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Manna matters

education Updated: Dec 20, 2011 15:05 IST

Hindustan Times
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The lowdown
The work involves taking decisions and managing the process of winemaking at its various stages, right from nurturing grapes to bottling. It involves visits to vineyards for grape sampling, assessing maturity of grapes, and deciding harvest dates. A winemaker is required to carry out laboratory analyses to check sugar levels, acidity, and post-fermentation alcohol levels. She also needs to plan harvest activities and taste the grape juice at the wine press etc. In short, the job involves aligning viticulture needs with those of winemaking, as well as launching new brands. Winemakers typically live on vineyards or where the wine is blended. In India, there are very few winemakers and the industry is very small. There isn’t too much being heard and said about it... there are enough vineyards and wineries, but the popularity of the profession, as seen in Europe, is yet to catch on

A winemaker spends more hours at work during the harvest season (Jan- Mar) as opposed to the rest of the year
8am: Start for vineyards
9am: Random berry sampling and check grape maturity
1.30pm: Reach winery; walk through cellar to check hygiene and tank temperatures
2pm: Lunch
2.30pm: Taste fermenting grape juice at the tanks
4pm: Taste juice from earlier samplings
5.30pm: Discuss issues with HR/ viticulture departments
6pm: Confirm harvest dates to viticulture department
6.30pm: Coordinate with cellar master and plan the next day
7pm: Check red fermentation
8pm: Leave for home

The payoff
Winemaking trainee: Rs 15,000 a month
Assistant winemaker: Rs 15,000 to Rs 40,000 a month
Associate winemaker: Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000 a month
Winemaker: Upwards of Rs 50,000 per month

* Critical thinking and planning skills
* Expert knowledge of the fermentation process and skill in the art of blending the best lots together
* Ability to adapt to strenuous work hours during harvest time

Getting there
One can get into winemaking with a degree in food sciences, horticulture, agriculture, chemistry, biotech or microbiology. A course in fermentation technology also comes in handy. One can start as an intern or a trainee with a winemaking firm and eventually graduate to an assistant winemaker, associate winemaker and then chief winemaker. Some firms employ specialised winemakers for white wines, red wines and sparkling wines. Overseas, there are specialised orientation courses for vintners and winemakers after which you can intern under a senior winemaker or in a chateau/vineyard/winery where you can learn about creating new blends. You’ll need to understand soil, weather, grape, art of extracting juice, fermenting the wine and the art of blending different grape varieties. There is a long process of learning before someone can become an independent wine maker

Institutes and URLs
* Grape Processing and Research Institute, Palus, Maharashtra
* Sangli Gargi Agriculture Research And Training Institute (GARTI), Nashik
* KBR Wine School

Pros and cons
* It is not a regular, run-of-the-mill production job
* It involves working in relatively rural settings
* You need to be physically fit and active

The next decade will be very interesting for the wine industry in India as more home blended wines will come into the market Sonia Mohindra, a wine connoisseur and director, Under One Roof Hotel Consultants