Conversations With IWBS – Devati Basumallick

Devati Basumallick – Winner 11th Indian Sommelier Championship

Devati started as a STEP associate with the Oberoi Group of Hotels and Resorts in 2012. Post which she completed the management training at the Oberoi Centre of Learning and Development, specialising in Food and Beverage, training across hotels in Gurgaon, Jaipur, Bombay and Delhi. Her first job was at the Oberoi Bengaluru as a Bar and Beverage Manager there she worked for a little over 2 years. Currently Devati is the Brand head at Krsma Estates Wines, based out of Bangalore. 

What is the one thing you love about Indian wines the most?

Actually, there are two things I love about Indian wines – one, variety. Compared to an established international winemaking country, the Indian wine selection may be limited, but it is a charming work in progress. There is something for everyone – be it a novice Indian wine drinker looking to explore his palate of choice, to the more serious Indian wine connoisseur. Indian winemakers are experimenting with different styles and dare I say, succeeding with them. From sparklings to stills in all colours of wine, from barrel ageing and fermenting techniques to late harvests and passerilage, the Indian wine palette is quite colourful and vibrant. 

KRSMA Estate Wines

Secondly, the exciting pairing possibilities that Indian wine provides, with Indian cuisine. Owing to the balance of fruit, tannins and structure in Indian wines, they seem to be quite a near-perfect match to the plethora of flavours that Indian cuisine has to offer. My favourite pair (not for the faint hearted, quite literally) is Bhapa Ilisher Paturi (steamed Hilsa) with a chilled glass (or bottle, won’t mind either) of Grover Zampa Vijay Amritraj Reserve Viognier!

Regardless of costs, what makes a good wine?

A Visionary. And a Winemaker. Or best – both, in one!

Yes, you do need great grapes to make great wines, and nature has to ultimately play the most important part here, but what translates this into fine wine is the art of winemaking itself. The ideology of the winemaker (or the founder of the winery) is something that will decide how the wine continues to evolve and remain a legacy favoured by many; much after the winemaker himself is gone. It is the winemaker’s vision for that wine, coupled with his way and skill of reflecting the truest expression of the grapes into your glass that will turn it into a fine, and an iconic wine. Hence, to consult an iconic winemaker for your winery, you definitely need to disregard the ‘cost’ factor!

How has winning the Indian Sommelier Championship changed your life?

Indian Sommelier Championship – 2011

In one word (or two) – 180 degrees.

I believe that my love for wines & spirits only grew from there, and then, there was no looking back. It was the tip of the iceberg, but overtly vast enough for one to realise the level of skill, knowledge and precision that is required for an Indian beverage professional to compete at an International level. Winning the championship opened many doors for me – right from confidence and skill to talk about wines & spirits, be opinionated rationally, pursue certifications in wine studies, to more importantly, creating a wine space back at work (then) at the Oberoi, Bangalore where I was hosting wine tastings for guests and beverage training programmes for the staff. Through the competition, I also had the opportunity to visit South Africa and tour the winelands of the Cape. It was an experience that will forever stay with me, rich in knowledge, culture, lots of good (read: great) food and amazing (read: exceptional) wine, and visuals of the picturesque wine country! For all of this and more – there is solely the ISC to credit, which is the only platform in the country currently that gives such great exposure to aspiring sommeliers.

If given an opportunity to serve your wines to your favourite celebrity, which wine would you serve and to whom?

George Timothy Clooney is an American actor, film producer, director, and activist.

This is a tough one, I’d probably want a table (of 4, or 6?) of all my favourite celebrities together and serve them each a bottle (or more…) of wine! However, I think I will bring it down to two – George Clooney and Hugh Grant. I would start by serving a bottle of 1961 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut followed by a 1960 Penfolds Grange Bin 95 Shiraz. My choice is based on the similarities between the wines and their respective personalities – vintage, iconic, expressive and most importantly, timeless. They seem to age like fine wine! The vintage years are also the respective years they were born. And oh! Did I mention that both (the wine and the two men here) seem to come in extremely attractive packaging?!

Is there a grape or wine you don’t like?

I haven’t tasted as many styles to rule out a single grape, but I generally wouldn’t prefer still or sparkling wines laced with excessive amounts of cloying, residual sugar.

How are you planning to glorify Indian wines on an international turf?

Two things that come to my mind instantly, first, from a brand perspective – exploring and promoting wine tourism. India is a hot spot for international tourists and this opportunity can be aligned with turning vineyard locations into exciting wine tourism experiences, coupled with showcasing Indian wines as a part of the entire event. At Krsma Estates, I am currently working towards exploring this possibility in the near future, however there are a few such established programmes already, like the Sula Fest.

Second, from a beverage professional’s perspective – to train the F&B staff, aspiring beverage professionals, make them taste and develop an interest towards home-grown produce, and help them drive the Indian wine culture in their respective restaurant programmes. They need to believe in it to sell it to Indian and International consumers alike– sounds like a small step towards a big change, but a darn important step it is then!

What’s your favourite tipple at the end of a busy day?

I guess I’m a mood-based drinker, considering the many moods we find ourselves in pretty much every day! If I’m in a happy mood, it’s going to be rounds of G&Ts! Else, a glass of comforting red wine to lift the spirits. And if despite a busy day I’m feeling extra creative, I may even fix myself a cocktail – anything refreshing with Gin or Vodka! Also there are legit no-mood days, like when you aren’t really in any mood, these days are for another staple favourite – Rum and Coke!

How important is it for a sommelier to visit a vineyard?

I can tell you this – It is extremely important for a sommelier to visit the source not once or twice, but at every given opportunity. You may learn as much as you want to from books, the internet and so on, but walking through a vineyard and tasting the wines, watching the grapes grow, understanding the soil and learning from growers, winemakers and proprietors is a game changer.

From my experience – I had read all about South African vineyards, drawn out maps to learn about the regions, but once I was there, driving through the vineyards and visiting every major wine house I had studied about – that is a richer learning experience that will forever stay with me, so

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