Sommelier extraordinaire, Suryaveer Singh is the executive director at Trance Hotels and Resorts, and the founder of the Hyderabad Wine Society. He has unparalleled experience in hospitality, gained in five different countries! Currently, he is also the restaurant manager and sommelier at the Four Seasons Bali at Jimbaran Bay.
I stumbled upon the world of wines when I was a young management trainee working for the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. I was trying to get some credentials under my belt, to differentiate myself from my peers, and a wine certification would definitely impress. As I learned about wine, I understood that it is much more than just an alcoholic beverage; wine is art in a bottle, which has the capacity to tell beautiful stories. Wine can take you into a time machine, where one can taste the terroir of the land where the particular grape was grown, and is a perfect accompaniment to food. But the moment I truly fell in love with wine was when I got the chance to taste a 2006 Sassicaia wine from Tuscany, Italy. It gave me shivers and evoked emotions that are hard to describe. That moment made me realise that my infatuation with wine is going to turn into a marriage.
What inspired you to start the Hyderabad Wine Society?
Once I moved back from Bali, Indonesia to Hyderabad in 2015, I felt that I must do something to contribute to the city’s wine industry, which was extremely dormant at that time. Other tier-1 cities had plenty of wine clubs to boast about, and I knew that Hyderabad definitely has an untapped potential. During a conversation with a supplier, I realised that in order to improve our wine offerings in the city, the supplier also needs to feel that there is a wine culture in the city – which only a wine club can provide. We started our first event in October 2017 at Taj Krishna, and this November we will be celebrating our 24th event.
What sort of response have you received so far?
My journey has had its fair share of ups and downs, but overall, I couldn’t have been more grateful for the response. The hoteliers, the suppliers and all our members have been very encouraging with whatever requests we had, mainly because all the stakeholders agreed that our main focus is to promote wine culture in the city. And when that happens, we all stand to gain. Initially we had a few problems filling up events, since many people did not know what was different about our dinners. Thankfully, through organic word-of-mouth marketing, today we can boast of over 1,150 members of our society and counting!
What are some common misconceptions people have about wine?
The biggest misconception is that red wine is red, and white wine is white! A sizeable handicap for the wine industry is that the customer needs to have a certain amount of wine education, paired with trial and error to become a true wine connoisseur. Most people are not aware that the world of wine has countless varieties of grapes, which exhibit completely different flavours that can suit any palate or dish. For someone who likes big bold wines, they should try a Cabernet Sauvignon; if they’d like something gentler in body but with complex flavours, sample a Pinot Noir.
If people prefer fruity wines, they should try wines from the New World (non-European countries), and if they like more dry and earthy flavours, then check out the Old World wines from Europe. Most people are also not aware of the temperatures the wines need to be stored at, which results in 40% of the flavour just dying due to poor storage. I once was shocked to see people serving an expensive Dom Perignon Rosé champagne in a hot room; that’s one way to waste 40,000 rupees!
Tell us about your favourite wine.
I’ve tasted my fair share of expensive wines, but my favourite is a very reasonably priced one from Chile called ‘Purple Angel by Montes’. It’s a blend made from Carmenere & Petit Verdot, with a dark purple colour and a full body. After tasting it, the first thing that comes to my mind is ‘velvet, cloves, and big red apples’. I’m eagerly waiting for this wine to be available in India. In white wines, I love a nice glass of ‘Chassagne Montrachet’ - Chardonnay from the region of Chablis in Burgundy, France. It fills your palate with melted butter, limestone, and mint – all in one splash