Alternative careers: how to become a certified wine expert in India

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wine expert
10 min read

In Alternative Careers, Kool Kanya explores unique and lesser-known fields to give you insight into a more adventurous world of livelihoods! In this guide, we’re discussing how to become a professional wine expert, and the different careers you can pursue if you’re passionate about wine. 

‘Wine is constant proof that God loves us’. High-five if you relate to Benjamin Franklin too!

The first drink of my life was a glass of Chenin Blanc – a sweet white wine that originates from the Loire valley of France. I remember shaking my glass delicately, taking slow sips, and savouring the taste, while also wondering how this beautiful drink is made.

But, did you know that if you’re passionate about wine, you can change that into a profession

Watch this video to find out more about how to become a wine taster in India! 

I have grown up hearing, “Some wine for the lady please!” in Bollywood movies.

I always wondered why we assume that women love nothing but wine. But there is so much more that a woman can do with this drink than just swirling the glass, sipping the wine, and savouring the taste in parties or gatherings ﹘ like, earning a living by making wine, learning how to become a wine tasting expert, and selling wine. 

Whether it is sampling wines, harvesting the grapes, or calling the shots as a brand owner or winemaker, the world of wine offers a host of opportunities for you – if you’re enthusiastic about this fine drink.

And, what could be better than combining your passion for wine, with a lucrative and rewarding career option as a wine expert? 

India’s journey into wine

Building a career in a field as niche as winemaking can sometimes be a challenge. More so if you are unaware of what the way ahead looks like. Currently, there aren’t more than 269 wine professionals or Sommeliers in the world. India has Ms. Sonal Holland, a Master of Wine, and also the first recipient of this title in the country. 

After India started making its own wine, the appreciation of wine tastings has escalated considerably. Maharashtra was the first state to introduce a wine policy in India in 2001, leading to a large number of new wineries being established in the state (have you been to the vineyards of Nashik yet?) Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka followed suit too. 

wine expert

How to know if you’re eligible to become a wine expert

As enticing as it sounds to make a career in wine, it is no cakewalk. You need the right exposure to train yourself in this industry. Here’s what you need to have or be to become a wine expert: 

  • You need to have good sense of taste and smell to make a sound judgement. Every wine is different and has hidden layers of flavour.
  • A diploma in wine tasting or equivalent courses 
  • An ID card that proves that you are of legal drinking age 
  • Good verbal and written communication skills
  • Experience in attending several wine-tasting sessions or activities
  • Wine is paired with different food items, and wine experts must have basic culinary knowledge too 
  • Undying love and passion for the beverage 

Best Indian colleges to enroll in, for being a wine expert 

A career in wine does not have a large footprint in India yet. However, there are some really good colleges offering various courses that enable one to become a wine professional: 

Continue Reading…

6 careers to pursue if you are passionate about wine 

1. Sommelier 

A sommelier is someone who knows the ABCs of wine and specialises in serving, selecting, and pairing wines. They are usually found working in top restaurants. And their core job includes curating a restaurant’s wine menu, serving and advising customers, researching trends, procuring, storing, and rotating wines in the restaurant’s cellar.

wine expert

Qualifications: 

  • A professional certificate by the Worldwide Sommelier Association (WSA) 
  • A degree in hospitality and management 
  • A certified sommelier course 
  • A diploma in wine, gastronomy, and management (optional) 

P.S: The most common and widely respected qualification is that of the Master Sommelier (MS), awarded by the Court of Master Sommeliers, which sees candidates undertake a thorough examination on the intricacies of wine knowledge, tasting, and service. 

Average salary: INR 5 to 10 lakhs per annum (as per the number of years of practice and experience)

2. Winemaker/Vineyard Worker 

To be a winemaker is to truly be at the heart of experiencing wine. A winemaker is also addressed as an enologist or a vintner, both of which mean that he/she is responsible for everything having to do with the science of curating wine.

wine expert

A day in the life of a winemaker involves grape harvesting, crushing, fermenting, again, blending, bottling, and using practical experiences and science to create that perfect and delicious bottle of wine for you.

Wine wouldn’t exist if winemakers and vineyard workers didn’t, just imagine! 

P.S: The difference between a vineyard and a winery is that the former is a plantation of any size that grows grapes to produce wine. The latter is a licensed property that makes wine after the grapes are harvested and brought in from the vineyards by the workers. 

Qualifications: 

  • A bachelor’s degree with majors in viticulture, enology, horticulture, food science, or wine science 
  • An apprenticeship/internship, and some hands-on job experiences
  • An ample network in the industry (which you can build by attending various workshops, tasting rooms, and events)

Average salary: INR 6 to 12 lakhs per annum (as per the number of years of practice and experience)

3. Wine Brand/Shop Owner 

For those with business acumen and ardent love for wine, being a wine brand or shop owner is ideal. Wine shops are usually run as physical retail stores, while some shops also operate online.

wine expert

However, it is important to take note and be cognizant of the ever-changing state liquor laws while running your own business

Qualifications: 

Anyone can become a wine store owner. One just needs to qualify for getting a license. Here’s what you will need: 

  • A valid ID and address proof 
  • An address proof of the building or premise you want to open your store in
  • Municipal Corporation’s and Fire Service department’s NOC
  • Application with personal and business details, and the latest ITR copy
  • An affidavit ensuring that the applicant has no past criminal records or pending dues

Average salary: INR 5 to 10 lakhs per annum (depending on whether your store is in tier 1 or tier 2 city) 

4. Tasting Room Host 

Usually based at an employer’s winery or vineyard, a tasting room host is responsible for conducting tastings, and communicating and educating the visitors about their brand’s wines. A host also assists wine lovers in purchasing the best bottle of wine. 

wine expert

Similar to the role of a sommelier ﹘ without the required qualifications ﹘ a tasting room host or associate shows guests how to pour, serve, and drink wine as well as explain the finer details of its production. You could say that their job is no less than that of a winery tour guide.

P.S: This is a hospitality-based role, so the tasting room host will need to have an enthusiastic and personable demeanor, with an ardent passion for wine tasting, sampling, and communicating with like-minded individuals.

If you also want to know how to become wine taster, this job does give insights on that as well.

Average salary: INR 2 to 5 lakhs per annum 

5. Cellar Manager 

A cellar master or manager works closely with the winemaker to ensure that the yearly process of making wine runs as smoothly as possible. Their key responsibilities include overseeing the production of wine.

wine expert

From the arrival of grapes at the winery from the vineyards to its bottling, shipping, and storing, to hiring a cellar crew, and ensuring that the winery’s equipment is maintained.

Qualifications: 

  • A diploma in viticulture 
  • Willingness to put in longer working hours when needed 
  • Physical fitness 

Average salary: INR 5 to 10 lakhs per annum. 

6. Wine Critic/Taster

A wine critic, connoisseur, or taster is a specialist with extensive knowledge about all things wine. Their opinion on wine or anything related to the beverage is trusted and valued, much like a food critic’s take on cuisines. The pressing difference between a sommelier and a connoisseur is that the former works for a restaurant, and  the latter often works independently. 

wine expert

Qualifications:

  • A 1 year or 6-month diploma in wine studies
  • A wine critic or connoisseur needs to get the see-swirl-sniff-sip right. Knowing how to drink wine like an expert is mandatory
  • Thrive on research and drink every kind of wine
  • Great verbal and written communication skills

Average salary: INR 3 to7 lakhs per annum. Wine taster salary is pretty decent and increases more with ample industry experience.

Opportunities for wine-based professions are definitely on the rise in India.  Maharashtra alone has more than 8 wineries and vineyards, with Sula Vineyards ranking on the top. Grape-stomping and staycations near vineyards have surfaced as interesting experiences to also boost tourism and hospitality.

This allows you to think of building an alternative career with this beverage more than ever today! 

Now, while I go back and pour myself a glass of Dia, tell me which field you would opt for, if wining is on your mind! 

You’re invited! Join the Kool Kanya women-only career Community where you can network, ask questions, share your opinions, collaborate on projects, and discover new opportunities. Join now.

A writer, a solo traveller, and a moody chef- that pretty much sums up Oindrilla's life. When not doing any of these things, she is found mothering her five pets, binge-watching Bollywood classics, and living the characters in her head. She believes that storytelling is the greatest catalyst of human bonds, and travels to explore and pen her thoughts down. Her life runs on daal-chaawal and chai, and mentally she is always in Himachal.

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