Illicit Xmas wine floods market

Bootleggers use social media to pitch homemade alcoholic beverage

The Excise Department has flagged a booming black market for homemade wine in Kerala this Christmas-New Year season. The Excise Enforcement Squad (SEES) describes the ‘worrying’ trend as an outbreak of a new bootlegging pattern.

The illegal brewers, chiefly homemakers and students looking for some extra cash, appear to increasingly use social media to pitch potent illicit homemade alcoholic beverages to consumers as ‘Christmas wine’.

Excise duty

The government levies an excise duty of 300% on legal alcohol. The vast differential between legitimate and bootleg wine prices has attracted consumers, including those below the legal drinking age, to the illicit brewers.

Enforcers say they find it immensely challenging to police the clandestine market. Acting on a tip-off, the SEES raided two houses in the city recently and seized 1,300 litres of potent wine and 25 litres of wash. They arrested three persons, including a student and a housewife.

Officials say the detections are just the tip of the iceberg. The brewers commonly use a simple fermentation process to convert a viscous cocktail of mashed grapes, sugar, yeast and water to ‘strong wine’.

18% alcohol

The ‘homemade’ wine contains up to 18% alcohol and is often further fortified by added spirit to make the beverage more robust.

The brewing of wine in domestic and unlicensed environs violates a host of liquor laws. Only a person with a winery licence can brew legal wine.

Kerala Agricultural University recently recommended that the government allow farmers to convert their agriculture produce into beverages and value-added products. However, the State has issued no new winery or brewery licence to make commercial wine since 2016.

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