If you’re passionate about travel, food, horticulture, science, or just love discovering something new every day, why not carve out a career in wine? Wine Education Week (9-15 September 2019) is round the corner. We catch up with Lucy Stevenson to see what being a wine educator involves…
What is a wine educator exactly?
Being a wine educator means being there to guide people as they build their wine knowledge and tasting skills. Our aim is to inspire and empower people to enjoy and buy wine more confidently, helping them to make the most out of every sip. I teach a broad variety of wine tastings and courses, from beginner through to expert level. Our classes are full of people from all walks of life, brought together by a common interest in learning more about this delicious beverage.
Tell us about your journey to becoming one…
I spent my university years working behind the bar in the student union pub, serving wine on a day-to-day basis but never really taking the time to understand it. A few special bottles on weekends away to France and Spain finally opened my eyes to a subject that has kept me fascinated ever since.
Feeling a little overwhelmed by the information out there, I ended up Googling ‘how to learn more about wine’ and came across the qualifications offered by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET). I was given a voucher for one of these courses for my birthday and had such a great time – I was hooked from then on.
To my excitement I managed to land a job at WSET’s HQ shortly out of university, and soon found myself spreading the word about wine education at events around the UK. Not long after completing my own WSET wine qualifications, I passed the training programme required to teach the courses – something that had been a goal of mine from the start.
What’s the best thing about being a wine educator?
When I welcome new faces to our school in London Bridge for the first time, I’m reminded of how I felt at the start of my first wine course – excited to learn, but super nervous about making an idiot of myself by pronouncing something wrong way or not picking up all the aromas that I’m supposed to.
The best thing about being a wine educator is watching people relax in their chairs when they realise that there’s nothing at all to be nervous about. Wine education is about having fun while building valuable knowledge and tasting skills bit by bit. Before long, you find yourself getting more enjoyment out of every sniff and sip of wine than you did before, and discovering delicious drinks that you may never have come across otherwise.
What’s your favourite wine ever and why?
This is always such a hard question! My tastes change all the time, but a wine that’s hard to beat on flavour is a style of dry sherry called ‘Palo Cortado’. It’s the ultimate food wine and is best enjoyed with an array of fresh tapas, ideally on a sunny evening outside a bar in Andalucía! If I can have a second one, I vote Rioja! (Can you tell I’m into my Spanish wines?)
This might not be a popular answer (wine is very personal!), but I’ve never quite acquired a taste for Prosecco. I’ve tried a few lovely ones, but most of what’s available in the UK I’m happy to do without.
How can we become a wine educator or a sommelier?
Becoming a wine educator means knowing your stuff, but also being able to communicate your passion without overwhelming people. Accredited courses are invaluable in developing your knowledge and authority. Meanwhile, build your confidence as a speaker by hosting tastings for friends and family. You could one day be setting up your own wine school!
‘Sommelier’ is a commonly misused word – a lot of people think it’s synonymous with ‘wine expert.’ Specifically, sommeliers work in the service of wine, usually in a bar or restaurant. They are often involved in creating the wine list and have a practical knowledge of how best to store, serve and pair these wines (there are courses that build these skills too). The most successful sommeliers I know combine great wine knowledge with an ability to listen to and understand their customers’ tastes and expectations. This job also requires a steady hand, something I’ve never had!
No matter whether you’re keen to get into the wine industry or just want to learn for fun, all you need to get started is curiosity. WSET’s global Wine Education Week, running 9-15 September 2019, offers so many opportunities for you to begin your wine journey. You can find out what’s on near you at wineeducationweek.com. If you’re London-based, why not join us to break a Guinness World Record for the largest ever food and wine matching lesson hosted by Olly Smith on Monday 9th September at The Kia Oval?
You can book tickets here
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