Vidya Narasimhan (Pilani, 92) is a wine consultant in London, United Kingdom. Before switching her profession, she worked in management consulting and banking in India, the US, and the UK. Here she shares what motivated her to switch her profession, how she managed to get work, and what is required for one to have a career in the wine industry.
Stepping into the wine industry
While I grew up in India with limited access to wine, my curiosity about local culture and love for different cuisines led me to explore the world of wine during my international travels in Europe and the US. I was going through some life events in 2015-16, and wanted to do something that gave me joy and the opportunity to give back. After considerable thought and since I enjoyed appreciating wine, in 2019 I decided to enter the wine industry having worked in the banking sector in India, the US, and the UK for almost two decades.
I work as an independent wine consultant in London hosting wine-tasting events for private groups and corporates while making learning about wine fun and approachable. On the other hand, I also advise private equity firms in investments in wine and connect producers and importers across the world to introduce wine to new markets. I now lend my voice to diversity, inclusion and sustainability initiatives in the wine trade.
My transition has been smooth with the pandemic giving me opportunities to host virtual wine events and build an audience, starting with the alumni from the University of Michigan (where I did my MBA) and now with BITSian alums in the UK. During COVID, I enhanced my knowledge about wine by doing various wine courses that were offered online.
Don’t Underestimate the Power of Networking
The world of wine can be especially daunting with the amount of knowledge required to feel confident about hosting wine tastings and not having many role models in the South Asian community. With a change in role and industry, the importance of networks, advisors, mentors, and the power of social media cannot be underestimated. While hosting the virtual events, I created sponsored content on social media (YouTube and Instagram) which has been viewed globally. Connecting with fellow wine students across various courses, with peers, and with wine Public Relations (PR) companies during wine trade tastings has been instrumental in the opportunities I have received in the wine trade in the UK.
Why the Wine Industry?
The wine industry brings together respect for heritage and the environment, and a true sense of conviviality with friends and family over food and wine. One never stops learning in the wine industry about the latest advancements, and sciences of viticulture, winemaking, packaging, besides from stellar wines from all over the world.
Having some knowledge about wine is helpful but not critical to start at entry-level jobs in the industry. There are wine certifications offered at various institutions globally which can boost one’s knowledge and confidence. With some wine knowledge, an interest in connecting with people, a passion for and curiosity about wine, one is good to go in the wine industry.
Past Experiences and their Benefit
As an independent wine consultant, I leverage my management consulting background to serve clients' needs. My Pharmacy background helps me understand Biochemistry in the wine-making process. My MBA degree and investment banking experience have been foundations to understand the complete value chain in the industry.
Indian Cuisine and Wine
Indians have food in a thali, with multiple dishes in the same plate. This makes wine pairing somewhat challenging yet offers multiple opportunities. People who like white wine can enjoy a chilled Sauvignon Blanc (from New Zealand) which has incredible fruit purity and mellows some of the spice heat.
Ones who like red wine can enjoy a young, fruity Merlot or Carmènére (from Chile), or a fruity high-alcohol Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina, or an aged Rioja (Gran Reserva) from Spain with its mellow tannins. All these wines pair well with the salt, spices, and cream in Indian food.
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