Where attraction lies
What is clear is that Burgundy is an expensive passion. There are other collectors like Bhat and Tamanna in the Valley. Arvind Sodhani is one who is publicly listed in the Festival of Music and Wine (fomv.org) as one of the board of directors. The Chairman, by the way, is Auburt de Villaine who ran DRC for decades. Sodhani runs his own vineyard– Sodhani vineyards in St. Helena, Napa but clearly has a link to Burgundy. Others spoke to me but wanted anonymity. “Burgundy is an expensive hobby,” said one. “Thankfully, my kids are through college and I can engage with this.”
The curious thing was that all these Burgundy wine-lovers had similar takeaways or advice for those embarking on this journey.
“Be true to yourself and your palate,” says Tamanna. “Don’t try to like something somebody else told you to like. Trust your palate, know that it will evolve.”
To Tamanna, palate memory (remembering the taste of a wine) and olfactory memory (remembering the aromas of a wine) are key. Some are more natural at it than others and women are better at it than others. But he says, “You can definitely cultivate your palate and your olfactory senses too.”
When I ask Bhat for tips for aspiring wine-geeks, he reels off a list: visit the local wine store, join a tasting group, wine bulletin boards and Facebook groups, read community tasting notes at Cellar Tracker, subscribe to wine newsletters like burghound.com, buy and taste as much wine as you can afford and compare your tasting notes with others.
So what’s the future? Gender for one thing. Currently, the world of fine wines is almost exclusively inhabited by men. So where are the women? India has Sonal Holland who passed the tough Master of Wine exam. Tamanna has some good news for me too. During our conversation, he said that an Indian woman whose name he couldn’t remember was the youngest person ever to pass the very tough Master Sommelier exam. She passed it at age 21, he said, and marvelled at how she cultivated her palate and olfactory memory at such a young age.
I looked her up. It was indeed an Indian woman who was the youngest Master Sommelier in the world. In the wake of the sexual scandals that rocked the Sommelier fraternity, she gave up her title.
Her name: Alpana Singh.
So what are we to do, sitting here in India? I think a trip to Bourgogne (as a first step, maybe we should pronounce it like the French do instead of saying Burgundy?) makes a lot of sense if you like these wines. Travelling here, like I did recently, shows you the geographies or the climats as the French would have it. It helps you visualise the producers and the wines. And it teaches you that all these fabled wineries are at the end of the day, family-run businesses that cultivate expensive farmlands to produce a liquid that has been imbibed by humans since the dawn of civilisation, or at least the dawn of Roman civilisation. Oh, and if you are a woman with a palate, cultivate it. Buy wines. Engage with wine-clubs. Visit the wine regions. There is no point complaining about a boy’s club if you are unwilling to do something about it.
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