A sommelier is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as a wine waiter. But don’t be fooled by this humble definition. The work of a knowledgeable sommelier will leave you astounded. So much so, that you will blindly trust him to suggest the best wine to compliment the food you order at a fine dining restaurant.
Sommeliers, the India story
Indians today are showing a greater appreciation for wine as a spirit. A trend that has been observed globally also holds true for India; growth in wine consumption goes hand in hand with a rise in disposable income.
Indians are willing more than ever, to understand wine and its food pairing. There is greater respect for the art of wine-making and sommeliers per se. A few years ago, being a sommelier in India was not considered as a viable profession. That aspect is changing, rapidly! The expertise of a wine sommelier is required at fine dining restaurants, 5-star hotels, luxury resorts, boutique hotels, and ultra-chic, modern, concept restaurants.
Wine consumption in India
The overall consumption of wine in India has grown by leaps and bounds. According to a Vinexpo survey, Indians are likely to drink 1.15 million cases of red wine, 0.63 million cases of white wine and 0.10 million cases of rosé by 2017. Another interesting statistic is that wine imports have increased by 400% in the last decade.
The wine market in India is still small as compared to mature wine consuming countries like Italy, France, and Spain. This is another indicator that sommeliers have a lot of potential to grow, in terms of their stature and their remuneration. Job opportunities for wine sommeliers exist in India and other parts of the world.
Winemaking has been around since the time of the Indus Valley civilization. The credit for marketing good wines and propelling wine-education however, flows to the Portuguese and the British.
Indian wineries are doing well for themselves. Brands like Sula, York, Zampa, Charosa, Fratelli, Krsma and Myra to name a few, are growing from strength to strength. Wine cultivation, which started in a big way in Nashik, is more widespread now. Select locations in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Telangana are producing quality wine. Many of India’s wine regions fall within the tropical climate band. Vineyards are planted at higher altitudes along slopes and hillsides, to benefit from cooler air and some protection from wind.
Role played by a Sommelier
This profession needs the presence of all human senses and it is certainly an art. A sommelier is not just a steward. A sommelier tastes the entire wine inventory, prepares a list of his/her inventory and then orders wines from various parts of the world. Wines may differ, based on factors like the grapes, the bouquet, the age, and the maturing process. To judge the maturity, taste and colour of a specific wine, sommeliers use a tastevin, a small, shallow silver cup or saucer. Sommeliers are also responsible for the storage and serving of wine. They educate other staff members in an establishment, about the complexities, etiquette and food pairing options. In many fine dining restaurants, sommeliers collaborate with chefs and create exciting menus that go well with the available wines.
Need for Sommeliers
People today, want to experience the best available service there is, at hotels and restaurants. To fulfil this need, sommeliers hold great importance. Food and wine go hand in hand. Sommeliers are in huge demand in the hospitality industry, especially in India. With the number of food bloggers coming up in the digital and hospitality space, the need of sommeliers is on the rise. Talking about food bloggers, a big bunch of them are taking up workshops and formal training to understand wine.
Sommelier Courses in India
There are various institutes in India that provide sommelier courses. Most of these are certificate courses and vary in terms of the level of expertise. The highest certification is the Master Sommelier, offered by the Court of Master Sommeliers in United Kingdom.
Good sommelier courses are available in the following Indian institutes:
Christ University, Bangalore
Gargi Agriculture Research and Training Institute (GARTI), Nashik
Institute of Wine & Beverage Studies (IWBS), Delhi
Manipal University, Karnataka
Tulleeho: Beverage Education & Training in India, Mumbai, under Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), London
Wine Academy of India (WAI), Chennai
Other than these certificate courses, a few hotels, resorts and restaurants look for a hotel management degree too. In India, this degree is called the Bachelor of Hotel Management (B.H.M).
The Wine Society of India, Mumbai, and Indian Wine Academy, Delhi, organize workshops in restaurants and exhibitions to spread knowledge about wine. The Wine Society of India, Mumbai, provides memberships too.
Sommelier Courses outside India
If you study abroad, you get two obvious advantages; the opportunity to appreciate a wider range of international wines and the opportunity to study in a multi-cultural environment. Both factors add immense value to your learning experience and your life as a student.
Good sommelier courses that are taught in English, are available in the following institutes:
Institute of Masters of Wine, UK
Court of Master Sommeliers, UK and USA
International Sommeliers Guild, USA
Wine and Spirits Education Trust, UK
Kendall College, USA
Culinary Institute of America, USA
Remuneration as a Sommelier
Independent wine consultants in India can earn up to a couple of lakh per month (INR), working with elite hotels, resorts and restaurants.
If you are a beginner in this field, you may have to start off with INR 15000 per month. Thereon, you can make your way up the monetary and excellence ladder.
If you have always wondered about and fancied being a Sommelier, I hope this article helps you. All you need to do is find the gumption, apply to your desired institute and begin a fruitful grape-y journey in the mesmerising world of Wine. Salud!