Magandeep Singh is India’s first French-qualified sommelier and professional wine taster—there’s probably not a soul in the wine, food and hospitality industry who doesn’t know him. Although there’s as much hard work and learning involved as in any other profession, we think his job is really cool. By Anwesha Sanyal
A true-blue insider, Magandeep Singh is a consultant to top hotels and restaurants through his wine and beverage solutions company, Wi-Not. He’s a silver medalist at the World Gourmand Awards for ‘Wine Wisdom’ , a book he authored, and an established lifestyle columnist. Recently, he has launched the country’s first accredited wine school, the Institute of Wine and Beverage Studies, New Delhi , along with partners. This unusual career choice, and a flourishing one at that, began as a passion to speak French like the natives and manifested itself in his interest in their food and wine. We got chatting with the wine expert about wine and of choosing an out-of-the-ordinary career path.
T+L: Yours is an unusual career choice. Tell us about how came to it.
MS: I wanted to learn French and speak it like a native speaker; it was on the bucket list. That took me down this path. To speak french is one thing but to really feel French you have to know how to enjoy good food and wine. Seeing as I was already in the hospitality industry, the leap was n easy one to make.
T+L: One of your best vineyard travel experiences?
MS: Working in Bordeaux; it was more than just a mere visit. I worked almost a year there and what it taught me about wines stays with me to this day. No amount of tasting can make you understand wine like making it will.
T+L: One unattainable travel wish?
MS: Travel is a must. Most important way to grow personally. And considering all my trips involve copious amounts of food and drink, also a way to grow (in girth) literally! No unattainable wishes; only destinations yet to be reached.
T+L: What does a wine sommelier do for a downtime in Delhi NCR?
MS: Mostly meet friends, try out new eateries, catch a movie, chill with beer! Or malt, or rums, or wines. Not too different. That’s the good thing about my work; it’s never dull. The bad part is often you have to work when others are partying.
T+L: Your style statement?
MS: Always pursue style over fashion. Fashion is ephemeral, style evolves with you to define you.
T+L: Which brands can you blindly trust to save you last minute?
MS: I like my brands but with the knowledge of what makes them (or made them) so popular in first place. I am not one for fads; I need substance; I need to surround myself with things that are meaningful, that have a story to tell. It’s the bespoke and the personalised that takes my fancy – from my luggage to a simple kolhapuri chappal – not just something branded and expensive. My go-to brands: Duchamp socks/ties, Gucci belts (minus the garish logo please), Goyard canvass wallets, Hermes perfumes, R.M.Williams formal boots, Persol sunglasses, Lindberg glasses, Seven/Diesel jeans, innumerable tailored white shirts and all this in my Globetrotter carryon!
T+L: One thing you think you want to be a part of in the next five-ten years?
MS: Finish an Ironman triathlon, run a cosy bar, travel more, improve my diving and skiing, learn to dance, DJ and play the saxophone, master Japanese. When I get time away from all this, one can work.
T+L: Your go-to gadgets that make life a little easier?
MS: My iPhone and Macbook Air, my Garmin HR watch, my Marshall headphones, and a Xiaomi portable battery to keep them all running!
T+L: How does an wine connoisseur pick himself up on a bad day?
MS: Beer. Or go for a run. Or both!
T+L: What one thing do most people not know about you?
MS: That I actually like to sit alone quietly and not talk to anyone for long bouts.
T+L: Your favourite wine books?
MS: My own, ‘Wine Wisdom’ ! And second is my next upcoming one, ’The Indian Spirit’! But narcissism aside, loved ‘Wine & War’ and ‘Champagne’ both by Donald and Petie Kladstrup. And all the works by the late Ronald Searle.
T+L: Your absolute favourite wine in the world?
MS: Can be any that I expect the least from and yet makes for a memorable night. The best wine is never just about the stuff in the bottle; the company and the ambience matter a lot too!
T+L: What do you look for in a wine?
MS: I look for balance and elegance. Nothing should stand out or distract. And value for money; without that the joy may not feel a bit compromised but with it the pleasure is definitely heightened.
T+L: Wine for Dummies: How would you advise someone to pick the right wine?
MS: Start by deciding a budget; then eliminate wines you don’t like. From the ones left, choose the one which seems to have the prettiest label; the one that appeals to you. That’s how I do it, even after all these years of tasting and training.