Now you can raise a toast to a glass of premium German sekt or sparkling wine poured from a 14-carat gold plated bottle by brand J. Oppmann that once made champagne for the king of Bavaria.

Premium German wine brands J. Oppmann and Becksteiner are entering India in February through Chennai-based liquor startup Ciro which is importing the brands to cash in on the pandemic times when consumers are grounded by travel curbs, leaving tipplers craving for offbeat international alcobev brands. Consumers typically shop for liquor, perfumes, cigarettes, chocolates, beauty and watches from duty free outlets at airports with price tags nearly 40% lower due to tax exemption.

“Indians are not travelling overseas as much. Dining out is limited. People have thus saved a lot of money during lockdown. They are investing in best of imported alcoholic beverages in the domestic market for home consumption. The pandemic worked in our favour,” said Roshni Hemdev, managing director – business, Ciro.

The homegrown liquor firm – owned by mother-daughter duo Kiran and Roshni Hemdev and German partner Christian Garrelt Saathoff – will import and retail the wine brands in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka before a national roll out. The portfolio includes red, white and sparkling wines.

In October, Ciro made its debut in the country’s liquor ecosystem with the launch of Brunonia, a heritage wheat beer brand by Hofbrauhaus Wolters, a 390-year-old brewery in north Germany. The company is now exploring key markets of Goa and Andhra Pradesh as the next pitstop for the beer brand.

A rose secco and a boutique champagne are part of the portfolio expansion plan this summer. A premium gin and vodka from Germany may be added later this year.

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Overall, liquor companies clocked full recovery and sales growth exceeding pre-Covid levels in the festive quarter ended December, bouncing back from the severe sales cramp after the lockdown was clamped across most parts of the country since March.

“Demand for United Spirits (USL) has returned to pre-Covid-19 levels. It is also benefiting from some tailwinds – duty-free shifting to duty-paid and shift from beer,” Emkay Securities had said after interacting with eight liquor giants including USL and Pernod Ricard in an alcobev conference in December.

According to liquor apex body The Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC), India is the third largest spirits market in the world by volume. With annual revenues of Rs 4.5 lakh crore, it is also one of the largest industries within Indian economy. The industry also contributes approximately Rs 2.4-lakh crore in taxes to the governments, thus making it one of the highest tax contributors. It accounts for 20-40% of tax revenues of most state governments.

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