Ambika Kumar, founder of Barcelona Wine Tastings
Ambika Kumar was born and grew up in the U.S. Her mother is Croatian and her father from India. After university, work took her to London and then New York. After a couple of years of going between New York and Barcelona, Ambika officially gave up her life in New York in 2015. The move to Barcelona gave her the renewed energy she needed to reinvent herself. Here is her story.
Ambika, what made you make the break from New York in 2015?
Love. I had been going between New York and Barcelona from October 2013 until August of 2015, and every time I left Barcelona, and my now husband, my heart would break. The only thing really requiring my attention in NYC at that point, was my apartment…which, after a couple of years of going back and forth, presented itself as nothing but a burden, so I decided to finally hang it all up in NYC and base myself in Barcelona full-time.
When you settled in Barcelona in the summer of 2015 you had no job. How did you come up with the idea for Barcelona Wine Tastings?
It was a combination of desperation and knowing that my next career step had to be something that I absolutely loved in real life. I’ve always loved wine and innately understood it somehow, and then my years working in the fragrance industry in New York gave me a good basis for sensing different aromas and understanding why things smell the way they do. It was a quiet afternoon on the sofa, wracking my brain for business ideas or people to contact about a job, that I googled Barcelona Wine Tastings, and realized the URL was available. The URL www.barcelonawinetastings.com being available was my first signal that I may be onto something.
Has your previous work experience with fragrance development helped you in the wine business?
Yes, absolutely! In fact, I don’t think I would have had the nerve to segway into the wine industry if I did not have a strong background in fragrance development. I innately have a very strong and acute sense of smell, as well as the vocabulary to articulate what I am sensing in a fragrance and a wine, but having worked in the fragrance industry not only taught me technique and the technical side of smelling, but it also taught me how to smell the nuances in perfumes and wines that make each bottle individual and unique.
How did you go about finding the right business model?
Trial and error, and asking a lot of people for their opinion and advice. In the beginning, I was managing all costs on my own…the cost of the wines, glasses, space, food, chef, plate settings, servers…you name it! Now, my model incorporates the chef as part of the event. So, the chef receives 50% of all ticket sales, making him/her responsible not only for the sourcing of all food ingredients, but also anything related to the food service – plateware, silverware, kitchen staff etc. It’s a model that not only gives a great deal of responsibility to another person, but it creates a sense of partnership and trust.
What kind of wine tastings do you offer and how do you make your tastings unique?
I offer wine & culinary events. I would go so far as to call them “adventures.” Our events are by-invitation only, which means there is no information about the dates of our events on any social media, and we know all of our guests personally, or we know someone who knows a guest. We always change everything about our events as well…the wines, food, location are always different. This keeps things exciting for our guests and for me. The locations of our events are often times “off the beaten path” or in places where you would never expect to drink wine. We also keep the locations a secret. This is partly to make things a little more fun, but also to ensure only invited guest are in attendance.
We also offer private wine & culinary events for people who want something special for a corporate event, a birthday, etc.
It’s the high level of curation that goes into each element – the wines. food, location and guest list that make the events unique. Also, knowing that you have been personally invited to attend, as opposed to having been invited via facebook or MeetUp.
Do you only work with wines from Catalunya?
No, I work with small-batch production wines from all over Spain. I’m beginning to introduce some French and Argentine wines, but still primarily focused on Spanish wines.
What consulting services do you offer?
We offer a whole slew of consulting services – everything from wine list development for restaurants and hotels to help with distribution of select Spanish wines into the U.S. We also curate wine collections for private clients and are able to ship wines anywhere in the world.
How do you see Barcelona Wine Tastings develop in the future?
Good question! I am literally in the process of trying to figure out if I create an “umbrella” name for the company and list the different cities where we are offering wine & culinary events. For example, as of today, we have Barcelona Wine Tastings and Madrid Wine Tastings, however, I envision, the event having a presence on Mallorca, in New York and possibly Paris in the next year. So, do I change the name to “Company XXX,” or do I have individual company names in each city where we have a presence? I could use some help with this if anyone wants to chime in!!??
What are your 3 favourite wines?
I taste several new wines on a weekly basis, and find myself becoming obsessed with something different every week, so if I read this interview a week from now, I will have likely moved on from these three, but this week, my favourites are:
Sparkling: Clos Lentiscus Sumoll Reserva Familia Blanc de Noir Brut Nature Penedes, Spain
White: 2011 Louro do Bolo by Bodegas Rafael Palacios Valdeorras, Spain
Red: Celler Noguerals Abellars 2011 Priorat, Spain