Sonal Holland MW
Became an MW 2016
Based in India
Sonal Holland is India’s first and as of yet, the only Master of Wine. An award-winning broadcaster, she is a Tedx speaker, an acclaimed writer and a sought-after international commentator, with diversified entrepreneurial ventures. Sonal is the founder of India’s premier wine consultancy business, SoHo Wine Consultants and has conceived and chaired the pioneering India Wine Awards, the country’s most authoritative competition dedicated to celebrating wines. A certified wine educator, her eponymous Sonal Holland Wine Academy has established itself as India’s foremost wine-centric institution since its decade-long inception. She is the founder-director of Vine2Wine wine stores and purveyors of modern, sophisticated wine retail experiences across the country. Through the SoHo Wine Club, Holland designs and curates exceptionally bespoke F&B experiences.
Sonal was a director of national sales at a Fortune 500 company, and gave it up to pursue her passion in wine in 2007. She enrolled at the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) in London and completed her Level 4 Diploma in Wines & Spirits and thereafter in 2016, Holland was named Master of Wine by the Institute of Masters of Wine (UK). Holland also holds a Master's degree in Business Administration from the University of Mumbai, and a Diploma in Hotel Management from the IHM Mumbai. In February 2020, she added another feather to her cap by becoming the first Indian with an advanced certification in Saké and Shochu, conferred by the exclusive Japan Saké and Shochu Makers Association.
The initial stages of her career had Sonal holding office as the Divisional Head of Wine & Beverage with a leading hospitality conglomerate in India, ITC Hotels. In 2009, Sonal founded the Sonal Holland Wine Academy, India’s leading wine-centric institution and a licensed collaborator with Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) headquartered in London, UK. The courses are tailored to suit corporates, hospitality and airline companies, wine industry, food & beverage professionals and connoisseurs of wine.
Through the SoHo Wine Club, launched in 2016, Sonal aims to develop a culture of enjoying wine through invigorating activities and curated events. The SoHo Wine Club is also instrumental in changing perceptions, dispelling myths, while stimulating conversations and instilling enthusiasm about vino. In the same year, she launched Soho Wine Consultants Pvt Limited, offering bespoke services to the Hospitality and AlcoBev industry. With her domain expertise on the business of wines and spirits in India, Sonal is drawing global attention to the country’s young and exciting beverage industry. It is this vast cultural knowledge that has made her a sought-after strategic consultant for international brands seeking a foothold in India’s complex marketplace, through a 360-degree suite of services.
In 2017, Sonal conceived the India Wine Awards, considered as India’s most authoritative wine competition, which recognises excellence in wine and wine programmes in the country. Powered and chaired by Sonal Holland, the competition is led by a jury of the most qualified wine professionals and the finest taste-makers from across the world. The India Wine Awards are regarded as the ultimate consumer guide to ranking the best wines and wine-forward restaurants in the country. Presently in its fourth edition, the scope of the awards continues to get bigger and broader in its vision, with consumer empowerment, education and experiences at its core.
In 2018, in collaboration with a London-based consumer research company Wine Intelligence, Sonal released the country’s most comprehensive, research-backed survey on the urban Indian wine consumer, the India Wine Insider. These research findings provided valuable insights into the psyche and behaviour of the Indian wine drinker, uncovering prevailing consumer realities whilst also identifying future growth opportunities beneficial for Indian and international traders to make informed decisions.
It was in early 2019 that Sonal forayed into the wine retail space with her entrepreneurial venture, Vine2Wine. Designed as contemporary retail spaces for wine, these outlets are located in Foodhall gourmet stores in Mumbai and Bangalore with charming boutiques featuring a carefully curated selection of the finest wines and beers from across the world.
In addition to her educational and entrepreneurial ventures, Sonal is also a passionate content producer. She is the most followed wine personality in India with leading number of followers on Instagram and other social media channels. Her pioneering digital channel Sonal Holland Wine TV, dedicated to wine education and entertainment, has bagged multiple awards, including the prestigious SheThePeople’s Winner of Innovative Content Creation in 2015. The broadcast has achieved over half a million views with exciting, topical and relatable content on wine travel, pairing, enjoyment tips, reviews, expert opinions and tastings. In 2018, she gave her first TEDx talk, chronicling her journey from a Fortune 500 corporate house to becoming India’s leading wine voice. A distinguished wine writer, her wine columns have been featured in Vogue, Mid-Day, Times of India and LuxeBook, among other prestigious publications.
As a wine critic, she has judged several high-profile international competitions including the 2018 Decanter Asia Wine Awards, Concours Mondial du Bruxelles and the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirit Competition. Appointed as the Official Ambassador of the German VDP wine association and the Bourgogne Wine Board, Sonal is entrusted with the responsibility of promoting their wines in India.
Her distinguished career has earned her several accolades. She has been featured in India’s leading luxury business magazine LuxeBook, in the list of Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Indian Luxury and among Top 100 Most Influential People in Indian Luxury, every year since 2016. She has been recognised amongst the Top Women in Wine by the Indian Wine Academy and was conferred with a ‘Wine Personality of the Year’ award by India’s leading food writers’ guild, the Food Bloggers Association of India (FBAI). The Rotary International District Conference also felicitated her for her passionate contribution to India’s wine industry. In 2020, she was recognised among '40 Over 40' list of women achievers by SheThePeople, India's leading women-centric media. The Indian Hospitality Council honoured her with the Women Achievers Award in 2022 for her outstanding contribution in the field of hospitality.
Sonal shares her love of wine with her financial wizard husband, Andrew Holland, and their 13-year young daughter Rianna can’t wait until she is old enough to join in the fun.
Current employer: Founder of Sonal Holland Wine Academy & SOHO Wine Consultants Pvt Ltd
Primary area(s) of work: Trade, Strategy, Communication
Industry sector(s): Business owner, Buying, Broadcasting, Consultant, Educator, Events, Import/Export, Journalism, Market access, Marketing, Off trade, On trade, PR, Project management, Wine business strategy, Wine buying, Wine judge
Wine styles: Cava, Champagne, Cremant, Dry wines, Fine and rare wines, Fortified wines, Port, Prosecco, Sekt, Sherry, Sparkling wine, Still red, Still rosé, Still white, Still wines, Sweet wines, Tokaji, VDN, Other
Wine region expertise: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bordeaux, Burgundy, California, Canada, Champagne, Chile, China, Croatia, Eastern Europe, England, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Hungary Tokaj, India, Italy, Jerez, New Zealand, Oregon, Piedmont, Rioja, South America, South Australia, South-West France, Spain, Switzerland, Tuscany, UK, USA, Victoria
Market expertise: Asia, India
Specialisms: Branding, Broadcasting, Direct to consumer, Education, Events, Food and wine pairing, HORECA, Identifying and meeting consumer demand, Importation, Independent retail, Marketing wine, Podcasts, Restaurant wines, Routes to market, Supermarket and multiple retail, Training, TV, Wine and health, Wine labels, Wine laws and regulations, Wine tourism, Wine judging