A grape toast

The lowdown

The job of a winemaker involves taking decisions and managing the process of winemaking at various stages. It also involves visits to far flung or local vineyards for grape berry sampling, assessing maturity of grapes and deciding harvest dates. This is the most challenging part as it will decide the quality of the wine produced. In order to produce great wine, a winemaker should be knowledgeable about the conditions of vineyards. Winemaking requires passion. It is a combination of art and science. The art of making good wine gets cultivated after many years of experience. Anybody who believes in creativity, is open-minded and willing to take on challenges, including the vagaries of nature, can aspire to become a winemaker. It is best to work in a winery in India or abroad for about two to three years after graduation and get as much experience as possible. In India, as of today, there are very few winemakers of repute and the industry does need more competent winemakers. There might not be many options to change jobs in our country.

8am: Start for vineyards
9am: Walking through vineyards, random berry sampling, berry tasting to check grape maturity
1.30pm: Reach winery; walk through cellar, crush pad to check fruit received, check hygiene and tank temperatures
2pm: Lunch
2.30pm: Taste fermenting juice in the tanks, check fermentation logs, check analysis data of fruit received
4pm: Taste juice from samplings
4.30pm: Check grapes sampling data, sort vineyards and grapes according to variety and quality, plant crushing for the next 2-3 days
5.30pm: Discuss issues with HR/ viticulture departments, discuss crush issues with assistant winemakers, cellar masters
6pm: Confirm harvest dates to viticulture department
6.30pm: Coordinate with cellar master, plan tasks for the next day
7pm: Check red fermentation samples, give the pump over schedule for the next day
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: Rs. 50,000 per month; chief winemaker: Rs. 60,000 per month

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

Getting there
A degree in food sciences, horticulture, agriculture, chemistry, biotech or microbiology. A course in fermentation technology also comes 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 of a company

Institutes and URLs
* Grape Processing and Research Institute, Sangli www.sangliraisin.com
* Gargi Agriculture Research and Training Institute, Nashik    www.gargiedu.com
* Tulleeho Wine Academy, Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai www.tulleeho.com/wineacademy

Pros and cons
* It is not a regular, run-of-the-mill production job
* You need to be physically fit and active because this job involves physical work, especially during harvest time

Be aware of the conditions in the vineyards and the process and the production. Making wine is easy but making quality wine is extremely difficult --Ajoy Shaw, vice president, Sula Vineyards, Nashik


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