In an otherwise male dominated industry, Sonal Holland has carved her own place. India’s first Master of Wine, she has put today the India Wine Awards in an effort to recognise and celebrate wines and winemakers in India. The competition’s results will offer the Indian consumer the ultimate guide to purchasing wine and winning brands an enviable advantage in the marketplace, she says. Here are excerpts from an interview with SheThePeople’s Tara Khandelwal.

Why is it important to have the India Wine Awards? What does the event aim to accomplish?

India Wine Awards marks its inaugural year 2017 with a world-class competition that will recognize and celebrate the best of the wines, both Indian and international, available in the Indian market. The IWA aims to reach out to the rapidly evolving Indian wine consumer by showcasing the best of wines available in the country and helping them make informed decisions in their wine choices.

The competition results will offer the Indian consumer the ultimate guide to purchasing wine and winning brands an enviable advantage in the marketplace.

It is the first Indian wine competition with key highlights including an Indian food and wine pairing competition that will allow wine brands to market themselves as food compatible in a country known for its culinary heritage and excellence.

What are the categories on your list? 

From premium wines to the best in budget, there are many categories at play. Then there are those which are grape determined, from Sparkling to Rose. There will also be rankings for Best Wines Paired With Indian cuisine and one even paired with Butter Chicken!

What was the process like in deciding the best wines? How was the jury selected.

IWA’s objective is to be the most authoritative wine competition in India led by a credible jury. Essential to this objective is inviting the industry’s best palates as judges. We strongly believe in the utmost integrity of the competition’s results and in the quality of the tasters. Hence, we have put together a formidable team of India’s most eminent wine palates for the IWA Competition.

Judging Panel consists of Sonal Holland, Subhash Arora – Vice-Chairperson of IWA and Editor of delWine, Sourish Bhattacharyya an eminent food expert, Rojita Tiwari who is the founder of Drinks & Destinations. Restauranteurs Gauri Devidayal, Rahul Akerkar and other experts like Jasjit Singh Assi, Bhisham Mansukhani, Shagun Mehra, Alok Chandra,  Shahrom Oshtori, Prateek Angre and Satyam Savla are on the jury too.

How will you roll out the judging process?

Wines are organised for tasting by country, colour, style and price. Wines are judged in flights against their peers. Judges taste the wines individually and score the wines. Each panel has a minimum of 3 judges. Each judge tastes wine individually. Then they compare individual notes on the wine and reach a consensus on each wine’s medal.

Medal categories correspond to the 100-point scoring system. Each judge receives a scoring sheet detailing out the scores for each component of the wine tasting.

Producers can label medal-winning wines with stickers for consumers to recognize in the stores and at restaurants.

How do consumers get a real taste of the final award winning wines?

IWA’s founding and organizing team organize tastings and wine events around the country to give consumers a chance to try the medal-winning wines.