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How to become a wine and spirits expert

on June 26 | in Hospitality Industry | by Alaine Handa | with No Comments

Studying at Les Roches helped Alaine Handa discover her love of wine. Since graduating in 2015, Alaine has pursued her passion, studying a number of courses at the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), setting up her own blog and traveling to a number of renowned wine regions. She fills us in on her incredible journey and why others should immerse themselves in such a historic, beautiful world.

Discovering my passion for wine

I love everything about wine. From wine tasting and winemaking processes, to wine regions and stories from winemakers, everything about it intrigues me. When I was studying in Switzerland, I would spend at least 20 minutes picking out my bottle of wine at Coop or Migros, reading all the labels and being an all-round geek (something I still do today!).

It is always exciting to go to wine tastings and listen to what people think of the wines they are tasting, as well as hear the winemaker or wine sales rep discuss what the winemaking process and history behind the labels are.

During my studies at Les Roches, we had a crash course on wine with Mr Lasala as part of our bar, wine, and spirits service and theory course. The amount of material that was thrown at us was very thorough, but it piqued my interest. It then led me to sign up for the WSET courses in London. My former landlords in New York City were wine educators, and went on amazing cruises teaching wine education classes, as well as teaching wine classes in the little kitchen next to my apartment. I was so inspired by them and Mr Lasala’s passion in teaching others how to read a wine label, appreciate wine and learn about how a bottle can illicit so many different responses.

Wine for me is a primordial and sensorial experience. A beautiful bottle of wine can create a rush of emotions. My perfect glass is a complex red with berry, earth, meat and savory, with hints of oak, toast and nuts. Everyone has different personal preferences for what they constitute as their favorite wine. It is always exciting to go to wine tastings and listen to what people think of the wines they are tasting, as well as hear the winemaker or wine sales rep discuss what the winemaking process and history behind the labels are.

I have traveled to lots of locations famous for wine, and began documenting them in my blog. Visiting these regions inspires me, as well as helps me study for my wine exams at WSET.

Where to study wine and spirits

I chose the WSET courses in London as it is the organization’s headquarters and is recognized throughout the world. London also provides access to wines from all over the world. There are satellite schools across the globe that are WSET-accredited, so one does not have to attend the courses in London. There are even online courses through WSET, but you will have to purchase and source all the wines on your own. However, this would be a perfect option if you work in a wine bar or store.

Another option to study wine is to specify in a region like Bordeaux. Bordeaux Wine School has introductory and more in-depth courses. This would be a good option if you have a particular interest in the region and want to work for a speciality wine distributor or company. The advantage would be that you will be specialized and will learn so much about the wines in that particular region. It really depends on your goals.

First-hand experience of wine regions

I have traveled to lots of locations famous for wine, and began documenting them in my blog. Visiting these regions inspires me, as well as helps me study for my wine exams at WSET.

During my postgraduate studies at Les Roches, Mr Lasala took my class to a winery in Sion. We spent the whole day hiking through the vineyards, tasting wine, touring the winery and hearing the story of the winemaker. I have since traveled to Barossa Valley in South Australia, Bordeaux in France and Mount Etna in Sicily during the past year. There are amazing wine regions in the world that one could learn in-depth knowledge from. It really is the best way to study!

Interested in the world of wine? Les Roches has its own Wine Club, a student-run group where oenophiles (that’s wine lovers) meet to taste wine, exchange ideas and organize events.

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