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WOW: Top Ten Women of Wine in India 2013-Farzana Contractor of UpperCrust

Posted: Monday, 12 August 2013 15:23

WOW: Top Ten Women of Wine in India 2013-Farzana Contractor of UpperCrust

Aug 12: Indian wine industry is at a nascent stage but many women have taken the plunge in the field of winemaking, marketing, education and journalism, with varying degree of success. We bring you the first-ever list of Top Ten Women of Wine in India 2013: WOW. We have refrained from ranking them and chosen to keep it generally in alphabetical order. In this edition we focus on Farzana Contractor-editor, photographer, publisher and owner of UpperCrust magazine and the Food and Wine Show

Click For Large ViewFarzana Contractor loves to nose wine as much as drink it, but candidly admits she can’t be bothered to dive deep into wine, but just drown. She lives life on her terms with a good balance between serious and fun - just like fine wine.

The first time she tasted wine was when she was in her first year in college and was out with a bunch of friends for a weekend at Panchgani. Seven young girls sitting on the porch of a rambling old bungalow when the skies opened up and rained buckets! They looked at each other and the Golconda wine (cheap fortified wine) poured into each glass, wondering how much soda to add!

“Honestly, it’s so embarrassing to remember our days of ignorance. We were in our first year of college and did not know better. We had mustered enough courage to go to the local wine shop of the hill-station and buy a bottle of wine. But for one Parsi girl who feebly cautioned, ‘I don’t think we add anything to wine,’ none of us had any inkling,” she says.

That was the only tryst she had with alcohol, until she got married in 1985, to Behram Contractor, the famous Busybee – a connoisseur of food, wine and everything alcoholic! As a sportsperson of national level - she played hockey and basketball for Bombay, Maharashtra and the University and later professionally for Western and Indian Railways she was far removed from it. ‘But when I married Behram, it changed. He encouraged me to drink scotch which I did not, but I discovered sherry and loved it and later shandy.’

“In the mid-80s we would attend many diplomatic parties and I graduated to wine drinking; they were also a learning ground. My taste buds were inclined towards lighter, sweeter wines and I loved drinking wines from Mosel or Rhine regions. I realized that apart from gaining knowledge about wines I could drink just two glasses of the amazing stuff but anything more and I was smiling for no reason and talking rubbish! Great days…,” she reminisces.

Farzana and Behram founded their own newspaper called Afternoon Despatch and Courier, seven weeks after they were married. Behram, a great journalist, was a name to reckon with and their new baby took off beautifully. The tabloid with integrity had a huge fan following not only because of the famous, satirical column, Round And About which Behram wrote everyday (as Busybee), but because of the high standard of journalism it incorporated.

There was another big plus to the newspaper-Eating Out columns and interviews with chefs, restaurateurs and hoteliers. “Busybee was a big foodie and his restaurant reviews were very evocative and hugely popular. Thanks to him we gained a prestigious readership which helped me launch UpperCrust,” beams Farzana.

UpperCrust, India’s first food and wine magazine is full of well-researched unusual articles with a good balance between, food, wine, travel and people. Farzana also started a trade fair with a difference - UpperCrust Food and Wine Show, now in its 11th year.

“I enjoy bringing out the mag. I don’t think of myself as the publisher, or editor. I just do my thing” she says. I know for sure, she even looks at graphics and layouts and oversees the production of the world-class magazine of which she is also the chief photographer.

“Actually my love affair with wines began at the vineyards, through my lenses. Ever since I have been travelling to cover destinations for UpperCrust, my favourite assignments have been to the picturesque wine regions. I loved shooting vineyards and continue to be overcome by the beauty of the properties, the architecture, the people, the cellars, the wine bottles, their labels, the awesome decanters, the cheese, the bread, the grapes, the very sight of a table full of wine glasses laid out for a tasting! Ah, the beautiful memories they help collect!”

Farzana has travelled to vineyards in France, Italy, Germany, Spain, America, Canada, New Zealand, Israel, among other countries but she is partial to Europe. “There is something special about drinking wine in Europe. Stopping by at a tiny, charming roadside café in a quaint village steeped in history, sipping wine in sparkling sunshine, taking in fragrant air makes you feel so relaxed.”

Click For Large ViewThis publisher-editor-photographer businesswoman has wonderful opportunities to meet people - the rich and famous, the worthy from all spheres of life, particularly the food and wine world. She conscientiously brings to her readers, interesting food, wine and travel articles from across the world. She writes candidly, giving personal accounts, a factor contributing to the success of UpperCrust. “Being myself comes naturally to me, simple and honest. I recommend, not critique places, food or wine. I leave it to my readers to take what they want out of my writing and experience,’ she says.

‘In-depth writing on wine is difficult. You need passion for the exhaustive subject, and truly enjoy drinking wine. You must educate yourself, read and research, pay attention when on a vineyard visit and understand the minute nuances, climate, terroir, grapes. What you do, Subhash, is not easy and honestly, I don’t have that kind of patience or crazy-deep interest. I like to drink wine, c’est tout! I am involved with it a glass at a time. All I know is wine is a mood thing-or a mind thing. The same wine tastes or ‘feels’ different on different occasions, sometimes I just sit nursing one all night, only taking in its bouquet, I love the way the aroma changes…” she concludes smilingly.

Farzana has been motivating people to drink wine as a lifestyle beverage with good food through the UpperCrust magazine for 14 years and the UpperCrust Food & Wine Show for 11 years and we are happy to include here in our first-ever list of Top Ten Women of Wine. WOW!

Subhash Arora

Ealier articles

WOW: Top Ten Women of Wine in India 2013 -Ritu Dalmia of Diva

WOW: Top Ten Women of Wine in India 2013 –Violet d’Souza of Terroir India

WOW: Top Ten Women of Wine in India 2013 -Dharti Desai of FWM

Tags: Indian wine industry, Top Ten Women of Wine in India 2013: WOW, Farzana Contractor, UpperCrust, Food and Wine Show, UpperCrust Food and Wine Show


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