After flirting successfully with music, food, restaurants, wine bar, wine resort and whatever else came to his visionary mind to sell more of his Sula wine, Rajeev Samant seems to be tinkering with the idea of establishing a foothold in the structured wine education market which has a huge potential and seems to be on the starting line-waiting for the gun to fire. Of course, the company has already been conducting several wine appreciation sessions at hotels, restaurants and various groups. In fact, their International Brand Ambassador Cecilia Oldne is also a trained sommelier and has been associated with such programs.
The course being conducted at the headquarters of Sula at Lower Parel on Sunday February 23 from 10am to 7pm is a one-day course and costs Rs.7500 which includes lunch, tea and the course material and tasting notes. 8 wines, as required by WSET, will be tasted. Those attending will be given 30 multiple choice questions and will be examined by the Wine and Spirits Trust. Sovna Puri, a former assistant head Sommelier at the famous Michelin-Starred Indian Restaurant Benares in Mayfair, London for 2 years, is a WSET-3 qualified Head of the Training at Sula. She will conduct the course for a class that is limited to 10 persons, she says.
What is the objective of this course and is this inaugural, I ask Sovna. ‘Well, we conducted a couple of them already, the last one being perhaps around 8 months ago. Of course, this is a structured course and many people want to have a certificate from a recognized institute like WSET,’ says Sovna who has been working with Sula for the past four years and has been conducted several tastings and educational programs Pan India.
The wines included in the programme, as might be expected, are from Sula’s portfolio, she says. Five of them are the domestic labels including the flagship white Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and the Late Harvest Chenin Blanc. Imported wines include Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Cono Sur in Chile.
Deepak Bhatnagar, Sula’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for India, concurs with her about the objective. This is primarily to educate people about wine and is not going to be a profit center. How about running such WSET-1 courses at Sula’s vineyards in Nashik so people can combine a fun weekend with a structured basic education, I ask. Sovna sounds a bit uncertain about the number of people coming to Nashik for the course but Deepak is clear and forthcoming, ‘we do have definite plans in the near future. We already have the license and with our BEYOND Resort, we're already conducting similar activities and will soon have such a program, the details of which we are working on,’ he says.
It is interesting to see Sula move in the area of wine education and join the likes of Tullee-Ho and other educators in the WSET program (Indian Wine Academy does not conduct such courses but only several short wine appreciation events and training programs. It aims to educate through its website indianwineacademy.com about Indian and imported wines). While Sula may not be interested or planning to make it a separate profit center, this step could benefit its brand building exercise and affect direct sales.
The lower cost of wines and substantial savings on the cost of venue, which has been normally a 5-star hotel, and lunch etc, means the cost of conducting such a course is substantially lower than it costs other Approved Programme Providers and the benefits could be passed directly to the registrants directly through discounts or discount vouchers for the sale of wines from their stable. However, this also has the risk of putting off people who may think of it as a publicity gimmick to increase the sales rather than imparting basic general and objective education; most importers already carry out shoddy wine education programs for the hotels as they are obliged as part of the deal.
The program of WSET-1 includes introduction of the main styles of wines, learning the characteristics of the principle grape varieties, Systematic Approach to Tasting Service and Retail of wine. Matching Food & Wine - learning & understanding the basics of food & wine pairing, is also a part of the curriculum. The participants will have the opportunity of not only tasting 8 wines but also learning the art of basic matching food with wine.
Tags: Tullee-Ho, WSET, Sovna Puri, Deepak Bhatnagar, Sula