On the Indian wine scene, 2016 clearly belonged to Sonal Holland. As India’s first Master of Wine (MW) Sonal ended India’s long wait of representation in this prestigious club of the most qualified wine professionals of the world.
Instituted in 1953 by the London based Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) the MW examination is designed to intensively test a candidate’s theoretical knowledge and practical blind tasting skills covering all aspects in the art, science and business of wine. The standard of the exam is so rigorous, that till date only 391 people have qualified on its curriculum . 353 MWs are presently working in 28 countries judging wine competitions, lecturing at wine courses, leading wine tastings, and sampling and assessing some of the world’s finest wine cellars. MWs also advise governments and heads of state worldwide, as well as hotels, airlines, and other institutions on all aspects related to wine.
Reams have already been written on Sonal‘s stellar journey of becoming a MW, hence I will not dwell on many details (you can easily google and find them). Instead I will try to offer you a peek into Sonal’s engagements after becoming a MW.
Don’t be afraid of how tough it is, keep your vision on the never-ending rewards of being a MW. Indians can be world-class at everything we do and our limitations can sometimes be our only advantage, giving us tenacity, perseverance and the keen desire to succeed against all odds. I’d say go for it!
– Sonal Holland’s advice to MW aspirants.
Meeting Sonal fresh after her MW success when she came visiting Delhi in September 16 to co-chair delWine Awards, the first question I asked was – “how have things changed ever since the MW announcement?”
Sonal’s response was candid- “ for starters it was opening some special wine bottles in the course of a few days- some of them being Champagne Dom Pérignon 2003, Ferrari Perle Trentodoc Sparkling 2007, Vega Sicilia Unico 2007 and Solaia 2012. Sometimes I have to pinch myself just to remind that it’s all really happening.”
On a more serious note she said – “ it is true that tasting wine is central to MW duties, but the larger context is to follow IMW’s stringent code of conduct that entails making important contributions to the global wine trade, using every opportunity to share the understanding of wine with others.”
In India, rapid urbanisation, changing lifestyles, rising incomes and the world’s largest youth population has contributed to a surge in wine’s popularity. Indian wines are being increasingly appreciated globally, and both Indian and international wines are seeing a larger presence within our country. I am determined to make sure India remains top of mind in wine conversations around the world.
It is not as if Sonal has to start from a scratch – she has been promoting the cause of wine since several years in her capacity as a certified wine educator, broadcaster, judge and wine consultant. Her Wine Academy founded in 2009, is one of India’s foremost institutions offering certified WSET wine courses and consultancy to leading hotels and wine trade. Her digital channel “Sonal Holland Wine TV” was recently awarded as the Best Wine Vlog in the country (see video below) by Food Bloggers Association of India. Sonal has also recently started another point of contact with wine lovers through her SoHo Wine Club that aims to deliver expertly curated wine selections, tutored tastings and wine experiences to highly discerning consumers in India.
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Sonal’s Plans for 2017
After bringing in the New Year at a house party over wine, single malts and dirty martinis, Sonal hopes to maintain the same hard work and focus in 2017 that saw her realize her longstanding dream of becoming a MW in 2016. “I aim to establish some key strategic alliances that will allow me to make important contributions towards the growth of the wine industry in India. I will continue to represent India as its wine ambassador at international wine events and forums. I am also keen to further harness my passion for wine education in the coming year.” says Sonal.
Something that is likely to meet even her 7 year old daughter Rianna’s innocent expectations as she exclaimed- “India’s first and the only Master of Wine – Mummy, that makes you one in a billion!”
Many of those billion+ will be looking up to Sonal for keeping the Indian tricolour flying high on the global wine scenario.