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Wine Courses

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Life among the grapes



Many readers have asked about becoming wine professionals. Our columnist offers vine advice.

TO some people, wine is just a beverage. To others, it is a work of art. And to a select few, it is a lifestyle, a profession, a calling, even.

If you want to make a living out of wine, there are many ways of doing so. You can train to be a sommelier, a food technologist, a viticulturist or even start your own wine shop or winery. Here are some suggestions on how to get started.

Begin at the bottom

Start your career as a winemaker/viticulturist by writing to chateaux and wineries offering to pick grapes and help out in the cellar. If the winery thinks you have potential, they will invite you back for the next season's harvest. You will be given more responsibility and could end up as their winemaker or vineyard manager. This would, of course, take many years!

Go for the ultimate

The one qualification that comes to mind when thinking of wine professionals is the coveted Master of Wine, or MW. This would be suitable for someone who is already knowledgeable in wine and wants a professional qualification.

It was with the 1953 joint venture between the Worshipful Company of Vintners and the British Wine and Spirit Association that this qualification began. The two bodies felt that people who wanted to claim that they were knowledgeable about wine and were professionals should have a qualification certifying their claims.

A fun way to learn about wine would be to take part in holiday learning experiences. This is Camp Schramsberg in California's famous wine-growing region, Napa Valley. It was started by Schramsberg winery co-founder Jamie Davies as a chef's symposium; it has since been broadened to include consumers. Ð'- AP photo

All MWs, as they are called, have to pass rigorous examinations to obtain the qualification; once they have it, though, the world of wine opens up to them and they can become respected critics, writers, auctioneers, merchants and winemaking consultants.

How difficult are the exams? Every year, out of 150 or so students, only between three and five graduate!

You have to be very knowledgeable in theory (and that covers everything from winemaking to wine marketing and even the law as it applies to wine) as well as have a trained palate for tasting.

For example, you might be given wines of different vintages Ð'- say of a Bordeaux sub-region Ð'- or of different styles within a region Ð'- say in Spain Ð'- boutique as well as commercial wines Ð'- say from Italian sparkling to Chilean Chardonnay Ð'- and then you have to answer questions such as "wines one to four are of the same varietal but from different countries; identify the variety and its geographic origin".

Quite a challenge considering it would be a blind test and all you would see are glasses of wine Ð'- no bottles to give any clues!

Personalities and wine authors such as Jancis Robinson and Clive Coates are among the world's best-known MWs.

Note that the course is in English and most (90%) students are of Anglo Saxon origin.

There are local opportunities, too: this is the Ð''Wine Si Fu Challenge', an event organised by the Casa Vino Cellar Club earlier this year that was open to the public (for details about Casa Vino events, call 03-7724 2007).

Go back to school

You could take university-level courses leading to various degrees such as these offered by Australian universities and institutes of higher learning (

Ð'*Bachelor of Horticulture with an additional one- to two-year specialisation to receive a graduate diploma in wine.

Ð'*Bachelor of Science degree (three to fours years full-time) leading to a specialisation in viticulture and/or winemaking.

Ð'*Graduate Certificate in Oenology (winemaking processes), which is a series of modules offered within a few



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