Career Focus

Career Focus

Wine industry offers cheerful vocations

The rich variety of red, white and sparkling wines which India now produces has opened up a whole cellar of tantalising career opportunities to oenophiles to mix business with pleasure

ith economic liberalisation
and globalisation having precipitated a huge change in the lifestyle of Indians, wine is beginning to flow as easily as conversation in trend-setting middle class households across the country. As a growing number within the jet set are becoming conscious of the adverse health consequences of hard alcohol, there’s been a phenomenal growth in the wine-making industry in the past five years. The rich variety of exquisite red, white and sparkling wines which India now produces has opened up a whole cellar of tantalising career opportunities to oenophiles (wine connoisseurs) to mix business with pleasure. Whether you want to produce, distribute, sell, teach wine-making techniques, taste it or write about it, there’s expanding accommodation in this sunrise industry.

Oenology. Known as an oenologist, a professional winemaker needs a degree in oenology (winemaking) or viticulture (cultivation of grapes). An oenologist is responsible for every facet of winemaking; not only does he decide on the quality of grapes, but also on how to blend them to create the best flavours. An oenologist needs a sharp understanding of climatic factors which affect the quality of grapes and the expertise to coalesce these factors to produce marketable blends and flavours.

Vineyard manager. Another career option in this fast-track industry is of vineyard manager who supervises grape plantation and maturation right from planting, irrigation, pruning, pest control and harvesting. Vineyard managers also discharge admin duties such as preparing budgets, hiring and training workers.

Cellar master. The cellar master comes into the picture after the grapes are picked and brought to the winery. Cellar masters manage wine making equipment such as tanks, barrels, gases, bottles and work closely with oenologists to produce wines in accordance with their prescription and specifications.

Wine taster. After a wine is produced and is ready for bottling, it must pass muster with professional tasters. Quite obviously tasters must have the palate and discrimination ability to differentiate and classify varieties of wines and nuances of flavours. If it’s lacking, the taster will suggest ways and means to improve it.

Sales and marketing. With the demand for wines of all vintages, flavours and prices booming, there is no dearth of openings for wine marketers. Starting as a sales rep, importer/ exporter or distributor, the rise to the position of marketing director could be swift.

Apart from these directly connected professions, there are job opportunities galore in the fields of writing, training and wine education.

Entry into this fast-moving consumer industry is facilitated with a degree in oenology or viticulture. However this is not mandatory since Indian academia presently does not offer specialised degree programmes. The usual entry route into the industry is a bachelor’s degree in science with specialisation in food technology/ chemistry/ microbiology. However for those with deep pockets, the best option is to enroll in a study course abroad preferably in a California wine university or to intern with a winery to acquire hands-on experience of wine production and marketing processes. The good news is that the Maharashtra government is planning to start two oenology institutes at Sangli and Nasik respectively, to provide specialised education in the art and craft of winemaking.

Castelino: awesome growth pace
"This industry is growing at an awesome pace. In the past year alone, there has been an 80 percent growth in terms of revenue. Across Asia the demand for wine is rising year on year. Given that certain wine grapes grow only in India, the demand abroad for Indian wines is also on the upswing," says Clive Castelino, manager (training) of Chateau Indage Ltd (est. 1982) a company which has pioneered the growth and development of the high-potential wine industry in India.

The world-class Chateau Indage winery and vineyards at Narayangaon, nestled in the idyllic surroundings of Sahyadri village in Maharashtra, roll out globally acclaimed brands. Until 1979, Narayangaon was an obscure dot on the map of India. But over the past two decades, Sahyadri has impacted itself as a viticulture epicentre in which Chateau Indage has over 1,000 acres of prime grape plantations with an additional 2,500 acres under preparation for cultivation.

After completing his Plus Two in science at Bhavan’s College, Mumbai, Castelino signed up with the Oberoi Hotels in Mumbai, where he worked for three years in food and beverages before moving to the Hilton Hotel, Dubai to serve as bar supervisor in 1987. In 1990, he landed a job as food and beverage supervisor in the Abu Dhabi Marina Club and in 1992 he joined the Royal Caribbean Cruise Company. Anxious to return to India after years of foreign travel he joined Chateau Indage in 2005 where he trains and educates the company’s personnel on the finer points of the vintners’ business.

"A career in the wine industry can be quite challenging. An oenologist has to keep calculating the effect of factors like weather, climate, insects, soil and other variables to succeed in this highly competitive industry. But simultaneously one gets to interface with the best hotels and restaurants, travel and savour gourmet cuisine and exotic wines. At the same time winemaking is all about modern technology which makes the job more interesting."

Quite clearly an industry for bon viveurs.

Indra Gidwani (Mumbai)