In­dia’s only Mas­ter of Wine re­ports on the coun­try’s drink­ing habits


WOMEN are an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant mar­ket seg­ment of the wine in­dus­try, mak­ing wider lifestyle choices with a propen­sity to spend marginally more than men on a bot­tle of wine, says Sonal Hol­land, In­dia’s first and only Mas­ter of Wine (MW), one of the most pres­ti­gious ti­tles in the world of wines with a count of 370 Masters across 30 coun­tries.

“As suc­cess­ful lead­ers break­ing gen­der bar­ri­ers, women are in­creas­ingly mak­ing wider lifestyle choices as do their global peers. They view wine as a classy, em­pow­er­ing, healthy bev­er­age and are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing fewer cul­tural in­hi­bi­tions when drink­ing wine in the pres­ence of their fam­ily mem­bers or the so­ci­ety at large.

“Ladies are pur­chas­ing wine as of­ten as men across all oc­ca­sions with a propen­sity to spend marginally more than men on a bot­tle of wine,” said Mum­bai-based Hol­land, who re­cently re­leased the In­dia Wine In­sider 2018 re­port.

“The fe­male wine drinkers in In­dia are on par with male drinkers, on con­sump­tion fre­quency, propen­sity to spend on a bot­tle and at­ti­tudes to­wards wine drink­ing, draw­ing al­le­giance to the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of wine among fe­male drinkers in In­dia,” says the re­port, pre­pared by Hol­land in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Lon­don-based Wine In­tel­li­gence, a global con­sumer re­search leader.

Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion, per capita al­co­hol con­sump­tion in In­dia has in­creased from 2.4 litres in 2005 to 5.7 litres in 2016 with 4.2 litres be­ing con­sumed by men and 1.5 litres by women.

Not­ing that “in this bucket, wine, though now a main­stay drink, is mi­nus­cule”, Hol­land said: “Wine is pop­u­lar with women and men and the young and old alike. Peo­ple drink wine whether at home or at restau­rants, over a myr­iad of oc­ca­sions and for rea­sons so unique to wine, in­di­cat­ing its ac­cep­tance as a so­phis­ti­cated, nu­anced bev­er­age. But com­pared to whisky con­sump­tion in In­dia, wine has a long way to go.”

Last year, while work­ing on the first edi­tion of the “In­dia Wine In­sider”, the first com­pre­hen­sive sur­vey of the ur­ban In­dian wine con­sumer, “we dis­cov­ered that the In­dian drinker’s un­der­stand­ing of wine is lim­ited.

But, as aware­ness grows, so does con­sump­tion. Other than colour, there is very lit­tle aware­ness about other wine styles

– names of re­gions and grape va­ri­eties re­main un­derde­vel­oped cues”, Hol­land ex­plained.

For Hol­land, it’s been a long and ar­du­ous jour­ney to be­come a Mas­ter of Wine, one that has been “in­fin­itely re­ward­ing”.

“Gain­ing this ti­tle se­ri­ously tries your pa­tience, de­mand­ing com­mit­ment and sac­ri­fice at ev­ery stage; but, in turn, it re­wards you with a tremen­dous sense of grat­i­fi­ca­tion, pride, cred­i­bil­ity and con­fi­dence.

“As an In­dian on the pro­gramme, I was per­ceived to be at a dis­ad­van­tage, given the lim­ited avail­abil­ity of wines and tast­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in In­dia. To gain first-hand global knowl­edge of wines re­quired a sig­nif­i­cant cap­i­tal out­lay on my part, as well as time and a great deal of self-mo­ti­va­tion.

“I was on the move con­stantly, meet­ing viti­cul­tur­ists and wine­mak­ers, at­tend­ing in­ter­na­tional wine trade shows and fairs, tak­ing ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to taste wines blind and prac­tis­ing writ­ing ac­cu­rate tast­ing notes af­ter ev­ery tast­ing,” Hol­land said.

“I spent so much time trav­el­ling, be­ing away from my home and fam­ily for pro­longed pe­ri­ods. As a woman and as a mother, this sac­ri­fice weighed a lot on my mind, but it also strength­ened my re­solve to be­come an MW, to jus­tify the sac­ri­fices,” she said.

The MW exam process is no dod­dle ei­ther: There are five three-hour the­ory pa­pers. These cover viti­cul­ture, vini­fi­ca­tion and pre-bot­tling pro­ce­dures, the han­dling of wine, the busi­ness of wine and con­tem­po­rary is­sues in the in­dus­try.

The prac­ti­cal ses­sions in­clude three ses­sions of blind wine tast­ings where you try 12 wines each.

They last for two-and-a-quar­ter-hours, in which wines must be as­sessed for va­ri­ety, ori­gin, wine-mak­ing, qual­ity and style.

Fi­nally, you must present an in-depth 10 000-word re­search pa­per which must be “a rig­or­ous in­ter­pre­ta­tion” of a spe­cific wine sub­ject of your choos­ing. (Hol­land’s was on Aware­ness, At­ti­tude and Us­age of Wine among Sec A Ur­ban In­dian Wine Con­sumers.)

“But here I am. I am proud to rep­re­sent In­dia as the coun­try’s first and only Mas­ter of Wine. It has been a fan­tas­tic ex­pe­ri­ence. I’ve made friends across the globe and have had the op­por­tu­nity to visit some of the world’s best winer­ies and es­tates. I hope to bring all the knowl­edge I’ve gained to the wine in­dus­try in In­dia, while help­ing de­velop the coun­try’s wine cul­ture through var­i­ous ini­tia­tives.”

An­other ex­cit­ing ini­tia­tive, she said, is the part­ner­ship en­tered into ear­lier this year with Wine In­tel­li­gence to launch Vini­trac In­dia, a sur­vey of In­dian wine con­sumers that mon­i­tors and tracks the at­ti­tudes, be­hav­iour and con­sumer re­la­tion­ships with wine in the coun­try.

“This will give stake­hold­ers an in-depth in­sight to the psy­che of the wine drinker, a first-of-its-kind ef­fort for the In­dian wine in­dus­try,” she said.

Hol­land is also in­volved in a host of other ini­tia­tives.

“Through The Sonal Hol­land Wine Academy we fo­cus on wine ed­u­ca­tion and also of­fer a 360-de­gree suite of ser­vices to wine- and spir­it­fo­cused pro­fes­sion­als, in­sti­tu­tions and con­nois­seurs of wine. On the con­sumer side, my en­deav­our is to de­velop a cul­ture of en­joy­ing wine through the SoHo Wine Club, a sub­scrip­tion-based plat­form for oenophiles.” – IANS


In­dia’s first and only Mas­ter of Wine, Sonal Hol­land.

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