Rupal Shankar, raised in New York City and New Jersey, spent 20 years working on Wall Street before she decided to turn her wine writing passion project into what she acknowledges “is not a traditional career by Indian standards” in 2016. The mother of two is a regular contributor to the Indian SCENE, offering readers expert advice for pairing and serving wines.
She also notes her passion for yoga and dance. Through the Newark Yoga Movement, she is a volunteer yoga teacher, and she travels regularly to India to teach yoga at orphanages and schools.
Another frequent travel stop? Tuscany, which she adores for its “wine, food, history and charming villages.” Today, she says, “I appreciate a wide range of wines with Champagne, Burgundy, and Northern Rhone wines being my favorite.”
She’s particularly struck by the ageability of wine. A 1981 Charlie Heidsieck Champagne Charlie had her seeing stars. When she tried a 1947 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, “it was like time had stood still in a bottle and I was drinking history.”
For pairing with spicy Indian foods, Shankar recommends champagne, with its high levels of acidity and low levels of sugar. A slightly aged Blanc de Blancs champagne “will add depth and complexity that will pair well with creamy and spicy Indian dishes,” she says.
Shankar has her WSET Level 3 Certification, considered an advanced achievement in the wine industry, and is currently enrolled in the Diploma of Wine Program. She is also a certified French Wine Scholar and an Ambassador for Valpolicella Wines pursuing her Master Certification in Champagne. Based in New York City, she writes regularly at her blog, Syrah Queen.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
The Indian SCENE: How would your boys describe you?
Rupal Shankar: This is a very important question, cause I believe one way to measure my success is by how my boys would describe me. So I asked them directly. They feel I am loving, intelligent, fun, compassionate and hardworking. They also feel I have a “cool” factor with my large Instagram and social media presence (hahahaha).
IS: How did your parents influence you?
RS: My parents always emphasized hard work, dedication, and passion. My dad always said, if you do what you love, it will never be work. My mom and dad also loved to travel, and so I believe my travel bug comes from my parents. Being passionate and following my heart is something that my father emphasized. When it came to writing about wine and educating people on the virtues and stories related to wine, my mother was extremely supportive (my father passed away before I got into wine writing). My mom was extremely supportive of my career change. This was important to me because wine writing is not a traditional career by Indian standards.
IS: What are you most proud of accomplishing?
RS: While writing about wine is a deep passion and something I am extremely proud of, I find teaching yoga to be the most rewarding, especially when I teach young kids to settle and simply focus on their breath. My last trip to India, where I taught yoga to orphaned children at a local YMCA is something that will always stay close to my heart. Empowering children with life tools (breathing, meditation, asanas, stillness) that yoga offers, is extremely rewarding and gratifying.
IS: Who or what inspires you?
RS: I find inspiration in many people and places, but I would have to say my father is my biggest inspiration. He came to the United States in his early thirties, with determination and courage. He worked hard to make a beautiful life for his family. He came to a new country with little English and very few dollars in his pocket. We moved around a lot in my childhood, as he was always looking for a better career and better schools for us. His work ethic, his drive to succeed and his dedication to his family will always be my inspiration.
IS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
RS: My father always said if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. Now, this may not be his original quote, but it is something he strongly believed in. Today I owe the courage to switch careers and follow my heart, to advice my father gave me.
IS: What is the most valuable thing in our Indian culture that you hope passes on to future generations?
RS: Indians have a strong, colorful and beautiful culture. I hope that future generations hold onto Indian traditions. I have great memories of celebrating Navratri, going to the temple, watching Bollywood movies, and celebrating Diwali. I hope future generations in the USA embrace these traditions and keep the Indian culture alive in the United States.
Books: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, To Kill a Mockingbird, & Yoga Sutras
Movie: Bollywood: Hindi – Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Sholay; Hollywood: Shawshank Redemption, Matrix, Life is Beautiful and I love all James Bond movies
Vacation Spot: French Riviera
Bollywood Actor: Amitabh Bachchan, Sushmita Sen, Deepika Padukone
Hollywood Actor: George Clooney, Scarlet Johansson, Bradley Cooper