October 15, 2012

Sip, Swirl, Enjoy

Columbia Business School alumni are proving that the wine industry is ripe for innovation.

Amanda Chalifoux

A few years after graduation, Anu Karwa ’04 hosted a wine tasting in her apartment. Her goal was to raise money for Sakhi, a nonprofit that supports South Asian women escaping abusive relationships. She invited more than a dozen friends, told them to bring their checkbooks, and developed a theme.

“It was March, which was women’s history month, so I featured all women winemakers and paired the wines with chocolates and cheese,” Karwa says. “By the end, everybody said, ‘you need to turn this into a business.’”

Karwa followed that advice and launched Swirl Events in 2007, offering wine tastings throughout the greater New York City area. Clients range from top law firms and banks to bridal showers and birthday parties. Karwa’s main objective: to create a fun experience that lingers. “We’re creating a brand so that every time you experience a Swirl event, it’s going to have the same feel to it. It’s a fun, lively approach to enjoying wine.”

Today, Swirl employs a team of eight wine experts and an event coordinator. Karwa, who also does marketing for Peeled Snacks, founded by Noha Waibsnaider ’02, focuses on Swirl’s big-picture strategy. “I would love for people not to feel so intimidated by wine,” Karwa says.

Go green. Swirl Events now offers an “eco-chic” package, which features all organic or biodynamic wine. “Grapes are one of the most heavily sprayed fruits out there,” Karwa says.

Take 20 minutes. “People often keep white wines too cold and reds too hot. About 20 minutes before friends come over for dinner, I put my reds in the fridge and take my whites out. Then they’re both at the right temperatures.”

Illustration by Scotty Reifsnyder

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