How did you find your way into the world of wine and spirits?
Amber Deshmukh:- This wonderful journey started back in 2010 while I was working at JW Marriott Mumbai, I was encouraged by our Restaurant Manager to join a training programme called JW Marriott Wine Ambassador. It was so exciting that it pushed me to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Wine Technology. The interest kept on growing and now I am appearing for Certified level of Court of Master Sommeliers. This only happens when your interest turns into passion.
What do you think makes a good sommelier?
Amber Deshmukh:- The concept of a Sommelier is new to India. Some people have great knowledge without any certifications and on the other hand, some Sommeliers have studied WSET and CMS. The key to become a good sommelier is to learn something new every day, taste wines (blind tasting if possible) as much as possible and try to help at least 1 budding Sommelier to grow. It’s very important to join a Sommelier community in the respective city and join tastings and training to learn.
Do you think that more people are entering this industry and why do you think that is?
Amber Deshmukh:- Our industry has grown dramatically over the past 10 years and the number and quality of imported wines and spirits that are available today is unbelievable. Certifications like CMS are being conducted in India which reflects the growth of the industry. To be honest, there is approximately 1 Sommelier per 1000 Bartenders. Everyone should know that it is a well-respected and fabulous job of being a Sommelier and has already attracted young students. Hospitality Management colleges should take up the subject of wine and spirits more seriously.
What are your bottles of choice at the moment?
Amber Deshmukh:- Being an Indian Sommelier in a market that focuses on imported wines, I would love to highlight top-quality Indian wines that are at par in terms of quality with the imported ones. Few of my personal favourites are Fratelli Sette, Grover Zampa Chene, Krsma Cabernet Sauvignon, Sula Rasa Zinfandel, Reveilo Nero d’Avola and Vallonne Riesling. I am also excited to try Insignia by Grover Zampa.
What is the best bottle of wine you’ve ever tasted? What is the rarest wine you’ve ever tasted?
Amber Deshmukh:- 3 months back I attended “Great Wines of the World Tasting” of 160 wines by James Suckling at Hong Kong, where some exceptional wines of 100 pointers were tasted. But my favourite comes from the classical region of Alsace called Hugel Gewurztraminer. I do call my wife with that name (Gewürztraminer) 😉. And when it comes to the rarest one, it’s the Prestige Cuvee of Champagne Vilmart, Couer de Cuvee 2004 Premier Cru which was so intense and broad on the palate with a great minerality which I recently tasted. It will keep my palate salivating for years to come.
Are there any particular wine regions or countries that have inspired you most or most recently? How did they inspire you?
Amber Deshmukh:- They say, “You start with Bordeaux and end with Burgundy”. I have experienced the same when it comes to the most sought after grape called Pinot Noir. It’s very difficult to handle a Pinot, but who does it better than Burgundy. The terroir-driven intensity with elegance that a Burgundian Pinot Noir carries is simply amazing. This region and grape helps you to understand how the old world winemaking is refined compared to the new world regions.
Please tell us about the roles and responsibilities as Sommelier at Hops Cork?
Amber Deshmukh:- HopsCork is an Ultra-Modern Beer and Wine Boutique. My role is to get the best possible wines and beers available in Mumbai and to deliver sound technical and non-technical knowledge to our customers in the best possible way. I lead a program called HopsCork Mastermind which focuses on pop up events, weddings, corporate tastings and much more. HopsCork has been the trendsetter in the retail world and taking this concept ahead is utmost important for the growth of our industry. I consider myself lucky to be a part and to lead such a concept.
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