Back to (Wine) school we go
As we stated in an earlier blog we enjoy exchanging experiences as gifts rather than material ones. Visiting wineries has become a hobby for us, but we have developed an interest in the entire winemaking process. Drinking and discussing wine can be intimidating, but with a little information and practice you can become a confident, knowledgeable wine drinker. Ever wonder what wine to take to a dinner party or offer as a gift? Been to a wine shop and feel overwhelmed by so many bottles of wine? It is easy to get intimidated. The more you know as the consumer the more the wine shop owner can help you pick out the perfect wine.
We decided to participate in the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 1 class. This program provides the student with internationally recognized standards and certification. This is important for those who want or have a career in the food and beverage industry. There are various levels of study (1-4) depending on your career or goals. Level 1 is ideal for those beginning their career or people, like us, who have an interest in wine. Depending on your goals you can complete the higher levels. Level 2 is an intermediate course that further explores wine. This level is for industry professionals and wine enthusiasts and requires outside of the classroom study time. Level 3 explores a deeper understanding of grape varieties and regions. This level requires more hours of preparation. Level 4 is the highest diploma offered by WSET. At this level you explore the industry from vineyard to the selling of the product. These descriptions are limited in scope. We just wanted to give you the basics. With each level there is more study and monetary commitment. If you are interested check out https://www.wsetglobal.com
I did a little research on wine education classes and found out that Morganton had a WSET instructor right here in Morganton. I had no idea we had this hidden gem of a resource. We spent a Saturday last December with Our Daily Wine School owner and WSET instructor, John Zimmerman. I had been reading “Windows to the World” by Kevin Zraly to prepare even though there are no prerequisites for Level 1. We sat with John at a Wagner family wine label tasting several weeks before our class. He is an extremely knowledgeable wine educator and enthusiast. He appreciated what we brought to the table, our love for North Carolina wines. We showed up to class with our book and class materials. We discussed the basic winemaking process, ways the winemaker can manipulate the flavor profile he/she is after, major grape varieties and regions, how food affects the taste of wine and proper wine storage. Food and wine pairings are important because flavors can affect the taste of wine, both enhancing the wine or destroying it. It was an enjoyable day discussing all things wine and pairing wine and food. We learned so much. After 6 hours of instruction it was time for the test, a 30 question 45 minute test. First we had a practice test. I did well on the practice test, but found the real test much harder. Not being a great test taker I second guessed myself on several questions. It took 30 business days to get our results. Finally we received our results and we both passed.
How does one become a wine educator? John became mildly interested in wine, as many did, after seeing Sideways in college and thought “how could anyone care this much about wine?”, but seeing the movie did spark an interest in him that he really didn’t fully activate until he started spending a lot of time in Europe during the summers. For 15 years prior to the COVID-19 outbreak he spent 4-6 weeks in the summer leading travel groups in Europe. Over time he became familiar with the classic wine styles of Europe. Like most people he had no idea what was going to be in the bottle of all those wines with fancy calligraphic script labels. Over time and immersing himself in the wine culture, he began to understand and enjoy wine. He often introduced his friends to new wines, especially over food. It was a personal experience for him just enjoying wine that he liked without too much thought of what went into the wine. Then COVID-19 hit and he found himself with a lot of time on his hands. Close friends begin to ask him to host tasting experiences online. He and his friend, Morgan, started offering online wine tasting events. These online classes developed into Our Daily Wine School, but he wanted credentials to go along with his passion. He completed WSET Levels 2 and 3 in 2020. He then registered to earn his WSET Diploma in April of 2022 and completed the requirements in June of 2022. That fall of he was notified that his research project and final assessment earned the WSET Pass with Merit. In other words he completed the WSET Diploma Level 4 all while continuing to teach wine tasting and education classes online. Our Daily Wine School not only offers in house wine tastings and pairings, but also WEST certifying classes as well. For the upcoming year Our Daily Wine School is partnering with the Morganton Wine Society to create monthly focused meetings. We will definitely be interested.