For Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson, wine is bottled poetry. For many, however, it is a passport to a great career, says Prachi Rege.
Imagine a job that allows you to decide what wine the guests at a hotel or restaurant will drink? Sounds interesting? Well, it also promises great career prospects.
As per the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), the Indian wine market is growing at 30-40% annually. With this trend set to continue for the next 6 years, the wine industry has a potential for numerous career options. Adding to this is the promising statistic of 30 million consumers who will consume wine as the awareness of the chic beverage spreads among aspirational Indians.
"The only direction the industry is going is upwards," says Sovna Puri, Head-Tastings & Training, Nashik Vintners Pvt Ltd, which owns the popular Sula Vineyards.
Almost every Indian wine company wants to employ people who know and understand wine. The realisation is the result of companies finding it difficult to market and sell a wine brand without having market and product knowledge. Even to be a part of the wine making team, some knowledge about wines is essential.
Naturally, there is a demand for skilled professionals who can sell the luxurious beverage. "We can easily look at two sommeliers per outlet in a five-star level establishment and one in fine dining restaurants. So, you can estimate the market size given how many hotels and restaurants are already open and how many are opening," says Delhi-based sommelier and wine educator Magandeep Singh.
Those inching toward entrepreneurship can become wine producers, wine traders, and wine directors for hotels chains. Those wanting employment could be sales and marketing managers, sommelier in hotel, restaurant or a wine company. You could even be a wine educator and consultant.
For any job in the industry, a thorough knowledge of different types of wines is essential.
Though there are a number of career options and huge demand for manpower, there is no official channel of training that helps you enter the industry. So, the going gets tough. Most hotel management institutes deal briefly with the topic of wine in their curriculum. Also, there are a limited number of training centres in the country which produce certified wine sommeliers and consultants.
Individual sommeliers and wine making companies are however, doing their bit to create skilled manpower. Wine companies have in-house academies. Sula for instance, offers training programmes which are affiliated to the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), London, an international accreditation body.
Singh has launched the internationally-recognised Wine & Beverage Studies (IWBS) Institute, New Delhi, which conducts training sessions at country’s five star hotels. ITC Group of Hotels has appointed Sonal Holland as their divisional wine and beverage specialist to set up their wine list and conduct in-house wine education programmes.
"Wine is not just an alcoholic drink. It has a serious historical and technical background and a person working in the wine industry should understand this," says Holland, who also has her own WSET certified wine Academy setup in 2009.
A demand for wine personnel doesn`t mean that anyone and everyone who drinks or is passionate about wine can sell or make it. A sommelier, for instance, needs to give suitable recommendation on what wine to choose or offer to the client. The role entails crafting a wine list of a restaurant or a hotel from scratch, conducting tastings events, recommending the right wine to pair not just with the food but also with pockets and preferences of the consumer visiting the hotel.
It also entails managing the inventory of wines. "A sommelier must be equipped with the technical and historical knowledge of every bottle that he is putting on the wine list," points out Holland.
Good wine knowledge is the need of the hour, say industry experts while urging youngsters to consider taking up wine as a serious career option. According to Singh, "Besides, knowledge of wines, service flair, eloquence and people skills are extremely important to be a good sommelier."
Names of institutes:
Steps in tasting wine:
1) See - to determine age of the wine through its colour and look for granules if any.
2) Swirl - to determine quality through the aroma of the ingredients.
3) Sniff - to determine the purity of the wine. It is the deciding point as 80% of wines get rejected at this step.
4) Sip - to understand the balance of alcohol and acidic level of the wine.
5) Spit/ Swallow- too much intake of wine will make you drunk so take your call.