Meet India’s first Master of Wine, Sonal Holland

Sonal Holland

“Do anything you like but be better at it than anyone else. I always keep that advice in my mind.”

Sonal Holland

Having been married to a British national, Sonal spent holidays in the UK with friends and family where evenings were spent over several glasses of wine. That’s where the grape was planted in her head – why doesn’t India have a thriving wine culture? Could it? She saw the opportunity that existed for the then nascent Indian wine industry and made a strategic shift in her career to explore this further in the early 2000s.

The founder of of SoHo Wine Club, Holland was just announced India’s first Master of Wine. She is the first and only Indian to get the title amongst other 353 people in the world who can proudly call themselves a master. Her club aims to deliver expertly curated wine selections, tutored tastings and finely curated wine experiences to discerning consumers in India.

Sonal Holland, the first Indian to be titled Master of Wine.

Sonal Holland, the first Indian to be titled Master of Wine.

Sonal tells us “I studied wines at the UK-based Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) widely known world-over for its wine & spirits certification courses.” Having accomplished the various levels of certifications, she became India’s most qualified wine professional. Thereafter, was accepted on the Master of Wine program at the Institute of Masters of Wine.

What it means to be a master of wine, we ask Sonal. “Becoming a Master of Wine means entry into the world’s best wine community. It also means a huge mantle of responsibility, to represent your country’s wine industry as its ambassador to the world.”

While many consider wine to be a western concept, urban Indian consumers are fast taking to wine as it is perceived to be a healthier and a classier beverage to drink. Research also shows that women feel less inhibited culturally when consuming wine due to its softer image, thus making it a socially acceptable drink for women to have across various strata of the society.

We even had a quick round of fun questionnaire with Sonal around wines and her interpretation of them in terms of clothes. Her responses are a must read!

Chardonnay – pair of jeans with a t-shirt (safe bet, always comforting)

Sauvignon Blanc – pair of shorts (casual, summery, choice for a crisp day)

Riesling – the Indian saree (feminine, appears complex at first yet most approachable and always elegant and beautiful)

Cabernet Sauvignon – a business suit (formal, professional choice for those leaning towards snobbery)

Merlot – tie and cufflinks (best when accessorising a business suit i.e. Cabernet Sauvignon in a Bordeaux blend)

Shiraz – A dress in a bold colour and loads of bling (rich, full-bodied, spicy)

Pinot Noir – sexy black dress (elegant, seductive, complex, hard to get and always high class)

A traditional Maharashtrian girl, Sonal is also a huge movie buff who will watch a Shahrukh Khan film, first day first show. Apart from wine, single malt/scotch whisky, and sake (with a Japanese meal) are some of her preferred drinks.

Sonal Holland, the first Indian to be titled Master of Wine.

Sonal Holland, the first Indian to be titled Master of Wine.

From Indian wines, some of Sonal’s favourites are:  

Krsma Cabernet Sauvignon 

Arros Shiraz – Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve from York Winery

Fratelli Sette

Sula Riesling

Vitae Chardonnay

Charosa Sauvignon Blanc

Chandon Brut Rose

“As a wine consultant, my aim is to help the hospitality, airline and the retail trade to enhance their wine programs, improve consumer experiences and be seen as wine destinations in the country”, says Sonal Holland.