India’s First Wine Magazine Salutes India’s First Master of Wine

sonal-holland-aug-2012Sonal Holland, one of Sommelier India’s earliest contributors has been bestowed the highest qualification in the wine world and is now a MASTER OF WINE. India’s first MW. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016 – Thirteen new Members of the Institute of Masters of Wine were announced this week. Among them was Sonal Holland,  the first Master of Wine  to qualify from India. This is no small feat. The MW qualification is notoriously rigorous and takes an enormous amount of time and effort to attain.

The five-year course work comprises study in all aspects of the subject as well as the tasting of hundreds of wines in order to pass a blind tasting where you are required to identify and analyse the wine by its grape,  vintage, wine region, wine-making technique and various other minutiae. This entails a serious amount of work, travel and stays at study centres abroad, not forgetting a considerable financial outlay. Sonal persevered through all of it. Years of blood, sweat and tears culminated in a phone call on Monday morning informing her that she had achieved the coveted title.

Having achieved her goal, Sonal is not one to  rest on her laurels. “The Institute of Masters of Wine doesn’t just help you master wine. It does so much more,” she says. “It has now become my reference point for excellence, making me believe that I must push myself at all times to think bigger and better; to accept being wrong with grace, dignity and a touch of humour; and to never ever give up because if you play long and hard enough you’ll get to the end. And that will be a new beginning.”

The Masters of Wine Examination first started in 1953 and has been held every year since then. It is designed, according to its website, to test the breadth and depth of a candidate’s theoretical knowledge and practical skills in the art, science and business of wine. The Examination consists of three stages, including Theory and Practical Exams and the writing of a final Research Paper, an in-depth study on a wine related topic from any area of the sciences, arts, humanities, or social sciences.

The latest Masters of Wine (MWs) are spread across eight countries including Australia, China, France, India, Ireland, Taiwan, the UK and the USA, adding up to a total of 354 MWs in 28 countries. Given below are some of the topics the successful candidates chose for their Research Paper to give you an idea of the wide range of subjects.

  • What is the effect of serving temperature on the sensory attributes of Tawny Port and Ruby Port? –
  • Coravin wine by the glass programs in the US restaurant market: effectiveness, functionality and marketing best practice.
  • Barolo – Is there an economic benefit in producing under a Cru Label Designation? If there is, what are the reasons?
  • Has climate change occurred in the Barossa Valley over the last 50 years and if so, how have vine growers adapted to any changes.
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Sonal’s paper was on awareness, attitude and usage of wine among SEC A urban Indian wine consumers. The IMW Study Programme is open to anyone with sufficient trade experience and educational qualifications. Should you be inspired to to take a shot at it, here are some useful details from the syllabus.

All students follow a self-directed programme and are supported by an annual, residential seminar, occasional course days and one-to-one advice from mentors who are Masters of Wine.  After passing the Stage 1 Assessment and both the Theory and Practical parts of the Examination, students then research and submit their Research Paper, again with the support of a Master of Wine mentor. For more details about prerequisites for applying visit for who can apply.

Why do an MW? There was a time after I started Sommelier India when I thought I might enrol in the programme. I like studying. But I soon changed my mind. It was not for me. I had neither the time and nor the resources or inclination to make such a major commitment.

According to the website of the Institute: “Becoming a Master of Wine means entry into the world’s best wine community: one that brings deeply rewarding personal and professional opportunities, but also lifetime friendships with your fellow members. Doors open to Masters of Wine.”

As publisher and editor of Sommelier India, I was already deeply immersed in the wine ecosphere. Rather than going deeper into it I decided instead to confine my role to that of friend and mentor and make Sommelier India the best wine magazine there is written by the best wine writers including a few MWs.

Sonal is among Sommelier India’s earliest contributors and we have shared her journey some of the way, which she acknowledges with the words,  “Many thanks Reva for encouraging me always and prodding me along. One needs supporters like you in a journey as arduous as this!”

I wish Sonal Holland the very best in this new beginning, “having played long and hard”,  and I look forward to publishing her articles in Sommelier India.

— Reva K. Singh

For more on what it means to be an MW student and how much it costs read Harshal Shah’s personal account here from a past issue of Sommelier India. – ED

1 Comment

  1. Proud india to have sonal the 1st in india kerp it up sonal
    Wine destination growing indians to go for wine benefits
    Drink n see the benefis
    We will be growing year on year on wine consumptions & more sales n more revenue for more growth of wine investors

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