India's UB Group, the country's market leader in beer and spirits, has announced plans to position its subsidiary McDowell International Brands in the wine market.

UB has said it believes that there is a big franchise for wine in the country as the category continues to grow quickly, especially among women.

Chairman of the UB Group Vijay Mallya said: " We intend to import bulk wine into the country, bottle it and market it in India." He said that he has "three top class suppliers" - Australia, South Africa and California - to choose from.

However the company is said to be likely to source from California and South Africa, sources said.

Wine is at present still a very limited market, but, according to market sources, has strong potential for growth, with the young affluent sector moving away from spirits towards lighter alcohol drinks.

However serious marketing development activity is still needed to grow the category and the entry of the powerful UB Group into the sector can only help the category, market source said.

Figures for wine sales are rough but the market is estimated at 150,000 cases per annum excluding very low priced products. Of this the value wine segment, between Rs100/150 ($2.1- $3.2) per bottle, is estimated to account for 90,000 cases. Premium wine between Rs300 and Rs400 ($6.4-8.5) account for 40,000 cases and super premium wines between Rs550 and Rs650 ($11.8-13.9) add a further 10,000 cases to the category.