Golden Vines applicants – Jai Singh

Jai Singh, Indian sommelier, on the Puglian coast

Jai Singh is an Indian hotel professional who worked as assistant maître d’ and sommelier at the Hotel Pellicano in Italy last summer but was laid off because of the pandemic. He was recently awarded another Wine Scholar Guild scholarship to help him pursue his wine studies.

I am an Indian and belong to a middle-class Hindu family in which alcohol was the sign of bad character (as the people who drink alcohol fight after drinking). That is why alcohol was never allowed inside the house. My father was the manager of government bank. We had a typical atmosphere in the house of studying for a government job in order to secure a safe future.

However, I never liked that as most of the government departments and officers in India are corrupt and, even for minor papers, you have to bribe. From my childhood, I wanted to do something which people had not even heard of. In 2004, I decided to join the hospitality industry, which I found unique. I was the first in my family to head towards the luxury sector of hotels and restaurants, so I decided to do a Bachelor’s degree in hotel management and tourism (2005–2008). After graduating I worked for a hotel and restaurant in New Delhi as a server. It allowed me to communicate with different people from different parts of the world.

Then in 2010 I moved to London to pursue a diploma in management studies for my career progression and international exposure. My father supported me financially until then. In London I made myself busy working as a server to make money. I was working with a four-star hotel which did not have a serious atmosphere of wine, but it was paying me a good salary as I was working many extra hours. Basically, as the English say, ‘I was running around like a headless chicken’.

In 2014, I met my future wife, an Italian. In 2016 we got married in London. Then my life changed as I had some immigration problems, and it was very stressful to deal with bureaucracy. At the end of 2016 I moved to Italy, to my wife’s small town, Corato, near Bari in Puglia. There are just 50,000 inhabitants and agriculture is crucial to the life of the townspeople. They produce olive oil and wine. I did not know this is the Castel del Monte DOC zone. I arrived in Corato in the month of October, when wine was in the air. I took the Torrevento winery tour to see wine production.

On my graduation I studied about wine and during my entire career I served wine but now I started to see the soul inside wine, as in Italy wine is not only a beverage but it’s the sacred drink of God. To understand things better I did WSET level 2 in 2019, which showed me the path to follow and provided direction in my life. Now I am pursuing WSET level 3 and Italian wine scholar certification with the Wine Scholar Guild. Specially studying the fascinating history of viticulture in Italy, I felt very fortunate to be in Italy.

I want to learn in order not only to do the MS or MW, but also to educate people about the understanding and consumption of alcohol (wine). I want to educate the young generation about wine and change the alcohol culture in my place, showing more responsibility and respect towards wine, by opening wine schools and providing reasonable courses, giving lectures in schools and universities about viticulture, winemaking and wine tasting. For that, after having the WSET level 3 certificate, I would like to do the WSET Diploma to open a wine school in the cities of Lucknow and Dehradun in northern India.

I also would like to open my own winery in the foothills of the Himalayas in India, and practice different winemaking techniques in an undiscovered terroir on the banks of the River Ganga at an altitude of 1,000–1,500 m. This will also provide local people from India with another career option on an international level and eventually the young generation will return to the land in the pursuit of agriculture (or viticulture).