On Indian Wine and being a Sommelier in India

I happen to be a Sommelier in India. In a country of over a billion people, I am one of the few who practices this trade. Sure, there are plenty of wine importers, retailers and sundry bootleggers but, for most people in India, the concept of a Sommelier is still new. Inevitably, when people hear what I do for a living, the most frequent response is “what….wow, a sommelier? That must be something….!”. After they’re done trying to figure out what a good life I have – being a wine guy and all – the conversation finally turns to wine itself. Among the questions I receive, the two most common ones are: What is your favourite wine? And, what do you think of Indian wine?

The first one is easy: I don’t have a single favourite so I explain that I enjoy different kinds of wines, based on my mood. Commenting on Indian wine is trickier – will I be considered unpatriotic if I say I don’t like it? Are they really asking for my opinion, or are they checking to see if I’m some kind of wine snob?

So, I turn the question on them: do they like Indian wine? Is there a particular brand that they like? What do they dislike? Can they explain why they like Sula, or Grover or whatever it is….?

I genuinely believe that the important thing is whether the person drinking the wine enjoys it. If it gives you pleasure – then it’s a good wine for you. The most important thing for wine drinkers is to develop their own palate, taste and judgement.

I also genuinely feel that we’re lucky to live in a country that produces wine. The act of producing wine – of growing grapes and fermenting them to make wine has its own romance. For me, even the simplest of wine has its own beauty – especially if it is not over-analyzed and is treated as it should be: which is as a simple beverage to enjoy with a meal!

Indian wine may not be complex, but neither are many Indian wine drinkers. Many Indians are just happy having a glass of wine and I think it’s great that they can affordably buy Indian wine.

Connoisseurship is another story, and that’s where the complication sets in. As our tastes develop, we aspire to new experiences, better tastes, more flavour. Just as wine can be simple, it can also be beautifully complex with an ability to age and evolve in the bottle. Whether one should keep one’s tastes simple, or let them evolve is a philosophical question which every person has to answer for themselves. As for me, I enjoy being a pleasure seeker when it comes to wine. As much as drinking wine, I enjoy the aspiration and the anticipation of seeking better and better wine.  I want to experience that great Burgundy, that great Bordeaux – or that incredibly expensive old bottle of wine which is older than me! At the same time, I genuinely hope that I never lose the ability to enjoy simple pleasures – like an unnamed chilled white jug wine on a hot summer afternoon, or a simple Indian red wine with a simple Indian meal.

About Gaurav Anand

Certified Sommelier Gaurav Anand is an India based wine writer, consultant, educator and founder of Wine Forays. He earned his Sommelier certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers and holds the WSET Advanced certification in Wines & Spirits. Above all, he is a wine lover on a full-time mission to taste and discover the best wines in the world.
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15 Responses to On Indian Wine and being a Sommelier in India

  1. Smita says:

    Hi Gaurav!
    I’m a twenty two year old graduate from a hotel management graduate. I am currently working with a hotel chain in India. I am interested in wines and studying about the wine industry. I would like to know how you go about being a wine sommelier since such a profession is relatively new and unheard of in our country. I would be extremely grateful if you could give me some guidance!

    • Gaurav Anand says:

      Hi Smita,

      Great to know of your interest in becoming a Sommelier. The most important starting point for becoming a Sommelier is your personal interest in wine, and developing your taste through tasting lots of wine. You should start with a period of self-learning (reading wine books, magazines, tasting regularly and talking to others interested in wine). Learn more about your own tastes and the different kinds of wines out there. Start thinking about and experimenting with wine and food pairing.

      You can also do some wine courses. Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) is a particularly good starting point and an excellent foundation. You can do the first levels of these courses in India but will likely need to head abroad for more advanced courses. If you’d like to learn more about where you can pursue these courses – drop me an email. With some courses under your belt, you can start work as a Sommelier at your hotel or elsewhere. Once you have a good base of knowledge and feel confident about your abilities, getting certified may be a good next step. The Court of Master Sommeliers is one of the best known training and certification bodies.

      Finally, if you can – it is a great idea to travel abroad to places that have an established wine culture. Visiting vineyards, wine bars and taking in the wine scene abroad will help you learn more and develop your abilities as a Sommelier.

      I often get questions about becoming a Sommelier in India and I will soon post more information about how to go about doing this on my blog.

      Good luck and a happy wine journey!

      Gaurav

  2. Ramprasad Adhikari says:

    Hi Gaurav,
    i am twenty years old. i am pursuring BSC Hotelmanagement. my interested is in wine . i want to be sommelier .plz give me idea about to be sommelier and institute in india.

  3. Hari says:

    Hi Gaurav,
    first of all i would like to appereciate for such a nice piece of writing, I am Hari presently at WineMBA in UK, belongs to new delhi and writing a piece of research about developing marketing strategies for small wineries in India to increse their market share in domestic market. I would like to talk to you about few things,if it is possible for you, as i am visiting India this month end. Is it possible to contact you through some other medium.
    warmest
    Hari

  4. mudit dixit says:

    hello dear sir gaurav,
    i am deeply intrested to be a sommelier and have read for hundreds of articles through this direction, about to finish with engineering, i want to start up with the very wine course but i am so confused and have pretty much queries.
    sir, can i have your contact number if possible.your reply will be respected.
    mudit dixit

    • Gaurav Anand says:

      Hi Mudit,

      Great to hear of your interest in wine. Please call the office anytime (number is on the contact page of this website) and ask to speak with me. It will be a pleasure to help you with your questions!

      Gaurav

      • Neha Jayakar says:

        Hello Sir ,
        I am a final year Btech Food Engg & technology student from UDCT Mumbai. I have got admission for MS food science @ drexel university @ piladelphia uSA. So i thought along with that i could purse sommeliers degree from The Sommelier society America @ new york. is it a good institute or do you suggest some or institutes?

        • Gaurav Anand says:

          Hi Neha,

          I was not previously aware of the Sommelier Society of America but I did check out their website. They seem to be a reputed school running good programs – so you should be able to get some good training there. Perhaps you could compare their courses with WSET courses (which will also be available in Philadelphia) and pick what suits you best.

          Gaurav

  5. Viraj R Sawant says:

    Dear Gaurav,
    I, Viraj R Sawant have a Masters of Business Administration in hospitality at the Ealing and Hammersmith college, London UK.
    I have a great passion for wines and spirits and hence I decided to chase my dream and join the WSET course in april 2010 and since then I have completed my Basic and Intermediate levels of the course. I also have the Certified Diploma from the Court of Master Sommeliers, London UK. I have a great flair for wines , spirits and food, I understand them and I would like to pass on this to the wine and spirit enthusiasts. This is what I know and this is what I am best at. I am currently working as a sommelier at a Michelin star restaurant.
    In the course of time maybe sometime sooner I would like to move to India and be a part of the wine trade there, just wanted your inputs in where I could begin with. I would really appreciate your help.
    Thanking you,
    Kind Regards
    Viraj. R. Sawant

    • Gaurav Anand says:

      Hi Viraj,

      In India if you’re looking for a wine-related job – your best bet would be the 5-star hotel chains as a Sommelier or as part of the F & B team. I think it’ll be relatively easy for you to find a position in the hotel industry as there is a shortage of people with your skill set. With the importers and/or retailers your opportunities here would be limited as wine trade in India is relatively small and under-developed. Perhaps you could pick up some experience in the UK, and that would help you transition to the trade in India. I’d encourage you do do your research thoroughly and get feedback from more people in India, as you have from me.

      Good luck!

      Gaurav

  6. Ashwin Thomas says:

    Hi Gaurav,
    Greetings,
    I am Ashwin, an hospitality professional & wine enthusiast.
    I would like to now weather you are preparing for WSET diploma or thinking of pursuing the course in near future. I’ve done my advance level certificate from AWSEC in 2011. I’ve got an oppurtunity to work in Singapore where there’s Shatec university offering WSET diploma on distance learning program. Please advise on any info or suggestion you may have.

    Thanks
    Ashwin

  7. vishal says:

    Hi,sir,

    I am studying sommelire in bordeaux and I am the first Indian guy who joined this institute and i have also completed my bachlores in hotel and tourism management,6 months bartending course and i have also completed WSET level 1-2 and rightnow i am in bordeaux and i am worried about my futture I want to start freelancing like consulting or something or i work here in paris will be better what do you suggest in this matter.

  8. vishal says:

    dear sir,

    I forget to mention this in my last post my teachers are gerard basset,paolo basso,
    phillip ,denis dubordieu,surge dubs.,phillip faur brac, and I am bit confused about what to do after i finish my course , my schools name is worldsom and its in bordeaux

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