With W3, a new community for wine appreciation, women are looking to revolutionise wine-drinking in India.

They gather together once a month - dressed to kill in their high fashion couture, designer perfumes, and fabulous jewellery - bound by their taste for the good things in life. Meet a new community of women - CEOs, top executives, marketing wizards, movie actors, media persons, painters and homemakers - who raise a toast each month in honour of wine. 

The new social mantra across several metropolitan cities and in the up-market pockets of smaller towns of India is to sip a glass of wine when meeting with friends. Once frowned upon, it has now come to symbolise the fact that women have climbed the ladder of success and lost some of their inhibitions along the way. 

“As part of market research for my company, I found that more women were buying wine from retail outlets and malls but weren’t too knowledgeable about the various wines on offer. And even the sales people weren’t too well-informed,” explains Dharati Desai, founder and CEO of Finewinesnmore (FWM). Desai imports premium wines, spirits and beverages from eight different countries and distributes and markets them across India. 

Desai shared her findings with her friends, Chandani Dhall of the Moti Mahal chain of Indian food restaurants; and Kiran Patil, Director, Vintage Wines Pvt. Ltd. Subsequently, the trio launched W3: Wine, Women and Wit (www.winewomenandwit.com), a new community for wine appreciation in December last year. W3 aims to revolutionise the tradition of wine-drinking in India by setting up an inner circle of wine lovers. Signing up quickly were like-minded women such as senior journalist and author Seema Goswami; actor Gul Panag; food columnist Farzana Contractor and entrepreneur Nisha Jhaveri of MYRAH. W3 already has nearly 30 women members with more set to join.  

“Although we are in the business of producing wines in our vineyard at Nashik, I feel there is still so much to learn. At W3, we get a chance to know our wines better and also have a good time while interacting with women from different fields of life,” explains Patil. 

Currently, the community (not organisation, insist the founders) is limited to Mumbai where members engage in creating signature events and related lifestyle experiences. The community accepts three types of half-yearly memberships: Rose (by invitation only and a fee of Rs. 50,000); Sparkling (at Rs 25,000); and the recently-introduced Berry (at Rs 5,000).  

The various membership tags offer a variety of perks. For instance, a Rose member gets a welcome gift of a bottle of Rosé champagne, a “spa indulgence for a day” voucher; invitations to select wine dinners and private tasting with wine producers from old and new world wine producing regions. Apart from this, there are dinners, invitations to theme wine events such as wine and poetry, wine and theatre; wine and fashion; and wine and charity. 

Sparkling and Berry members, too, have their respective share of rewards, including invitations to private tastings with wine producers. They receive privileges at wine events and get opportunities to go on wine trails in various vineyards. 

“I have never been the kitty party type. At W3, not only do I get to appreciate and learn about wines, I also learn about many other things like art, films, make up, and music... I get to interact with other successful women and exchange notes,” says Shalini Bhatia, a Sparkling member. Bhatia runs a successful corporate gifting business in Mumbai.    

According to Desai, the theme events offer the community members an opportunity to interact with wine experts like Nikki Palun of the De Bortoli Family Vineyards of Australia. “Experts explain aspects of wine consumption - such as, for instance, the principle that wine should never be had without something to eat, like cheese, crackers, etc. The same wine tastes different with different foods, or fruit like apple, orange, pineapple, or even an assortment of fruits!” Desai reveals. 

But despite what is on offer isn't the membership too steep? While Desai admits that perhaps many women in Mumbai would think so – “Mumbai people are very cautious about spending money” - she has been getting several inquiries from other towns, like Ludhiana, Lucknow and Bangalore. “We plan to start our branches there,” reveals Desai. 

Interesting, W3 encourages the maturing of its members, and sees the Berry membership as the first step in the process. It is designed to welcome young, working women who are ambitious for themselves but still very much on the path to success. Since they are eager to be seen with the achievers and gain insights into the world of affluence, their Berry memberships would serve them well. W3 also aims to encourage women from middle class homes, where wine drinking is still taboo since it is considered to be alcohol, to perceive wine drinking in a new light. 

Explains Bhatia, “There are many misconceptions about wine being alcohol. Wines certainly contains alcohol but only in very small percentages when compared to other drinks.” 

In fact one of the major messages that both Patil and Desai wish to convey is that drinking wine will not turn people into alcoholics. As they put it, “Several cough syrups have similar levels of alcohol content! Wine is a superior, delicate and refreshing drink. But one needs to learn how and when to drink it.” 

Courtesy: Women's Feature Service 

Keywords: W3wine drinking

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