Monday, January 23, 2012

A warm welcome to WSET in South Africa

A warm welcome to WSET in South Africa

Last week it was announced that WSET will start their lectures and wine courses in South Africa.

This is a great milestone in internationally recognized wine education coming at the right time, when it’s most needed in South Africa.

Yes wine education anywhere in the world in not cheap, not only the self investment one has to sacrifice in terms of time, travelling to wine regions, as well as key wine books one need to collect / buy, as well as the wine samples from all over the world, to taste, but many of the cost can also be alleviated by the local wine as well as the hospitality industry, provided they come to the party and see the long term interest and benefit that each and every trained young South Africans will not only bring value to their organization, but also increase levels of service.

I urge each and every winery, each and every hospitality organization as well as the South African wine journalism fraternity to see the positive side of having an institution such as WSET dispensing course in South Africa, embrace and support it, avoid the unnecessary negative queries, of why, who, when, where, how, etc etc, in this modern and competitive world there is no time for this as our competitors are not our next door neighbours, but any other wine producing countries and to be efficient we need internationally recognized wine education so as to equip each and every young individual with the best possible knowledge to perform their task professionally and deliver exceptional service.

It can only argurs well to the future of wine appreciation and dissemination of knowledge, which the whole of South Africa will benefit, not only brand South Africa, but basic to advanced understanding of wine knowledge for Food & Beverage service staff, because the reality out there is seriously challenging and each and every one of us with some kind of wine and beverage knowledge should share it, at no cost, give a lending hand to those willing to learn more about wine and motivated to accomplish great careers in wine and beverage

Press release below, courtesy of WINE.CO.ZA

A warm welcome to WSET in SA
12 January 2012 by Cathy Marston

A few years ago, a sure-fire ratings-grabber of an article either concerned cork vs screwcap or the thorny question of whether corkage should be allowed in restaurants - great for the three C's of clicks, comments and controversy.

But increasingly, it seems to me, the latest debates in wine circles (particularly online and 'socially') are on wine education - how much do people have, how much do they need, who should give it and what form should it take? Here’s what’s currently on offer in SA.

The stalwart educators in SA have long been the Cape Wine Academy - over 100 000 students have now passed through their hands over the last 30+ years and they offer a variety of courses including sommelier training, wine marketing and their highest qualification, Cape Wine Master. They have used their clout to great effectiveness, particularly when it comes to bringing wine to the drinking public in areas such as Gugulethu and Soweto, and I guess there are few people working in the SA wine industry who haven’t benefitted from a course or two in some capacity or other over the years. For those not based in the big cities,GetSmarter is an online educator which offers a ten-week wine evaluation course, linked to the University of Stellenbosch. And there are various other informal courses around the country, but in terms of recognised qualifications, so far, this has been it.

For many years, the international standard of wine education has been set by the UK Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) which first opened its doors in 1969. It offers courses up to an Honours Diploma, and their qualifications have been a part of the learning curve for the vast majority of Masters of Wine. Winemakers, wine marketers, wine journalists, wine enthusiasts and others from all over the world have studied with WSET, making them the most internationally-recognised wine qualifications anywhere, and the ones most useful for either anyone looking to travel and work overseas in the wine industry, or who deals with overseas buyers in their everyday job. Over 36 500 candidates sat a WSET exam last year alone, in more than 55 countries around the world, and now, these qualifications are available here in South Africa as well.

I will happily confess that this article is a relatively shameless plug for WSET, since I am now accredited to teach their courses in Africa. The coming months will see Levels 1 to 3 Certificate in Wine and Spirits being offered and, eventually, the WSET Diploma will also become available - the qualification which leads directly to MW. There are courses suitable for waitrons or tasting room assistants wanting to find a Chablis-equivalent to recommend to their visitors, and others for international sales and marketing managers who need to understand the styles of wines he or she is competing against around the world.

But, you may say, the CWA already offers similar courses – why do we need anyone else? Well, whilst I would never claim that WSET is the be-all and end-all of wine education, in the same way that ‘insularity’ and ‘lack of internationally-recognised standards and benchmarking’ are charges frequently-flung at other areas of the SA wine industry by overseas journalists, I think that having access to an alternative, external offering is no bad thing.

Exports are of massive importance to the majority of the wine industry and, as anyone in sales knows, talking the same language as your customer is a big advantage. There are now more people who study and pass WSET outside the UK than domestically, with the biggest growth region being Asia - a key export target for many a SA winery, and one seeing an almost 200% increase in WSET qualifications last year. Studying WSET gives common ground with wine industry personnel, buyers and commentators around the world - not just in terms of the breadth of knowledge, but also in the ability to benchmark oneself amongst peers. And as a final, financial incentive to consider taking a WSET course, Jancis Robinson MW graciously allows WSET students a generous discount on access to her ‘Purple Pages’ website as well! I think it’s time for SA to join the WSET party, don’t you?

Cathy is putting the final touches to her 2012 programme of WSET courses including venues, dates and prices. For more information or details of running an in-house course for your employees, please email her on