one today. More Indian women are now getting inclined towards wine. Three reasons stand out: Societal acceptability, its perceived healthier attribute and the mushrooming of swanky retail outlets where a woman does not have to feel uncomfortable going in.
"People in India today, women included, are passionate about wine," said Radhika Bahl, founding member of the Delhi Wine Club. "Even at parties nowadays we see more wine being served, not just as courtesy to women but as a healthier drink option than spirits," Bahl told IANS.
"The predominant reason for women having wine is: it is not a hard liquor. It is a better option for social drinking. It is healthy. And a glass or two of red wine has medicinal impact too, and wine is definitely an experience they like to talk about and share," Bahl added.
The Delhi Wine Club has 160 members, out of which 40 percent are women. But data is not available on how much women account for in the annual Indian wine industry sales of 2.5 million cases, with each containing 12 bottles of 750 ml each.
Another reason for women taking to wine is the alcohol content. While hard liquor comes with an alcohol content of over 40 percent, and has to be mixed, the strength in wine varies between 11 and 15 percent. Soft drinks, with an overdose of sugar, are passe!
"Not for me an aerated drink - nothing but calories. Wine is my choice. If I want fizz, I can always go for a Champagne or a sparkling wine. For a romantic evening a sparkling rose is another option. Unlike a whisky, a glass or two of wine does not make you miss a step," Iyer told IANS.
"Wine drinking among upper middle class women has gone up, since many family members feel it is less on alcohol and women will be fine with it," said Subhash Arora, president the Indian Wine Academy and founder-president of the Delhi Wine Club.
Bahl and Arora also said those days are gone when women just could not go to a liquor shop, what with a long queue of tipplers jostling to reach the caged selling counters. Upmarket outlets have come up today where buying wine is like shopping for a branded watch or apparel.
"The culture of Indian women visiting these well-appointed stores is catching up fast in metros. Overall, too, wine drinking has matured in the past 10 years. Many restaurants now have a good cellar and sommeliers. Overseas travel is also adding to the exposure," Arora told IANS.
There is also a rigorous push from various wine-growing countries like France, Chile and Australia that helped women today not to look at wine as taboo, but a drink they can nurse without evoking raised eyebrows.
Rakesh Ahuja, a senior advisor to the government of South Australia who promotes wines and other products from that region in India, says there is a quiet revolution that is taking place in terms of wine drinking in India - notably among women.
"We are observing a sea change. In the early 1990s people hardly knew about wine. Today this is changing. It is something amazing! One of the reasons could be the rise of middle class, hence greater disposable income in their hands," Ahuja, an Indo-Australian who was the former Australian deputy high commissioner in India, told IANS.
During the British Raj, Ahuja said, people were mostly into drinking gin and whisky. Women would sip on an occasional gin and whisky was looked upon as a men's drink. "So women didn't have much of a choice. Today this is changing, and changing fast."