The Land Down Under, Oz, Australia … however you refer to it, this is a continent/country with an incredibly varied winemaking history and culture, but one that too often gets pigeon-holed as solely producing big, high-alcohol wines.
Mark Davidson, Head of Education Development – Americas for Wine Australia
We sat down with Mark Davidson, Head of Education Development – Americas for Wine Australia (and who also happens to be a Grape Experience educator) to chat about what’s happening in Australia’s wine scene right now and how the WSET helps change consumer understanding of the wines.
How have perceptions of Australian wine changed in the USA over the last ten years?
There’s been a big shift over that last 10 years, and more particularly in the last 2-3 years. Before, the perception was quite negative and one dimensional across all levels of the supply chain. Now we are seeing that there’s a much better understanding of the diversity of wine styles and this has resulted in a renewed interest. On-trade are keen to bring on more wines and have been more receptive and actively seeking out Australian wines and distributors. We also have more importers looking at diversifying their books and bringing in different styles and varieties.
How have you been educating consumers/trade during Covid times?
We have been partnering with wine schools and other educational bodies to host webinars, we’ve ramped up our distributor training sessions, and we’re working on various media campaigns.
Our online learning platform has also been a real hit: Australian Wine Discovered (www.australianwinediscovered.com). This is a free site with a plethora of downloadable, editable resources that has been a game changer in terms of directing people to access a curated, reliable source of information.
We are also about to launch a campaign called “Far From Ordinary.” More on this in the next few weeks.
What undiscovered Australian wines (not necessarily brands, but regions and styles) should Americans know about that they don’t? What are the Australian wine regions on the rise that we should watch?
So many! I think there is generally a better understanding of the classic varieties and styles. There are many exciting and contemporary regional stories right now, but I think that what is going on with southern Mediterranean varieties in McLaren Vale and Riverland is very cool: Fiano, Vermentino, Nero d’Avola, and Montepulciano are all really showing themselves to be ideally suited to the environment, and the best examples are showing a lovely freshness and vitality.
How do WSET courses help promote Australian wine?
From the start, WSET has always provided a solid foundation in Australian wine. Getting those basics sorted early in your wine education helps avoid stereotypes that can develop – and that’s true of all countries and regions.
WSET students have to learn about Sparkling Shiraz: tell us why.
Because it is unique and lip-smackingly delicious! It is a historic style and while it can take people off guard initially, Sparkling Shiraz is incredible food friendly. Brilliant with Peking Duck, awesome on the Thanksgiving or Christmas table and remarkably good with Eggs Benedict. (That’s a personal story for another time….)
If you had to pick one region in Australia to take to a desert island, which one?
Yikes! That’s tough. Tasmania. That way I could drink world class bubbles, Pinot, and Chardonnay all day long. And in the unlikely event that those got boring, there’s delicious Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Gamay.
Q&A with Jim Gore, DipWSET and Founder of the Global Wine Academy
As one advances through the WSET courses, culminating in the Level 4 Diploma and opening the door for aspiring candidates to pursue the Master of Wine, the curriculum becomes less exact. At the Diploma level, students are expected to create their own study plan to complement the WSET curriculum in order to pass the exams. Candidates for the MW program must go one step further, developing entirely independent study plans that guide their course of study for one of the most rigorous wine exams. Luckily, there are organizations who can help.
Jim Gore of Global Wine Academy
Global Wine Academy (GWA), founded by Jim Gore, DipWSET is one such entity that operates on a global scale. We got to sit down with Jim to talk about GWA and about the changing landscape of wine education.
GE: What inspired you to start the Global Wine Academy? What was the initial aim? Now a couple of years in, has that aim shifted at all?
JG: I wanted a change in lifestyle first and foremost – more flexibility. I also wanted to see what the world of wine education was like outside of WSET School London.
The program has changed monumentally over the past few years, particularly the last few months where we have gone completely online. This has allowed me to teach students who study outside of the UK or are studying online. I feel I’m now addicted to the variety and diversity this style of education offers and love getting to know new students so much that even when we do go back in the classroom, I think that will only be a minor part of my business.
GE: From your perspective, do students’ needs differ according to which wine program or level they are enrolled in e.g. WSET vs. MW, WSET Level 3 vs. Diploma)? How so, and how does the Global Wine Academy tailor their offerings to meet their specific needs?
JG: There is a genuine simple thread across all of the courses that we run: we look to build skills in students rather than give them answers. With that in mind, every course or session we run is split up into manageable chunks that are then worked on session after session, building long-lasting and transferable skills as we go.
The courses are always based around the assessment criteria for each qualification rather than the ‘topics.’ For example, our Online Theory Course runs in partnership with Enjoy Discovering Wine (Diploma APP), who uses a concept called ‘Flipped learning’ where we get the students to study and research in their own time and then we work on the more difficult skills together as a group. Too often you find that lectures are just visual versions of the textbook and the hardest skills to refine (analysis, application, and evaluation) are tested simply through mock exams. We have a strong view that as educators we must guide students through these difficult parts.
The MW tastings that we offer (and our online version that we are soon to be launching) focuses on the same process: we train the students how to answer the questions correctly and accurately. Feedback is essential and something we have been experimenting with through our courses. Students will often get to see each other’s feedback as well as different versions of how to answer the same question. The higher-level qualifications by nature offer many different ways of answering a question so facilitating an environment where students can share and continue to learn once they have left the course is essential. A full understanding of the feedback system is essential; we like to turn our students into mini-educators who are confident enough to spot mistakes in the work of others.
GE: How have you adapted programming since Covid-19 hit back in March? Will some of these changes continue even as markets open back up, or do you hope that everything will go back to normal?
JG: We now use WhatsApp and Google Docs in many of our courses as communication tools and platforms for collaborative work. One of our Theory groups that included students from the UK, Spain, France, Italy, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, and New Zealand have continued to meet each week and have formed a phenomenal post-course study group. We still keep an eye on them through Google Docs and on WhatsApp, but frankly they now have the skills to create questions themselves and test each other. We are thrilled with it.
We also now use a company to repackage wines in smaller formats so that students can taste at home.
GE: Looking at wine education overall, and many wine courses going virtual, do you think the structure will look a lot different in a post-Covid world? What schools/academies/organizations in your opinion have really done things right in coping with the current environment?
JG: 67 Pall Mall comes to mind as somewhere that has really cornered the market for wine tastings, charging a small fee to watch or treat yourself and order the wines along with some phenomenal speakers. It really is the palace for wine geeks on any budget.
There are so many examples of where it is done well and that is what I have been seeing mostly, but some places have not really understood the limitations of online. Too many institutions are running day-long courses with zero or no interactive elements. With the online platform, there are quiz functions, breakout rooms, and options to show videos and visuals more clearly and, most importantly, the ability to collaborate across different time-zones – so it is a shame when it is just a carbon copy of a classroom session.
GE: As the name suggests, the Global Wine Academy has international reach. Which countries do you currently offer your services in, and do you hope to expand into new markets in the future?
JG: We deliver wine to UK and Europe, but would love to experiment further abroad at some point. We have had some success with students ordering wines locally that are similar to the ones we taste. This isn’t perfect for fine-tuning calibration, but just as good for examination technique. This year we have had students from: UK, Sweden, Holland, France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, Australia, New Zealand, and both coasts of USA.
I’ve also adapted one of my courses working with AWSEC in Hong Kong where we have done tastings together virtually. That has been a great to reach new audiences through simple collaboration.
GE: Any other comments you would like to share?
JG: Our latest venture is the Instagram Live Calibration Wine Fair. 24 wines are shipped in small test tubes to students and we go through them all in one day! Many students watched and then ordered afterwards, others tasted along using the videos on IGTV over the course of a week. Moving forward, we are looking to expand this model over a couple of days, including some guest speakers. All the videos are available on our IGTV channel, along with some student-led calibration videos that we did over the summer.
Grape Experience is a proud supporter of San Francisco Wine School’s Glancy Wine Education Scholarship Fund(GWEF), which provides scholarships to low income students looking to start or advance a career in wine or hospitality. Next month is the foundation’s 2019 Luxury Wine Anniversary and Scholarship Auction event on November 2 – an evening of of great wine, food, a hilarious Somm Smackdown, and auction of incredible items and experiences, all benefiting the GWEF.
In anticipation of the event, we sat down with David Glancy MS, Founder and CEO of San Francisco Wine School and of the GWEF, to find out more about his passion for wine and education.
Q: What inspired you to enter the wine industry?
A: My love of food got me into restaurants at age 15, washing dishes, bussing tables and then working as a prep cook and baker by 16. I majored in Hotel & Restaurant Management at Michigan State and transitioned into hotel front desk management and eventually back into restaurants on the dining room management side. My passion for wine exploded when I sold a lot of wine managing a restaurant in Macau China. After returning to the US and managing a night club and American, French and Italian restaurants I realized my favorite part of the job was managing the wine programs, selling wine to customers and training the staff.
Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching wine?
A: I love when I can see someone’s passion for wine, food and travel really take off. It is especially gratifying when they blossom into professionals whether opening wine bars, launching their career in restaurants, taking off to work harvest across the world, traveling to multiple wine regions, winning competitions, earning credentials and especially when I get to see them expressing their passions with others.
Q: Why do you think wine educational courses are useful?
A: Classes and credentials are not the only way to learn and move up in the industry but the structure of many certification programs shows students a path to what to learn and how. The journey of studying, tasting and passing exams gives students the courage to pursue new challenges. And the credentials themselves open the doors for many professional opportunities. The credentials also help employers evaluate what potential employees know. As people continue in their careers pursuing more credentials, along with tasting, traveling and working in the wine trenches are all ways pros challenge themselves, grow and continuously improve.
Q: Do you have any educational resources you’d recommend to students? (i.e. books, websites)?
A: I have always considered Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Complete Wine Course to be the best starting point. Madeline Puckett does a great job making wine easy to understand on WineFolly.com. Karen MacNeil’s Wine Bible and everything ever written by Jancis Robinson are great for taking wine studies to the next level. Society of Wine Educator’s blog
WineWitAndWisdomSWE.com, GuildSomm.com, and WineBusiness.com are great ways to stay up-to-date.
Q: What’s your desert island wine?
A: CHAMPAGNE, fool, and lots of it. And I’ll need an oyster knife.2017_SF_Wine_School-2275
Hope to see you in November! Special Early Bird pricing of $295 is available now through October 15.
There is no better way to learn about wines than to travel the vineyards where the grapes are grown. Photos in books and videos are great, but they are framed to give the best view and evoke a desired image. As a wine educator, being “on the ground” makes me see things in a new way and makes me a better teacher. This past June I spent two weeks traveling from Chablis in the north, through Burgundy and then down the Rhone into Provence. My random thoughts are below. WSET students will get more details n classes starting next month.
Chablis is a little “off the beaten track” if you are visiting Burgundy, but it is worth the detour. The village itself is incredibly pretty with classic French architecture, the peaceful Serein River running through the town, and the vineyards a two-minute walk from the town center. The Vineyards here are so close to the working town center that they actually almost “grip” one end of Chablis center. You realize the amount of vineyard land is not huge. Grand Cru hill sites quickly curve and slope into Premier Cru and basic vineyards. Luckily there is an easy to read map that identifies each site. The map sits at the foot of the small street that separates the agricultural area from the central part of town.
If you visit Chablis a stop at the tasting room of William Fèvre is a good idea. The wines are terrific and you can see large samples of the Kimmeridgean Clay soils, with their tiny fossilized sea creatures clearly visible, as well as Portlandian Clay, which is much different. A great place for lunch is Les Trois Bourgeons. This classic French restaurant is run by a Japanese couple and the food is fantastic!
Cote de Nuits
When you are anywhere in Burgundy’s Cote d’Or you really feel how the vineyards hug the eastern Massif Central. One commune flows into another. As you travel the main N74 road, the vineyards are a constant companion a stone’s throw to the west. What is even more surprising is how close these world-famous expensive vineyards are to the big city of Dijon. Essentially, they are southern suburbs of Dijon, and as you drive first through Marsannay and then Fixin and Gevrey-Chambertin you feel like you are traversing two worlds: behind you is the big city, to the west magnificent pastoral vineyards and to your east a suburban landscape with bowling alleys, car dealerships, KFC and pizza places and hotels. A little jarring but it shows that these are working grape farms rather than ethereal landscapes.
As you drive into the vineyards themselves thick vine density comes off the page and into reality. Driving paths are narrow and vineyard land is maximized. Books point to this fact, but to see it and navigate it as you pass from one great site to another really brings it to life.
Cote de Beaune
The villages of the Cote de Beaune can be described with one word: “charming.” Meursault, in particular, is quaint and beautiful with its central square, fountain and winding paths to vineyards. I recommend grabbing a morning coffee there and just people watching or day dreaming.
The vineyards in this area seem designed to encourage you to take long lingering walks. Vines are easily accessible and a two-minute walk from any part of a town. One of the things that you realize when you are among the vines is how easy it is to have one foot in a Grand Crus site and the other in a more basic site. The Grand Cru and Premier Cru sites are also much less steep when you are among the vines than when you see them on a map. Always at your feet is the classic clay and limestone soils.
Beaune itself is an easily navigable small city with the eastern vineyards watching over it as a protector. The tile designs on the roofs of the Hospices de Beaune gleam in the sun and make this part of Burgundy unique. One realizes immediately that you are in a city of business with large buildings with famous names like Louis Jadot and Joseph Drouhin around you but blending in to the classic city architecture. The restaurant that seems to be among the most popular is Ma Cuisine and I would agree – amazing food and a terrific wine list.
Cote Rotie and the Rhone
As with the Cote de Nuit flowing out of Dijon, the Cote Rotie vineyards almost touch the outskirts of the city of Lyon. Standing in the tiny town of Ampuis, the height and steepness of the slopes of these vineyards seems even more staggering than photos. You can see how hard they are to work and how the staked vines create a unique pattern on the steep slopes.
The Rhone is a working river and the peaks and valleys of its northern hills look down upon a waterway that is far more industrial than a wine book can show. It is easy to grasp why one hill is planted and another is not based on angle to the sun and reflection from the river.
As you drive south the hills become less steep but don’t entirely go away. Yes, the Southern Rhone vineyards are more spread out and the not as cliff-like as the north, but they are not completely flat either. Vines live next to vibrant fields of lavender and other crops. Wind breaks from trees are evident as a protection from the Mistral. Driving into Chateauneuf-du-Pape the galet soils create a rocky landscape that reflects the sun and adds brightness to the sun light. Stop by Vieux Telegraphe for a tasting of their amazing wines and then walk the vineyards which give a great view of the surrounding region.
Bandol and Cassis
The vineyards in Provence live easily among coastal towns and internal cities. The Alps gently extends to the sea here and creates a dramatic landscape which inspired painters like Cezanne and Van Gough. Driving the coast from Cassis through Bandol is a great way to get a feel for the area and its vines, but to really see the area you need to go up and inland. Bandol AOC is actually made up of towns, including Bandol itself. Mourvedre vines thrive in the damp soil and hot air.
Domaine Tempier is the place to go first to taste. It is in the village of Les Castellet and really led the change to fine modern winemaking in the area. Véronique Peyraud, daughter of founders Lucien Peyraud and Lucie Tempier is a terrific host and the wines are worth the accolades they continually receive.
Hopefully my thoughts have prompted you to visit the area – or even better, take a WSET class and then visit. You will be armed with information that will make the trip even better!
This fall WSET and Grape Experience will debut the new WSET Level 2 Certificate in Wine. It starts September 10 in San Francisco and September 18 in Boston. Registration information is at https://www.grapeexperience.com/beginner-wine-courses/
The following interview details the great changes in the program
Q. What is different about the new Level 2 Certificate in Wine?
A. Just about everything.The course that will start on September 10 is still designed to enable someone to look at just about any major wine label and be able to describe what that wine is like and why, but the number of grape varieties have been dramatically expanded. Varieties such as Barbera, Gamay, Semillon and Viognier are now part of the course. We will cover the classic wine regions – Burgundy, Bordeaux, etc., but also add more emphasis on newer regions in countries like Australia, the USA and Chile. The new approach gives a Level 2 student a broader set of wines to explore and makes the course that much more relevant to today’s wine industry. There is also a new textbook and class workbook as part of a complete WSET proprietary study pack.
Q. Are the class sessions themselves much different for the old course?
A. Yes, classes are more interactive than ever before, which better enables students to build off of previous sessions and what they have read on their own. There is a greater emphasis on why a wine tastes the way it does and how the same grape can make uniquely individual wines in different regions. Of course, we still taste several wines in each session but when we do so we are better equipped to taste both natural climactic factors and the human choices that went into each wine. The end result is greater knowledge put into practice, building confidence among students.
Q. Spirits is no longer part of the Level 2 course?
A. Spirits has been removed from Level 2 Wine and is now taught as a separate Level 2 Spirits course.This change means we can cover more material in the Level 2 Wine course in the same amount of time. In some ways, Spirits in the old Level 2 course was an afterthought. Now, in the Level 2 Spirits course, the subject gets the broader and more in-depth focus it deserves. We will offer Level 2 Spirits this fall, and it can easily be taken in conjunction with Level 2 Wine.
Q. Who is the right student for Level 2 Wine?
A. Level 2 Wine is for just about anyone.The course is designed for both beginners and people who already have some knowledge in wine but want a stronger foundation. We don’t assume for Level 2 that a student has any previous knowledge. For the genuine beginner, the course will build a solid foundation for a career in wine or will just increase personal knowledge. For someone who has a working knowledge already, Level 2 fills in any gaps and provides a solid launching pad for learning more. The end result for all students taking Level 2 is increased confidence and greater overall enjoyment of wine.
Q. What is the final exam like?
A. The exam remains the same as before: a one hour, 50-question multiple choice exam. Students need to correctly answer 55% of the questions – about 28 of them – to pass and receive the WSET Level 2 Certificate in Wine.
For the September 10 San Francisco course register here: https://www.grapeexperience.com/events/level-2-san-francisco-3/
For Level 2 Spirits register here: https://www.grapeexperience.com/events/spirits-level-2-san-francisco-students/
For the September 18 Boston course register here: https://www.grapeexperience.com/events/level-2-boston-weeknights-5/