Somm Speak: Gagan Sharma
‘Serving wines is a bigger joy than tasting them; I can never give it up’
One of India’s youngest sommeliers and trainers, Gagan Sharma, Sommelier and Wine Educator at Wi-Not Beverage Solutions, is someone to watch out for. He shares his thoughts on why it is the perfect time to be a sommelier in India.
How did your interest in wines begin?
It was in the early day when I was studying hospitality management at IHM Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Wine came to me during my second year of studies. It didn’t take long before I was seriously attracted towards the subject and started studying it day in day out.
Why did you choose to become a sommelier?
Not only was the subject interesting, but what also captured my fancy was the way it was wrapped in the influences of wars, history, religion, and much more. Needless to say, it was definitely a challenge at the beginning with the languages, terminology, and maps, however, it turned in an attractive endeavor eventually.
What scope does a sommelier’s profession have in India today?
Massive. From being a consultant, to a full-time in-house sommelier for a hotel, to be an educator and trainer, to be working with importers and suppliers, there are many opportunities. It’s the right time to be in the industry while the spectrum of not only wines but alcoholic beverages is growing manifolds.
Who is that one person in the wine industry that inspires you and why?
Sommelier Magandeep Singh has been my mentor and inspiration since my IHM days. I followed him around the country attending his workshops and tastings during third year, and bunked college. He offered me to work together soon after my graduation and I decided to return to India and work with him even before I boarded the flight for Australia where I studied my masters and higher wine studies. He is a major reason why I am a sommelier today.
What has been the most exciting parts of your work?
From attending trainings as a student to be able to share the knowledge back as an educator is an amazing feeling. Traveling internationally to visit vineyards and wineries and share professional insights in the media and be applauded for the efforts is an achievement. However, the highlight has been the increasing success of the 6th Indian Sommelier Championship, 2013, a competition for budding-sommeliers in India we conduct. It is not only the success of the show that we are proud of but what’s the real victory is in seeing how the winners have gained out of their experience at the competition and how it has aided in transforming their careers in to a much celebrated one thereafter.
As a trainer, what are your observations about knowledge and awareness of wines, both in the F&B industry and consumers?
In the past few years the acceptance of wine as a sophisticated social liaison has grown. The brands have grown and so has the choice for the consumer. Thus, the necessity of apt knowledge and the right etiquettes has made its way in. We see a growing share of consumers enrolling for our sessions and their enthusiasm is discerning. Professionals today do understand that their guests are well traveled and may have a deep understanding of products, and thus they are getting better equipped too.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years from now?
Burning the midnight oil, and studying for my Master Sommelier certification to be the first Indian to achieve that spot. If not that, in a restaurant, wearing a black suit, white shirt, and a checked tie, decanting and narrating exciting stories about the wine being served during the evening service. Serving wines is a bigger joy than tasting them; I can never give it up.