Wine tasting refers to the sensory examination and evaluation of wine. It’s been over two decades since a wine taster has prevailed in celebrated hotels and dining establishments across many cities in India.
Wine tasting, as a field, has several career options namely wine writer, wine journalist, wine critic, food and wine person, sommelier, wine educator, a lecturer in wine academies and a consumer trainer. Head of Beverages and Sommelier for ‘The Table’, Colaba, Mr. Harish Acharekar, explains, “A sommelier is a translator of wine, explaining the liquid in the bottle to the guest. He has the onus of creating enjoyable experiences for the guests about how food and wine interact.
The wine community is a niche circle. There are not more than 270-280 Master of Wines and Master Sommeliers, each in the world. India, currently, has no Master Sommelier and only one Master of Wine, Ms. Sonal Holland. After India started making its own wine, the appreciation of wine tastings has escalated considerably.
As enticing as a career in wine tasting sounds, it is not all that easy. You need the right exposure to train yourself in the wine industry. A good sense of taste and smell will take you a long way in this field. Wine has layers of flavour. So, you need to have ample knowledge to make a sound judgment. A strong background in international cuisines is an essential part of being a wine taster.
Can one ‘learn’ wine tasting?
Ms. Ashuli Saini, an award winner at the ‘Indian Sommelier Championship’ and Assistant Manager at GCC Hotels says, “There are courses like WSET and CMS which help you become a professional wine taster or sommelier. These courses can be expensive. But, they can definitely bump up your paycheck by a couple of lakhs. They can also open up an interesting choice of careers.”
Opportunities for wine tasters in India are definitely increasing. Mr. Acharekar himself is trying to fill 6 vacancies in Mumbai. Ms. Saini mentions that opportunities abroad are very lucrative as well. A Sommelier can earn about Rs.20,000 to Rs.30,000 per month depending on experience and the workplace. Independent wine consultants can earn from Rs.25,000 to even lakhs a month.
Mr. Acharekar shares, “During the meets at ‘The Indian Sommeliers Association’, everyone gets a bottle of wine to indulge in blind-tasting. This, in turn, becomes a platform for sommeliers to learn alongside making merry.” One can say that there are more perks than downfalls in this career. The Wine industry is evolving each day. It is creating new wine labels that are being marketed to the world. At the same time, it is also appreciating all the iconic wine labels that still rule the hearts of wine lovers. Wine tasters and certified sommeliers play a very unique role in bringing the community together and helping it grow across the world.
Mr. Acharekar who has been ‘Sommelier India 2015’ signs off saying, “Being a sommelier is a very glamorous job. All the wines sent to the country are first tasted by us. But, you need a lot of discipline too. It is not as simple as sipping a luxury drink every day. You need to taste a lot of wines to understand its true essence. You need to control your diet habits, not have spicy food or smoke to keep your palette active. Having the knowledge of wine is not enough. If you cannot translate your knowledge into simple words to your guests, your talent is a waste. Using jargons in this industry will not help.”
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