Sommelier Sonal Bhandarkar (27) did a course in hotel management at the Institute of Hotel Management, Dadar, and began her career with the Leela Group. She is now a marketing consultant and sommelier at the Good Earth Winery.
What got you interested in wine?
I guess the fact that it's more of an art than a science. Every wine is different, each variety is distinct and there are so many innovative and creative things that can be done with food and wine.
Where did you study?
I did my first and second levels from Tulleeho Wine Academy, Mumbai, which is affiliated to the London-based Wine & Spirit Education Trust. I'm going to London for the third and fourth levels, which will earn me a diploma.
What kind of work have you done as a professional sommelier?
I am currently employed as a marketing consultant and sommelier at the Good Earth Winery, based in Pune. I have done about five 'vitiquettes' for the winery, which comprise sessions where we take high-end consumers through the wine-drinking journey and demonstrate how to pair food with the right wines. I have also conducted wine-tastings for exhibitions and other events.
What are the growth opportunities for a sommelier in the F&B industry?
After gaining experience, one can start consulting with hotels and restaurants about which wines they should have on their lists. A lot of top corporate houses also employ the services of sommeliers to offer them advice on foreign and domestic wines.
Is this a lucrative profession?
It is. At my level, one gets paid about Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 per event or exhibition; a wine company will pay you Rs 25,000 a month. Senior wine consultants can charge Rs 75,000 for a two-hour session.
What is the best part of your job?
Drinking so many different wines and sampling varieties from all over the world. It is also a great way to meet people and share your
knowledge with others.