Sometimes it pays to trust your instincts, go by your gut feeling and explore the unknown.

Priyanka Gupta, our next pathbreaker, Oenologist, makes wine from various fruits like Grapes, Dates, Pomegranate, Apple, Aloe vera, Honey, Guava, Oranges etc to name a few.

Priyanka talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy  from The Interview Portal about taking up an “almost unknown” Wine Technology degree, signing up for a self-funded optional Industrial Training program in a Vinery and subsequently exploring non-traditional fruits such as Dates, Pomegranates for making wine, all decisions guided by instinct.

For students, “Life is like a Box of Chocolates, you never know what you get”. Enjoy the uncertainty !

Priyanka, tell us about your background

I am Priyanka Gupta from Buxar Bihar from a traditional family. I moved from Buxar to Nasik when i was just 10 years old, to my aunt’s place. I left behind my family for study purposes as my mother wanted me to be educated. In those days in Bihar, a girl’s education was not given much importance. This was the first step in my career path. Till then i was not aware of what I wanted to pursue as my career. The only thing I knew was I wanted to be someone and serve the purpose of my mother and do something which would add value to my soul , my country and my people.

Since I did my schooling from convent school, it was a challenge for me as I was very weak in English subject and we were supposed to speak only in English during school time. This was the first real challenge of my life and though lots of things were going on in my mind,  I never thought of giving up. 

What did you study?

After schooling I did my 10 plus 2 in science subjects, having taken PCMB group, followed by graduation in Biotechnology and post graduation in Wine Technology.

How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?

Basically I wanted to do something for my country and help my people. My mom wanted me to be a doctor, but somehow I could not get through the entrance exam. I happened to come across a Wine Technology course which I opted for without much thought. The only thing going on in my mind at that time was to become a lecturer.

While doing the Wine Technology course I still didn’t have any idea as to what to do next though I was the topper in my class. I happened to opt for industrial training along with my two friends. This was not compulsory, but we opted for it on our own expenses.

My interest in wine started from here. In spite of having very busy and hectic days, doing lots of physical work like going to fields etc, seeing  the process of winemaking that turned those lovely grapes into a beautiful drink that was healthy and enjoyed by people, fascinated me and hooked me to winemaking.

Tell us about your career path

My first job was at Nisarga vineyards, Bijapur, Karnataka. I was the only candidate who got selected through campus. So I was very thrilled and excited to get my first job. When I reached Bijapur I thought I would be working under some winemaker as I was hired as an Assistant Winemaker. But when I reached there, I came to know that I had to handle everything on my own. My training at Deccan plateau vineyard, Pune, where i did my internship and my experiences of exploring and visiting different wineries and wine events helped me in fulfilling my role and meet the expectation of my company. Here I had to handle end to end winemaking, right from crushing grapes to bottling, to dispatch.

At Nisarga, I got to learn many things. I was very dedicated and in a year, I was able to get lots of work for Nisarga as we got a tie-up with couple of companies for bottling consignments. Though I had lots of challenges at Nisarga, I never gave up. I worked with full dedication, not going home for 2 years. I was thankful to god that we had a phone to talk to my people.

My next venture was at Bangalore soma vineyards, where I worked with Mr. Raju, an acoustics scientist by profession. Wine was his passion. He has developed a very beautiful place for wine lovers.

At Soma, my responsibilities got doubled. Along with winemaking I got the opportunity to meet new people across the globe during weekend wine tours. I used to work throughout the week without even wanting a break. It was so much fun. I feel that anything that you do with passion makes you stretch yourself. 

While working with Soma, I got an opportunity to make something exotic, world’s first Date wine.

This was the time when I diverted myself from grape wine to fruit wines, and tried various fruits .

At Peasants winery, it was challenge, as for dates, everything was new.

For grape wine, the studies have been done with regards to machinery etc but with dates, it was real challenge. I had done trials on a small scale with dates before moving to commercial scale.

During crushing, it was a challenge to get the pulp out of the fruit as there were lots of changes and settings to be done in the machine, but we were finally successful with team work..

At Peasants, again my responsibility was tripled, being a winemaker, taking care of tours and taking major decisions with regards to wine. I also met clients for export tie ups etc. 

This is when I thought of being freelancer, where I can provide my expertise to the industry.

Basically, for wine making, one needs patience and passion. It’s not some theoretical coding or formula which someone can apply, because every time something new happens in the process of winemaking.

At Peasants, I literally felt like giving birth as it requires so much of patience and pain. Especially for Date wine for which no studies have been done. 

Just like how for a mother it’s important to be with the kid to address their needs, in the same way for a winemaker, he or she has to be there round the clock when the baby needs you.

How did you get your first break?

There was a campus interview  and I was the only candidate to get selected for the job and the only wine graduate with a full fledged degree while getting into the industry. So from 2011 my journey from being a lecturer to wine professional began.

What were some of the challenges you faced?

During my first job at Bijapur I came across lots of challenges. I used to cry alone because I didn’t have anyone to talk to. It was a very new place for me with a lot of challenges with regards to culture and everything. But I didn’t give up. I took up the challenge and overcame the issues. Various challenges I came across were as below.

Not knowing the local language, it was very difficult to get work done from the people as they were local from that place, not much educated and less travelled. So, to get the job done, I learnt the Kannada to get my work done efficiently.

What do you do currently? Tell us about your work

Currently, I work as a freelancer taking up various projects with regards to wine making with various fruits like Date, Pomegranate, Apple, Aloe vera, Honey, Guava, Oranges etc to name a few.

Peasant is where I made my first Date wine and Pomegranate wine. I am still associated with Peasants along with my consultation with other projects which I keep getting.

Before this I worked with 2 different wineries.

What do you love about your job?

I have taken the initiative to think out of the box and opt for an uncertain, challenging field which requires lots of patience, but at the end it’s fulfilling and satisfying.

How does your work benefit society?

I take up projects with regards to different fruits which are natively available in abundance, but farmers are not able to either sell their produce or to get the right price for it. So my work helps them by creating a market for such fruits.

Our country has diversity in various aspects, even with regards to fruits grown in different places. There is a lot of local produce which is available in abundance, so why not add value to our own farmers.

This idea has driven me to make wines from various fruits. With this I am able to meet my dream where I am helping my country and adding value , helping our people, the farmers, by making wine out of their produce, as well as consumers by serving them a healthy drink.

Setting up a wine industry helps to generate employment for local people, even the ladies can be self dependent, and people don’t have to travel to other places for a job if they have a job in their area. These are the issues that we are facing in this pandemic.

Tell us about a memorable work you did that is close to you

I have developed Grappa kind of wine which is basically enjoyed by the labour force. It is developed from pressed white grapes. This helped me convince the Desi Daru drinkers to choose wine, as it is a status symbol, helping in solving the domestic violence perpetrated by drunken men, mostly in labour class groups in rural areas.

Your advice?

Winemaking is a very beautiful industry where one gets to learn new things everyday. It is a vast field, with lots to do, and lots to explore. One doesn’t get bored of a job, the only thing one needs to do is be patient.

Future plans?

My future plan is to help more and more farmers, set up a wine industry and develop more employment opportunities for people. I also want to have an Educational center to educate people and create awareness about wine.