I have been earlier a teetotaler, despite spending a year in Germany and over 5 years in the US where I did my MSc. and MBA and worked. Once I started drinking wine as an alcohol-based lifestyle drink in India I did a lot of self-study for over the following 10 years, visited vineyards, read books (no internet then) and wine magazines, visited wine shops on my annual trips to the US, attended two international wine and health conferences in Napa Valley, When I was convinced this should be the drink of choice for every alcohol drinker, I started a crusade to promote the wine culture passionately and selflessly.
I drink ONLY wine so basically I am a VINOTALER-a teetotaler who drinks only wine!
Being from an IT background how difficult it was for you to establish yourself in wine?
I did not see it as easy or difficult. I gave a talk about wine in our Rotary Club in 2001 after reading and studying and drinking on my own. After a short presentation I opened the house for any questions on wines (I had already initiated the wine drinking in the club for 15 years earlier). I was thrilled to answer all questions, basic as they were. This motivated me to start a wine club in 2002. To get together a group of like-minded people who would meet regularly and enjoy wines with food at reasonable cost. Delhi Wine Club was even featured in Aaj Tak on TV back then and it propelled the Club exponentially overnight.
What or who inspired you to enter the world of wines?
You could say the fan following I had developed at the Rotary. When I joined the Club, no wine was ever served at fellowship parties. When I left, we used to consume about 2 cases of wine during a social event. About 50 people including many women started drinking wine. They were keen to learn more and many thought it was a fashionable drink.
What was the worst drink you have had to endure?
Beer. I belong to a very conservative family where alcohol was considered a sin. But when I was living in Germany, my father was recommended I drink beer because water was hard. I went to a pub with a friend and ordered a small bottle of beer. As I took it near my mouth, the smell was nauseating and I almost fell sick. Till date, I hate the thought of beer but did not start drinking wine for another 10 years.
Where do you see India in the next few years in terms of beverage journalism?
When I started writing about wines in 2002, I felt there should be 100 journalists. Unfortunately, the number did increase slowly and initially the writers were passionate but today, thanks to the internet as also the ‘copy and paste’ method and the advent of social media, many journalists have cropped up with not much knowledge of wines so the quality remains poor. However, there is a huge demand for good journalists, though there’s not much money in the vocation.
According to you what are the key factors that make a wine ‘good’?
First and foremost, is the drinkability. It must be a clean and brilliant wine. It should be matured for aging but too much wood is not the answer. It should be approachable with good balance and possibly structure, depending on the price. It does not have to be very expensive to be good. You always pay a lot for the brand.
What’s your most memorable dining experience?
The 200th wine event and 10 year celebrations of Delhi Wine Club with 270 people sit-down Lunch with 10 wines including Drappier Champagne at Hyatt Regency, attended by several Ambassadors and the Director General of OIV.
Can you share with us any story that marked a turning point in your perception of beverages in general?
I was obliged to choose an alcoholic drink by my partner in our international business. I tried a few options but one day I tried an off-dry German white wine and liked it. That was the defining moment and I never looked back. But since no one knew anything about wine then, I was constrained to learn on my own.
What’s your favourite tipple at the end of a busy day?
Usually a sparkling wine like a good quality Prosecco (preferably DOCG), Champagne or a crisp white wine.
What is your advice to young professionals seeking a career in this field?
You must have a passion for wines and be ready to put in the hard work as also have the propensity to read a lot. Presumably, you should also love to taste as many wines as possible. I would also recommend a certified course.