Vinexpo Hong Kong, the Asia-Pacific version of the parent event in Bordeaux and one of the most important annual fixtures of the international wine calendar, concluded recently with much fanfare and a bullish outlook for the region’s wine business. The grand occasion not only lived up to all the hype and expectations, it also reinforced Hong Kong’s stature as the world’s most desired wine destination.
In addition to the usual business protocols and showcases, this year’s event also highlighted the significance of wine education to succeed in new but hugely promising markets like China. The key message; consumer awareness along with a well-informed industry workforce is vital in developing and maintaining a robust wine economy. Here is the coverage of the news article on decanter.com.
Although the news dealt with the importance of wine education in mainland China, considering the enormous prospects it has to offer to the wine businesses world over, the core message is universal and holds equally true for a country like India where wine is increasingly making a headway as part of the urban lifestyle.
So, what are the options available for individuals (and businesses alike, for their employees) seeking to acquire/enhance their wine knowledge? Whether one is contemplating a serious career in the wine industry, the trade looking for well-structured courses to educate their staff or you are simply smitten by the charm of wine and want to demystify the intricacies related to its production and enjoyment, there are numerous options out there awaiting to be explored. Among these, there are only a few selected and trusted ones which offer the most innovative and world-class courses and provide the most comprehensive wine education. I have listed them below.
Please note that courses related to wine production (Wine-making & Viticulture) do not feature in the following list as their focus is markedly different from general wine education.
■ Wine & Spirit Education Trust – WSET, as it is commonly known, is by far the most reliable and effective wine education provider in the world. Recognised the world over for the quality and depth of the courses, it has to be the numero uno of all the dedicated wine education providers. The enormous demand for its certifications means that the WSET is also the fastest growing wine educator outside its original home, the United Kingdom. A rigorous selection process of the APPs (Approved Programme Providers) and a centralized examination control (in London) also make these courses very trustworthy.
The Systematic Approach to Tasting (SAT) wine, developed by WSET is also one of its indisputable USPs which has set a benchmark for many other courses around the world.
The four levels (plus an additional case study, the Level 5 Honours Diploma), each with their distinct theory and practical tasting papers, cater to the needs of different skill levels of the industry. The Level 4 Diploma is a challenging but enlightening two years’ expedition which covers all the wine regions of the world with an additional focus on the commercial and business side of wine-growing plus testing an individual’s ability to correctly identify wines after tasting them blind. The Diploma is considered to be a vital stepping stone towards the holy grail of all wine qualifications; the Master of Wine (MW).
■ Court of Master Sommeliers – The CMS is a very highly regarded organisation offering wine courses at various levels like the WSET but with a strong focus on the beverage service sector, more precisely to groom professional sommeliers. It’s highest certification leads to the coveted designation of ‘Master Sommelier (MS)’. There are only 170 (till date) of these top wine professionals in the world and majority of them are responsible for running some of the most successful and critically acclaimed wine programs, not only in the hospitality industry but also in the wider wine trade.
■ Society of Wine Educators – Although not yet as internationally recognised as the previous two, the SWE deserves a mention solely based on the quality and clear-cut purpose of its three-tier wine certification program. These are; ‘Certified specialist of Wine (CSW)’, ‘Certified Wine Educator (CWE)’ and ‘Certified Specialist of Spirits (CSS)’.
■ Wine MBA from the Bordeaux Management School – A one of its kind MBA program designed for wine professionals aspiring to take the next big step in the world wine trade. This unique course is structured keeping in mind the dynamics of the present day global wine business. Students have the choice of pursuing this option from any of the four strategic locations – Bordeaux, Adelaide, London or the UC Davis campus in California.
■ Courses run by wine experts – A lot of individuals offer different levels of wine courses which can help you get a head start in the industry or enhance your wine appreciation capabilities. Most of them will either hold a wine educator’s certificate from a recognised institute (like the WSET) or should be adequately trained/qualified to be able to be both authoritative and informative in their teachings. In countries like the UK, USA and New Zealand, many such courses are run by Masters of Wine or Master Sommeliers.
■ Others - There are a number of other options which can be explored as means of laying a foundation for wine knowledge. Most cosmopolitan societies nowadays boast of institutes offering wine courses of various sizes and affiliations. These range from customized courses based on particular requirements like training restaurant/bar staff to laid back and fun events.
There are a myriad of factors that play crucial roles in creating and developing a healthy wine culture in an untraditional market, among which, quality education is probably the most key ingredient that helps in sustaining its popularity and commercial success. Therefore it is in the larger interest of a country’s wine industry to recognise this fact and assign it the pivotal role in all attempts to promote the beautiful beverage.