~Let me say at the outset that not only do I have a couple of friends who teach wine classes, but I also teach wine classes, or at least I used to (seems the wine education industry has gotten quite competitive, and my writing schedule leaves me with not enough time to keep up the wine education marketing; you fade from memory if you don’t stay in their face).
~Having said that, I am perplexed by the many so-called wine specialists and educators I seem to be coming across lately.
~Often, I receive a request for interview from a writer who is doing an article, and often I am glad to be interviewed. But I always ask the writer not to refer to me as a wine expert. I hate that term; it seems pretentious. I’d rather be called simply a wine professional.
~I hate the term wine specialist for just about the same reason as I hate wine expert. But I have an idea what a wine expert might be. I have no idea what a wine specialist might be.
~I’ve done an online search for the term wine specialist. I gave up the quest after about half an hour.
~Many wine shops describe themselves as wine specialists.
~A few wine selling schemes offer wine specialists, educators, and associates. These outfits often promise special wines at unheard of prices but they really sell second and third label stuff at ridiculously high prices, relative to the wine’s merits.
~The term wine specialist also shows up in a lot of ads for jobs. Dig into the ads and you often find the job is in sales, auction inventorying, and as a wine buyer.
Some ads for a wine specialist include the requirement that the applicant be able to lift at least 50 pounds without incident (a case of wine weighs approximately between 38 and 55 pounds, depending upon the type of bottles and whether the carton is wood or cardboard).
What do you suppose that job turns out to be???
~Many of the wine specialists I run into also claim to be wine educators. What constitutes a wine educator?
~This term has something backing it up. A number of programs exist to teach the subject of wine. The serious student will spend thousands of dollars going for a certificate or other diploma such as a Master Sommelier or Master of Wine.
~Mostly, people who have earned their certificates or their MS or MW are quite knowledgeable enough to teach wine classes. Whether or not they are any good at teaching is a separate issue.
~Yet, others, like me, teach but do not hold those wine teaching degrees. That's because:
Many of us have studied wine for decades, as avid readers and as avid consumers.
In my case, I studied how to make wine on my own and later in courses at the original International Wine Center, in Manhattan, and at Cornell University’s so-called short courses, in the Finger Lakes region of New York State.
I was a professional winemaker in my own winery, after which I worked as a wine salesman, after which I operated a wine retail shop.
During my work in the industry, I drew upon my original education, as a writer, and began a wine writing career, which entails engaging in an amazing amount of research!
My classes are light on rote and heavy on practicality.
~Many wine specialists and educators that I have been meeting often don’t seem able to fork over the barest credentials. Just because someone has bought and sold wine for decades offers no guarantee that he or she has valuable knowledge to impart, or knows how to impart it.
~I am especially careful with people who claim to be wine specialists and educators by tacking a Ph.D after their name without explaining the nature of their doctorate; it often turns out to be engineering or some other field unrelated either to wine specializing or wine education, but it looks impressive.
(Of course, some trained wine educators hold a doctorate in another field, but I am not talking about them.)
~If you are thinking of taking a wine class, challenge the person who claims to be a wine specialist and educator before you drop any money. If a wine sales pitch seems to underlie the specialist part of the resume, move on.
~Better still, check out the following sites; they do not sell their students wine.
Here are three wine specialist job openings.
Copyright, Thomas Pellechia
October 2007. All Rights Reserved.