Anushka PANDKAR, winner of the 12th Indian Sommelier Championship is currently working with ITC Maratha, one of the leading five star hotel in the country. Trained under different industry experts, Anushka has refined her skills in every aspect of the beverage industry. For this week’s segment, team INDULGE sat down with her (online, because, social distancing) and here’s what she had to share. Warning: If you have met her, or might someday soon, don’t let her somber exterior shell fool you for a minute because the young lady has a snappy sense of humour, a smatterings of which you will find as you read on here.
If you want to serve a wine to your favourite Fantasy character, who would you choose, which wine would it be and why?
I’ll have to ponder over this one a bit, I have quite a few favourites there. Hmmm let’s see, the Iron Man would be too snobbish a guest, so not him. Thor is amazing but he’s got a drinking problem (we all saw that in Endgame). Deadpool is cool but he probably won’t be into the subtle nuances of fine wine. Who else.. The Hulk is a great guy on the inside, but it would break my heart to see him struggle with frustration trying to hold a wine glass. Umm..Oh yes I know who I’d pick! Dr Stephen Strange – he is just the right kind of sophisticated, earthling superhero who would appreciate some good wine and service (also ‘cause Benedict Cumberbatch, duh!).The wine would be a 2005 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti La Tache – super extravagant I know, but he was a famous neurosurgeon in NYC prior to the sorcery, I’m pretty sure he’s had his share of fine wines and knows his stuff. And I’m clearly looking to impress, so I can request him to grant me the magical self-filling beer mug he offered to Thor in Ragnarok (because scribbling 10% on the check is not enough gratuity from a superhero)
Being in a commanding position like yourself, how does one raise awareness about sommelierie amongst aspirants?
To any person interested in Sommellerie that comes up to me, I always say one thing – You can do it! Making it seem possible right in the beginning encourages them to explore more about this profession. Loading them with details about how difficult the studies are or how many books they ought to read may overwhelm them too early. Then I recommend them to read one of my favourite books for beginners – Wine Bible, it is a great window into the vast world of wine. I also like to take up trainings (at work) or conversations to make beverages simpler for them. Be it wine, beer, whisky, gin or cocktails, I always emphasise them to expand their product knowledge. Understanding the subject well is overcoming of the first hurdle, one can then start considering a career in the field.
Apart from mastering the wine world, what else must a sommelier master, both, in skills and in knowledge?
A Sommelier is no longer a person who just serves wine. A Sommelier today also needs to have knowledge about Spirits, Beer, Sake, Food and wine pairing, while displaying excellent service skills. Not to forget, pursuit of knowledge and learning should be maintained as a continuous process, the world of beverages is ever evolving. In spite of all the knowledge, never think that you are always right. Be humble, and be a team player.
A Sommelier is also the face for beverage programs in their establishment, thus good communication and inter-personal skills, I feel, are vital in developing good relations with suppliers and customers alike.
What, according to you, constitutes the perfect wine list?
The perfect list is the one I make!
I’m joking, but I do believe you should have confidence in the wine list you prepare and present it with pride to the customers. A perfect wine list should be like a luxury product catalog. It should entice the reader – to make a purchase – regardless of whether they are genuinely interested or casually flipping through. That’s how you know you have listed something for everyone.
What do you reckon are the pros and cons of being a lady sommelier in India?
The same as those of being a non-lady Sommelier in India(?!). We all benefit from the pros of access to good job prospects, opportunities to attends tastings and events, etc. High pricing, high taxation, non-availability and lack of variety in products are cons that affect all of us working in India the same way. The only additional con I can think of specific to ladies is the occasional mansplaining.
If given a free ticket which wine region you want to travel to?
Why the cruelty in making me choose one? You need to get better sponsors! Humour aside, there are literally too many beautiful wine regions to chose from.
What’s your favourite tipple at the end of a busy day?
Anything that is available in my home bar and is the quickest to prepare.