Wine courses that will make bar staff wizards of wine

By Liam Coleman contact

- Last updated on GMT

Wine courses that will make bar staff wizards of wine

Related tags: Wine, Bar staff

Wine can be a daunting thing for bar staff if you don’t drink the stuff. When a customer asks for a full-bodied red or a fruity white, there is often panic in the eyes of the bar staff. We’ve found three companies that offer introductory wine training courses that aim to help on-trade staff know their Rioja from their Riesling.
Veraison Logo

“It’s about making sure that people in the service industry that are customer facing have the confidence and the right knowledge going forward,” says Clara Rubin, one of the trainers for Veraison, the educational arm of Berkmann Wine Cellars.

The recently established collection of eight courses from the wine supplier take a less academic approach. It involves WSET-qualified trainers from Berkmann going into bars and encouraging pupils to write down what they taste in the wines already available on-site.

Rubin says that they are hoping to make the courses, which are not solely available to Berkmann customers, a stepping stone for on-trade staff. “We’re not saying we’re creating sommeliers – we’re not making the wine. What we’re doing is ripening – swelling with knowledge if you will.”

Need to know

Location: On site

Number of pupils per course: Up to 10, but sessions with up to 15 people can be done for extra cost

Cost: £300 for a whole group to do one of the 60-90 minute courses

More information

What each of the courses involves

How to speak wine – An hour long session where six wines are tasted in a professional method with people writing their own notes.

The world of wine – It starts with a tutorial on multicultural vinification and then looks to break down the confusing wine journey.

Demystifying wine labels – This looks to take the mystery and confusion out of a bottle of wine.

Red wine grapes – A who’s who of red grape varieties relevant to the UK market.

White wine grapes – A look at seven white wine grape varieties that are significant to the UK market.

Food and wine chemistry – A look at pairings that aims to go beyond just ingredients and focus on seasonings, including how to calibrate the palette, and cooking method.

Mastering service – A course on how to connect with customers regarding wine.

Manager’s module – A workshop for three to five people on growing the on-trade business.


The training team at the BII, the BIIAB, offer an eight-hour introductory course to the world of wine.

“It’s about simplifying wine because there’s so much mystique around it,” says Suzanne Weekes, executive director of the BII’s academy of wine and service.

Need to know

Location: On site

Number of pupils per course: Six to 12 people

Cost: £125 for each person to do the full eight-hour course

More information

The introductory course, which can either be broken up into shorter sessions or be done in a one-off eight-hour session, aims to “increase knowledge and skills, because the confidence that brings will help increase sales,” according to Weekes.

What the course teaches

What is a sommelier? – Pubs may not have sommeliers per se, but bar staff effectively can fulfil that role by making recommendations to food, budget and tastes of customers.

How wine is made – Why the grape is affected by how it’s grown and why wines from different parts of the world behave differently.

Wine service – Including wine equipment, glassware, how a wine can be spoiled by not being stored correctly, opening, pouring and decanting wine.

Wine from different regions – This includes both the new world wines and the traditional wines.

Licensing law and social responsibility will also be covered before some wine tasting and food and wine matching activities.

A 25-question multiple-choice exam


WSET qualifications are internationally recognised and they have schools located all over the UK.

Their introductory six-hour course can either be a one-off introduction to the world of wine or a gateway to the higher-level qualifications that the WSET offer, which go as far as a level 4 diploma.

Need to know

Location: Various WSET schools dotted around the country or training on site can be arranged

Number of pupils per course: Classes go up to 25 people

Cost: This varies depending on location, but averages at around £155 per person – the amount charged at the WSET’s UK headquarters in south London – for the six-hour course

More information

This course, which requires no prior preparation for pupils will “teach the basic principles that can then be applied where the pupils need to do their job,” according to Graham Cox, WSET’s UK business development director.

A breakdown of the course

Wines of the world – This includes the major international grape varieties, meaning five or six reds and whites.

A tasting session – A chance to learn various tasting techniques

Putting wines into context – This covers basic vinification and viticulture, where vineyards are and how the different climates affect quality, as well as the basics on how wine is made.

Social responsibility – Examining the issues

The serving of wine – The basics about glassware

Food and wine pairing – An interactive session, which involves taking the wines that were tasted in the morning and putting them alongside a number of types of food. Pupils will be taught how sweet, salt, savoury (umami) and acid flavours interact with the different wines.

A 30-question multiple-choice exam

Related topics: Training, Wine

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