During the extended lockdown, online has been the one way to go. But what do wine aficionados and hospitality students do once they have done clocking countless virtual wine tastings, daily wine webinars and round-the-clock Insta wine chats? The answer is move on to something productive and career-oriented online, like expanding their wine learning.
While many educational biggies worldwide have successful online wine courses, the big lockdown news is that top Indian wine pros have now jumped on the bandwagon: Sonal Holland has launched her own online course, while sommeliers Magandeep Singh and Gagan Sharma have launched the IWBS (Institute of Wine & Beverage Studies) course. Both are affordable and great for beginners and budding professionals.
Sonal Holland’s 60-Minute Wine Pro
Duration: 1 hour; cost: ₹2,200 inclusive of taxes
For Holland, jumping into creating an online crash course on wine was “a natural progression” of her teaching and consultancy career. India’s first and only Master of Wine, Holland has spent 10 years training classrooms full of hospitality professionals, but “groups like ITC have properties all around the country, and classroom teaching isn’t easy to access due to distances and travel times,” she says.
While the course had been in prep for a while, Holland took her time releasing it, to build a “global curriculum suited to the Indian market”. She says, “Developing content takes time. Quality, format, design and the technology content don’t happen overnight.” She launched last month and saw an immediate, enthusiastic response: 72 courses were registered for on day one.
In the offing
- Holland is considering adding step-by-step tasting modules for registered users, as well as more quizzes, flash cards and possibly winemaking videos showing crushing, fermentation, etc. Also, an exclusive online course on sake is in the pipeline, tapping into the popular world trend.
The beauty of the course, she explains, is that “it says 60 minutes [yes, it is short and zippy] but it is intense”. I agree. The information is clearly laid out, concise and easy to follow. The level of learning can be benchmarked against the venerable WSETs (Wine & Spirit Education Trust, the world’s most authoritative wine school) Level 1 and some of Level 2.
The course is divided into 10 modules, consisting of images, graphics and Holland’s voiceover explanations. She expounds on the concept of terroir and what makes a good wine great, explains the difference between New and Old World wines, describes the eight dominant grape varieties, discusses wine and food pairings, service and storage, and busts some common myths. The content is clear and concise, with good production values. She is also not afraid to call things to account: in the section on Indian wines, besides listing top producers, she mentions how they “struggle with consistency over vintages”. In the much-needed section on myths, she explains how not every wine is ageworthy — 95% have a two-three year shelf life, and that screwcaps do not indicate inferior quality.
After completing the modules, participants must take and pass a multiple-choice quiz based on the course content, after which they are awarded a certificate.
Note: Can be completed in an hour or stretched out longer for those who like to. Holland’s accent and tone is easy to understand yet businesslike. A good course for those wanting to begin learning more about wine, whether long-time enthusiasts or young professionals.
Details: sonalholland wineacademy.com
IWBS’ Learn From Home Series – Wine with Magandeep Singh and Gagan Sharma
Duration 7.5 hours; Cost ₹2,500 inclusive of taxes
Sommeliers Magandeep Singh and Gagan Sharma have a solid 25 years of wine knowledge between them and a long association with top Indian hotels. But when they decided to take their teaching online, they looked at the course from a unique perspective. Primarily targeting the hospitality industry, they realised that most students were either below the drinking age or came from backgrounds that did not permit alcohol at home. Taking learning online and thereby removing the physical tasting element made it universally accessible. Their 7.5-hour course, Learn from Home – Wine, devised and released last month and presented by both, serves to educate “budding professionals and curious amateurs” by providing content that is “simple and easy-to-absorb, but is intense, rather than a quick reckoner”.
Given that international accredited courses are expensive (WSET starts at ₹8,000++ for Level 1, the French Wine Scholar and CMS accreditations from ₹60,000), this course is cost-effective and a snapshot of their lengthier, successful two-day classroom-based Certificate 1 course (₹8,000, including a tasting of 23 wines) conducted primarily for hotel staff.
In the offing
- Sharma is keen to add subtitles in Indian languages, especially Hindi, for those less familiar with English. Besides working on developing a Young Sommelier’s Olympiad for trainees under 21 as a feeder to their successful annual Indian Sommelier Championship, the team is also working on more courses in the Learn from Home series, specifically on spirits and beer.
It comprises 12 modules (three months of unlimited access) with downloadable study materials on viticulture and vinification, climate and international grape varieties, wine service and pairing (complete with banter between the ‘two bald men’, as the somms call themselves). There is also a 50-minute session on Indian wines, added after Sharma’s trip this March to India’s Nashik-based wineries. Each section ends with a mini quiz. There is no final test; after 100% completion of the sections, a certificate is awarded.
The duo has plans to polish the material, change shoot locations, and add/subtract material post-lockdown, including Sharma’s idea of style-specific wine modules by guest professionals. “The course is made by Indians for the Indian context,” says Singh. “Even at seven hours, it is just a taste of what we can teach.” IWBS’ intent is to offer a comprehensive course with a knowledge uptake equivalent to top courses for beginners, at an affordable cost. Singh says, “At the end of the day, it all comes down to one thing – can I get a job? With our names on the certificate, I hope at least they get a seat at the interview table.”
Note: For intermediate learners or savvy beginners. Each segment is about 20 minutes, and you need to focus to pass the quiz. The tone is more casual and relaxed, though I miss the duo’s witty banter in the solo segments. The accent on wine service from the top pros in the business is much-needed for hotel students and handy for keen amateurs.