Journey from battlefield to vineyards.


HospiBuz:- Being an Army Officer, you have a military background. How come you entered the world of Wines and Spirits?

Ravi Joshi:- It is now that I realize that passion for beverages was alive in me at a sub conscious level right since the beginning. I used to experiment with all sorts of drinks- creating variations of classic cocktails and inventing my own later. My first posting as a young Army officer was in a snowbound area where temperatures ran downwards of minus -20°C and I always kept a 10 litres jerrican of rum in my bunker, sharing it at times with my men after the evening retreat. I also tried various spirits and liqueurs available in those parts like a Musk Brandy, Coffee Liqueur, Paan Liqueur etc. and experimented with them. The quest continued in my postings to various other places and it was during one such posting in Delhi that I came across the possibility of structuring my knowledge through WSET curriculum. I went on to complete Levels 1 and 2 and qualified with distinction, and against all expectations won a scholarship to Champagne. It was then that I realized that destiny was probably pulling me towards the beautiful world of beverages and I started thinking of it as a full-time pursuit.

HospiBuz:- Guns 2 Gewurztraminer, the name says a lot. Please tell us about your journey from an army officer to a wine professional?

Ravi Joshi:- (Laughs) I am happy when people find the title of my blog G2G interesting. In the initial days, many of my well-wishers advised me to change the name due to its difficult pronunciation and error-proneness in typing out the web address. I respected their concern but stuck with it on the premise that only those who would understand its meaning should be my target audience. The blog is now seven years old with 160+ posts and is read in dozens of countries. As a matter of fact, the blog’s inaugural post succinctly explains its raison d’ être.

As regards my transition from an army officer to a wine professional – it was after I won the Champagne Scholarship that I started thinking about a possible career in wine. But I needed to have more credentials than just a scholarship winner to be able to call myself a professional in the field. Before the scholarship trip, therefore, I learnt the French language to a level that was good enough to sustain me on a solo voyage all over France after the scholarship itinerary.

Following the experience with prestigious Champagne houses like Billecart-Salmon, Cattier, Taittinger, Michel Gonet and Bollinger, I set out on a learning trip to other regions of France viz. Bordeaux, Languedoc Roussillon, Provence, Rhône Valley and Beaujolais. I lived and worked with various French winemakers on all aspects of winemaking including harvest. All of this gave me the grounding necessary to move ahead in the field.

Back in India, I gave an outlet to my passion by starting Guns2Gewurztraminer and also started writing for print publications. As a newborn wine “journalist”, I also had many opportunities to travel to other wine countries like Austria, Italy and Spain. And the journey has been ongoing ever since.

HospiBuz:- On what basis should wine be judged after tasting it?

Ravi Joshi:- There are two prerequisites to taste and judge a wine. Diverse palate exposure and sound background knowledge. These two attributes enable experienced taster to differentiate between good and less-than-good wines. To judge a wine, one should be aware as to how that particular wine should be tasting optimally. Hence, the more you taste, the more adept you are at it.

HospiBuz:- Wine tourism is increasing in India which is a land of whiskey lovers. What is your take on it?

Ravi Joshi:- I see a lot of promise in wine tourism in India. Sula Fest- a yearly celebration of wine and music organized by the country’s No. 1 winemaker has grown from just 200 visitors in 2008 to tens of thousands in the current day. Sula has also invested significantly in their heritage winery resort in Nashik called “The Source by Sula” which is often running packed to capacity.

The country’s No. 2 winemaker Grover Zampa Vineyards (GZV) is not far behind. Recently they launched their new “world-class” visitor centre in the Nandi Hills (Bangalore) and are about to unveil their tourism facility in Nashik replete with glass chalets giving 180-degree views of the beauteous Sahyadri Hills. Apart from the big two, some boutique wineries are also ramping up their tourism infrastructure on priority. All these developments augur well for wine tourism in India,

HospiBuz:- Please tell us about the importance of wine tasting sessions in a vineyard?

Ravi Joshi:- There cannot be a better place to taste wine than a vineyard, but most of us don’t get such opportunities very often, do we? Wine tasting sessions in vineyards are invaluable for trade and consumers alike. First and foremost, you can feel the very ambience where the wine was produced. Second, the wine is in the optimal state due to skipping the vagaries of the supply chain. Tastings in vineyards are also invariably conducted by people who are intimately involved with the winemaking process- which in many cases is the winemaker himself. All of these are definite advantages that vineyard tastings have over the other modes.

HospiBuz:- How much do you think the consumption of wine is increasing in the industry when it comes to fine dine restaurants?

Ravi Joshi:- I do not have the exact figures off-hand but can say that the average increase in consumption of wine in fine dining restaurants has been increasing year-on-year especially over the current decade. As of now, wine consumption is more in metros but it is likely to trickle down to Class “B” cities given India’s growth story and a large aspirational population that is travelling abroad quite frequently. Indians today are more exposed to the culture of fine dining- of which wine is an important part. In my opinion, this growth can be fully exploited if restaurants have more wines by the glass, have reasonable markups to ensure affordability and invest in hiring qualified Sommeliers.

HospiBuz:- Please tell us about the course which you have done from WSET?

Ravi Joshi:- I earned the Level 1 Certification in Wine, followed by Level 2 in Wine and Spirits in consecutive years. While I could have easily gone for the Level 3 certification immediately thereafter, I have deferred it until now on two accounts: first to put the acquired knowledge to full use practically, and secondly due to my desire to pursue Level 3 in a country with less restrictive wine laws, for a better selection of wines. With the first requirement largely met, I plan to undertake the Level 3 at my preferred place soon.

HospiBuz:- One word for wine?

Ravi Joshi:- Bliss!


HospiBuz:- One advice for the wine enthusiasts?

Ravi Joshi:- Taste as many wines as possible- never missing an opportunity to do so. Paulo Coelho’s quote sums it aptly both in the philosophical and literal sense: “Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle”.