Nikan Jooyani is an Iranian living in Italy who applied for a Taylor’s Port Golden Vines Diversity Scholarship and ended up being awarded a Wine Scholar Guild Scholarship. The pandemic has had a profound effect on her ambitions.
I grew up in a country where alcohol production and consumption are prohibited by law. Wine is available underground to the privileged class. Once I decided to live in Italy, the forbidden fruit became the jewel in the crown for me. While I was studying at university, I started working in a small restaurant in the hills of Modena. There, I started studying the wine labels and tasting wines after work.
During the off season, I had to work in a bar owned by the owner of the restaurant. It had a limited range of wines and more distilled spirits. My limited knowledge of mixology was unproductive, and I started studying by watching cocktail tutorials on YouTube. At my suggestion, the owner agreed to enrol some of the staff on the first-level sommelier course.
By that time, I had watched the SOMM films on Netflix and I could not wait to do my very first tasting with guidance. At one point I began to notice a difference between my taste buds and those of the Italian students. I found many aromas inside a glass of wine and I suppose my sense of smell has to do with my nationality since Persian cuisine uses far more spices and flavours than European cuisines.
The course changed my life in many ways. Before the course, my trip destinations were based on historic places; now my travel interest is mostly driven by wine regions. In discovering the world of wine, I discovered myself. I have found a passion that I did not know existed in me.
Last year I became a bartender officially from the AIBES association (Associazione Italiana Barmen e Sostenitori). I am aware of my demanding journey, but I am committed to becoming an excellent sommelier so I am prepared to devote what it takes to complete this life journey. I have set my heart on it.
Someday I would like to see the people in my country be able to enjoy the roots of the wine world again. After all, Iran was one of the birthplaces of fermented beverages.
An instructor’s view
And here is what Nikan’s referee from the FISAR Italian sommelier association had to say about her:
‘It is with great pleasure that I write to recommend Ms Nikan Jooyani for the Taylor’s Port Golden Vines Diversity Scholarship. Nikan joined the Italian Federation of Sommeliers, Hotels, Restaurants (FISAR) in 2018. She took the III level course. However as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic she has been unable to take the final examinations. I have immense respect for her. She is highly motivated and through her own initiative she has gained the necessary knowledge and operational experience to be able to serve wine. She is highly skilled at imparting knowledge about the culture of the domestic and international wine world to the clientele. Nikan is a brilliant multi-linguist and has a dynamic personality which serve her well in her interactions with the public. I have no hesitation in recommending her for the Diversity scholarship. She will add great value to the profession and I am confident that she will excel as a Master Sommelier.’