“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
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
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
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