20 Minutes Live with Sonal Holland: 5 Popular Myths About Wine




In this session of 20 minutes live, Mr. Ninad Karpe, Partner at 100X.VC welcomes all the viewers and introduces the guest expert, Ms. Sonal Holland. She is a celebrated personality and India’s first and the only Master of Wine (among 389 Masters of Wine across 30 countries).

She is the founder of ‘Sonal Holland Wine Academy’ that offers Wine Education and Consultancy to leading luxury hotels and brands. She is also the founder of ‘Soho Wine Club’ that curates exclusive events and tastings.

‘India Wine Awards’ is another institution she founded. This institution ranks the best wines and restaurant wine programs in the country. Sonal has been listed among 50 Most Powerful Women in Indian Luxury and has won several awards for her incredible journey for becoming one in a billion.

She emphasizes dealing with certain snobby facts, certain misnomers or myths that we feel clouds our judgement when it comes to choosing the right bottle of wine.

As there are endless myths, she has come up with five key top popular myths that she feels surround wine lovers in India: 

Myth#1: Expensive Wine is Always the best Quality Wine:

The price of a wine is determined by various factors, not just pricing. The price of a wine is also determined by:
  • Where it is sourced from.  
  • The brand image. 
  • The ratings that the wine has enjoyed from the critics.
  • Various regulations that exist across various parts of the world
  • The distance between the place where a wine is made and the port of consumption
All these factors finally impact the price of a wine. The best way of evaluating the quality of a wine is actually to be able to taste it like a professional.

Sonal also suggests tasting wines from unfamiliar places and makers. There are
many winemakers with a lot of passion, expertise, knowledge and yet are relatively unknown. When you go for wines from such varieties and such makers, you tend to get some exceptional value for wine.

Myth#2: Old Wine is Good Wine:

Most of us believe that the older the wine the better it is. Yet, about 95% of the wines made across the world are made to have when they are young. Wine lovers need to drink them within the first 2-3 years from the vintage on the bottle. So, if you age them unnecessarily, they would lose their freshness, they may taste dull and flabby.

Pro tip: if you are looking for an inexpensive wine for your everyday drinking, it’s better to consume wines within the first 2-3 years. Most of the wines are made to be enjoyable at the time of uncorking. So, the best part would be to drink them earlier than later.

Myth#3: Wines that are under screw cap are inferior in quality compared to the wines under corks:

Wines under screw caps are convenient. You don’t need any special effort or tool, as you can unscrew the bottle as and when you need to, pour a glass of wine, put the screw cap back on, and store the remaining wine in the cellar or a refrigerator.

Screw Cap came as an effective solution to the problems with corks. Some specific kind of fungal infection occurred in corked wines. Screw Cap technology has been developed over the years. Today, it is a scientifically proven fact that the wines under screw caps remain fresh for longer duration.

Wines under screw caps can also age beautifully. Sonal asserts that she has tasted wines from Germany and Australia that aged for 15 to 20 years under screw caps.

Myth#4: Wines with the word ‘Reserved’ on the bottle are superior wines:

In countries like Italy and Spain, the word ‘Reserve’ or ‘Reserva’ is a regulated term. This word indicates the wine has gone through a certain process of ageing. It may be an extra number of years in the bottle or an extra number of years under the oak. So, this automatically would translate into ‘better quality’ and ‘more expensive’ and so on.

However, the term ‘Reserve’ or ‘Reservation’ is not a regulated term outside these countries. The label on the bottle may indicate:
  • The wine is made from a superior kind of land and fruit.
  • The winemaker has taken special care or done something special to the wine.
Now, the ‘wine maker’s best’ doesn’t need to be the best on a global stage. So, you must rely on your judgement of how the wine tastes on your pallet and whether it deserves to be the best wine with a premium image, a premium designation or premium price.

Myth#5: Heavy bottles means higher quality wine:

It is again a marketing gimmick as consumers tend to think that as the bottle is heavy, it may contain something solid inside. Yet, it’s not what outside the bottle that’s important but what is inside the bottle.

Heavy bottles imply more expenditure on the packaging and higher carbon footprint. When it comes to ‘sustainability’; lean and light should be the way to go. So, lighter bottles of wine are better; of course, not at the cost of consuming inferior wine. It’s better not to go by the weight of the bottle but to go with what’s inside it and how the wine tastes on your pallet.

Assessing the quality of a wine is a whole objective phenomenon and an objective process. Yet, these top 5 myths surrounding wines would aid you to select the best wines.

Questions and Answers:

1. What is the ideal temperature at which white wine and red wine should be served, especially in India?

You need to chill your whites (8 to 12-degrees) and cool your reds (15 to 18-degrees roughly). Sparkling and sweet wines should be served at about 6-degrees.

2. How important is the wineglass? 

The shape of the glass automatically transforms the way the wine lands on your pallet and alters the sensation of the wine. Ideally, you should go for a wine glass with a stable base, a nice stem to hold and handle the glass, a wider bowl, and an inward sloping wall. This ensures that the wine lands on the tip of your pallet where you can taste the fruits, sweetness, and intensity better.

3. What are the ideal wines to go with Indian food?

Fruity wines are better as they upset the heavy level of spice. Sweet wines are also good. Off-dry wines go well with spicy food. It’s significant to match intensity.

4. Why is wine categorized as alcohol?

Wine should be considered by the government as an agricultural product as it creates a tremendous amount of employment opportunities in the rural sector. Wine tourism can be encouraged in various wine-making regions in India. Wine is lower in alcohol compared to the other spirits. Yet, we should calculate the amount of alcohol we are consuming. Always, moderation and balance are the keys.

5. Which are the ideal places to start with Wine Tourism for beginners, in India and outside India? 

In India, some wineries around Nasik, with fabulous accommodation facilities would be best to start with the journey. Internationally, in Italy, Tuscany would be an easily accessible place for wine tourism. Napa Valley, on an hour’s drive from San Francisco, is another beautiful place to explore for wine tourists.

6. How about packaging wines in cans?

There is nothing wrong with it. This initiative can take wines to more consumers due to convenience. You find different kinds of wines like in tetra packs, on taps, and served as a cocktail.

7. Why are most of the French Wines are made from blends and not a single grape?

In France, the grapes grow on the border of the climatic ability for ripening due to the moderate climate over there. So, they produce different kinds of grapes (they ripen in different duration) to hedge the bets and produce blended wines to release the wines in time and remain commercially viable.

Now, due to global warming, some breeds of grapes are being avoided as there is a certainty in ripening. As the surety for sunshine and ripening potential grows, the blends start to phase out.

8. What would be the expert’s views on Indian wines?

The quality of Indian wines has improved over time. Some wine producers have put honest efforts to produce the best-quality wines and as a result; many Indian winemakers have won prizes internationally. Sonal’s article on ‘15 Indian wines you should taste in 2020’ has been published on Conde Nast Traveler.

9. Does the expert offer Wine Education?

WSET offers academic wine education. So, for enthusiastic people willing to be a professional, Sonal Holland Wine Academy, founded in 2009, can be a better choice. The academy offers classroom training and online education. Recently, the academy launched a Certificate Course, ‘Jumbo Shrimp Wine Course’, a 60 minutes course that covers various aspects of wine tasting.

10. What are the new hobbies the expert picked up in the last three months of lock down?
  • She learnt to cook with wine and made some recipe videos too.
  • She became quite tech-savvy and has learnt to use social media, digital marketing, zoom meetings, webinars and much more.


- 100X.VC Team

Published on: July 9, 2020