Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Wine Education

Here are my musings on wine education in Hong Kong.  Are you for or against it?  Waste of money or solid investment?

For me, I originally signed up for the WSET level 3 course at HKU Space because I was new to the industry.  My wine knowledge was limited to what I liked (Spanish and South American reds), so I wanted to fill up with all of the basics in order to feel confident in what I was selling.  The teacher of the course, Ian Symonds, came highly recommend, which is precisely how I choose where to study, and where I strongly advise anyone thinking of doing the course to study!  With all of the courses now offered in HK, it can be a difficult decision!

I fell in love with the course.  I woke up early every morning to read the next chapter and to immerse myself in the world of wine.  I googled wine quizzes, I download every wine app I could get my hands on, I had tastings at my house and went to every tasting I could afford.  It quickly became an obsession, and since I am working in the industry, not at all a bad one to have.

During my research phase of should I, shouldn't I? many people told me not to waste my money; learn by experience and tasting.  And I would agree that these are good things to do, but I lacked even a basic knowledge of regions.  France, Spain, South America, Australia, sure, but wait Hungary makes wines, what!? Fruili huh? Stellenbosch who?

I concede that if you grow up around wine, or around people who appreciate wine, you probably know the basics.  You know the Bordeaux blends.  You know the European regions to some extent, and maybe a good deal of the new world too.  And if you feel confident with that, then I say save your time and effort, do some quick wiki searches if necessary, and stay your butt home.

Now what about those who are not in the industry?  The vast majority who only dabble in wine.  The ones who drink at a nice dinner, go to the occasional tasting, and don't have any idea what the difference is between guyote and double guyote cane pruning.  Should they invest in this course?

Approximately  80% of the students in my course were not in the industry.  I take this as staggering proof that the course is not for professionals only.  If you want to try some really interesting wines (Tokaji in our first class!) and surround yourself by fellow enthusiasts, I would highly recommend it.  If you prefer drinking what you're used to, then perhaps stay your butt home.  

Since completing this course (and passing, thank you) I have decided to enroll in the two year diploma level 4.  No I do not believe this is at all necessary to be in the HK wine market, but yes, I find it so fascinating it surely can't hurt.  Unlike the level 3, level 4 is only offered at one institution in HK.  One.   Competitive market forces, where are you?

So what do you think, big waste of time or competitive advantage?  For me it's more for the academic pursuit.  Wine nerd alert.  Have any of you undertaken the diploma?  Thoughts, criticisms, praise?  I'll let you know my thoughts  in April come the first test!

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