Tag Archive - wset

The Return on Investment of Wine Education

… or why “consumers need more wine education” is wrong

It would appear to be widely accepted in the wine trade that if only consumers knew more about wine, the more, better (and higher profit) wines they’d buy.

“Consumer Education” in the form of brochures, seminars, events, newsletters, websites, apps, social networks, trips etc, form part of most every wine marketing plan (assuming they’ve even bothered). To quote one recent example, Tom Lewis (aka @CambWineBlogger) in a discussion on this topic initiated by Wink Lorch (aka @WineTravel):

(what we need is) more wine education, so people start to want better wines and feel confident about searching for them …

In other words, it isn’t a problem with the wine or how it is made available, it is really about a lack of knowledge. We can fix that. Right?

Continue Reading…

Wine blogging qualifications

I see that an interview I gave on the phone recently has been published in Harpers and I thought it would be better to add a few comments before I might upset any friends in the trade or blogging world.

I was asked, by Gemma McKenna at Harpers in the UK, whether I thought that bloggers “needed the WSET qualification”. The trade in general is very positive about it, understandably, and so most of the others she spoke to were fairly uniformly welcoming. It makes my dissent stand out all the more.

This is how I was quoted (full article is linked above):

What about the blogging community? Do they need formal qualifications?
Robert McIntosh, who runs wineconversation.com and is one of the founders of the European Wine Bloggers Conference, thinks not. “It’s a question that’s being continually asked and no one can agree,” he says. “I don’t think bloggers should have a qualification. The wine trade is really small, but so standardised when it comes to wine communication. One thing that puts consumers off is descriptions of wine that don’t mean anything to them – the average tasting note doesn’t help them understand.

“I personally never finished my WSET Diploma, but I don’t think that’s made a big difference to my life, other than missing out on contacts.

“The WSET tells you there is no right tasting note for a wine, but when you’re examined on a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, if you don’t tick the box “gooseberry” and instead write “it’s like being slapped in the face with a bunch of grass”, you won’t get the marks.

“I’m not trying to do down the WSET, I’d definitely recommend it to people. But if a blogger asks me if they need to do it before they start blogging I’d say no, do it your own way first. If they want to get into some more technical stuff later, then by all means.”

Consumers are telling us all the time that they don’t “get” wine writing, particularly professional tasting notes. What we need to find are new ways to engage consumers and make wine relevant to them. However, if we ALL take the SAME qualifications, we all use the same basis for reviewing wines, we create a uniformity of thinking that hampers our search for something new.

I think that much of what the WSET does, to standardise a general knowledge about the wines of the world and also bring a commercial element to wine learning that makes the trade more “professional”, is positive. It is useful to have a benchmark set for wine knowledge, especially if someone wants to work in the wine “business”.

But the question was, “do bloggers need the WSET”?. This is about wine communication, not wine knowledge.

Bloggers might ALSO be wine buyers, wine sales people and wine marketers. If in those roles they need wine qualifications, then that is a different point. But they could also be lawyers, computer programmers, retired pilots, teachers and much, much more.

I am concerned about their role as ‘people who express their opinions, experiences and knowledge via the means of a blog’. Passionate wine lovers who take the time to share that with others via a blog will generally also try and learn more about the wines, regions and people behind them, but do they all need to study the same curriculum?

I feel very strongly that the world of wine communication would be a poorer place if anyone who wanted to express their opinions about wine had to take a qualification, never mind the same one. If we really want creativity we need to welcome and support alternative points of view, and different ways to express that experience.

Of course, you are entitled to a different point of view.

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Wine Rating and Dating

I have touched on this once before in The Conversation Starter, but wine and dating are a good match (excuse the pun).

At the time Nicolla Greaves was organising occasional evenings on behalf of the WSET and they certainly caught some people’s attention.

Nicolla is still with the WSET but has obviously decided that there is a future in matching wine tastings & education with the proper business of finding a soul mate (at least one who will hopefully understand your obsessional wine buying habits in years to come).

She and Nigel Littlewood, with a background in running bars, have set up an events company dedicated to this new aspect of the wine business (or is it a new aspect of the love business?).

I must say that the idea of a speed dating event terrifies me, but then being happily married (and maybe even above the usual age profile) I am not the target market. However I may have 1 or 2 young, single readers out there looking to put their hard won knowledge of wine to good use [and if it works out, do let me know in the comments]. I think the idea of having a topic of conversation like wine to kick off your first meeting is a good idea. Wine is a topic that says something about a person, whether they consider themselves a ‘wine geek’ (not that I expect ANYONE to use that term on the night) or ‘novice’, you can still have a view.

So, if you fancy it (!), why not check out their site and go along to one of their events (first one is on the 7th of April).

Oh, and if you’ve bought one of those wine notebooks it could easily double up for taking down his/her number or email address!

Good luck! After all, as they say, “it is all a matter of taste”

How do you ask for Banyuls in Spanish?

Currently sitting in an internet cafe in Logroño, the capital of Rioja. I am here for a friend´s wedding tomorrow night which inconveniently sits on the same day as my Aunt´s celebration in Edinburgh and 2 days before my next wine test.

It is rather frustrating to be in this beautiful part of the world but have nothing but fortified wines on my mind so I can´t even properly enjoy the Rioja. My current worry is that I really ought to be trying to taste some Vin Doux Naturel, particularly a red like Banyuls, in case it comes up in the exam on Monday. Unfortunately I am not even likely to find any Sherry here, never mind Banyuls, so I think I will have to simply drink through the guilt barrier.

… oh, and before you ask, no I will not be seeking out any Moscatel de Valencia! I don´t care if it is on the syllabus.

all quiet on the blogging front

Sorry! Back on my WSET course, including two exams this week, so not much time to post, but will be back next week to answer Andrew’s point and follow up on this story too.

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