For starters, I realised that the western wine courses, which I had been running for more than a decade were a complete waste of time in the Indian context.
Recently, I was in Durgapur conducting a wine training and while I believe the students got a lot to learn from me, I, in turn, learnt a lot from this visit. For starters, I realised that the western wine courses, which I had been running for more than a decade were a complete waste of time in the Indian context.
Before I continue, I wish to clarify that I am not discouraging anybody from pursuing them, but the good to be gained from them could just as well be acquired by simply reading a book or going online. That said, here is why I feel the time has come for India to change the way it approaches wines and the things wrong with it…
While these work in the western concept, in India, a wine winning an award is like a tree falling in the woods, frankly inconsequential. I am certain that if anybody crunched the numbers of sales before and after winning an award, they would realise that the only people who gain from an award are the organisers. This is, in fact, one major reason why I have steered clear of organising one in spite of having been approached multiple times by various bodies to institute one. Foreign winnings, on the other hand, are not only more reliably authoritative, but also carry significant weight in western markets, where Indian wines are still a burgeoning curiosity and it is good to have some metal under the belt. As for rating foreign wines in India for the Indian consumer, I think it is the stupidest idea ever!
As mentioned above, foreign courses are futile. They cost too much, the wines they require us to taste to pass an exam aren’t even available in India (and may not be for the next decade!) and the course content is carved out more for western sensibilities than Indian ones. Some talk about the theory and completely miss service. Those that address service issues skim other essentials like pronunciations and basic fine dining etiquettes. In other words, pursuing those courses works in the West, where wine is part of the culture, not so much in India and other parts of Asia, where wine is a foreign entrant, an acquired taste and more social than cultural an indulgence. I am glad this is one aspect I have managed to improve by launching a new set of courses via iwbs.in, which are not only cheaper, but also more adapted to markets needs. And yes, this might be a shambles plug for my work, but, hey, at least it gets people jobs in our market, which is a lot more than I can say for all foreign wine courses.
Well, we are beginning to produce some pretty good wines. It would be wise to study them up, taste them more frequently and, in general, show more support to the industry. Not only will this improve the quality of local wines encore, but also arm us with knowledge of wines that is unique to us. Imagine meeting a Frenchman or Australian and telling them in detail about wine styles from Nashik or the terroir of Hampi? Wouldn’t that be deeply satisfying? Just like when I lecture the English on grammar, or their complete lack of understanding thereof! Also, I would much rather drink an Indian reserve wine than a basic entry-level wine from anywhere else in the world, given how they both cost practically the same on our retail shelves.
The yoga effect
We Indians have a genetic disposition to hate everything local. Till one fine day, the western world sees it, adopts it, repackages it and sends it back to us. That is when we decide to not just embrace it, but go the whole hog mad over it. Like we did with yoga. And top Indian single estate teas. With wine, I fear it will be similar. Already, Indian brands are lauded abroad, from Japan to New York, and very soon, once they become readier markets for Indian tipples, we shall fly all the way there to pick them up, as the local shelf would have been abandoned by them. Come to think of it, didn’t that happen to Indian single malts too? So fellas, show some love while the industry is still young.
The writer is a sommelier