In the run up to taking over as Chair of the AWE I spent a while thinking about the priorities I had for our members, educators and wine trade. One of the main points that I kept coming back to was a desire to show wine enthusiasts there are wine educators and then there are ‘Wine Educators’ and that our members are the best in the business, with top notch knowledge, presentation skills and experience. Certainly, with hospitality closing up for the majority of 2020 there have been lots of opportunities for individuals to host online tastings and set up swanky looking websites and businesses. And there are many confusing job titles that, like in all industries, are really stretched and manipulated by certain people and used purely as a marketing ploy to get more traction. I was saddened to hear that a few businesses and friends wouldn’t do another wine event as their host just wasn’t up to scratch even though their online presence was indeed impressive.
So, for those in the AWE I ask that we all start using our logo in all correspondence to make it more obvious to wine lovers who to trust and learn from. To those not yet a member, get in touch!
And to all the wine fans who may wish to attend classes and tastings sometime here is a little guide as to what’s what in the UK. (The American system and others round the world tend to have slightly different gravitas on roles again)
Master of Wine (MW)
This is considered one of the top qualifications to aspire to and there are less than 400 in the world. It takes years of study and experience to pass the tough tasting and theory exams and was something my Grandfather was proud to introduce around the world as back in his day it was just a UK qualification. Don’t be fooled if someone claims to be a Master in Wine, this is exactly how cowboys try and get you!
Somms gain their experience in restaurants. The top qualification is a Master Sommelier (MS) which focusses more on service and food pairing than the MW but is considered of similar status. Lots of restaurants give the job title Sommelier quite freely and they may just work in the bar so make sure your wine host has attended The Court of Master Sommeliers, International Sommelier Guild or equivalent.
Specifically trained to teach you about the world of wine, look out for those who have their Wine and Spirit Education Trust, WSET, Diploma or higher, as mentioned above. All our full AWE members are qualified to this standard, are assessed before joining and should have mention of the Association on their signature or website.
These individuals tend to work for wine businesses and train the staff who work with their companies’ wines. Again, they should have WSET qualifications under their belt or be working towards a high level.
Oenologist/ Winemaker/ Vintner
The fabulous girls and guys that make wine. They have a wealth of knowledge and expertise but just as not all footballers will make good commentators pick wisely or you may be listening to someone take you through wine at their level and not yours.
Grape growers who need to get the berries on the vine just right for the perfectly balanced wine. Again, very interesting and knowledgeable especially if on your wavelength.
Journalist/ wine writer
This one is pretty obvious but what I always suggest is that you make sure you have a similar palate to critics if you are going to take advise on which wines to buy as recommendations and scores from some of the most influential writers can differ immensely, just like film or art reviews.
A classic example of a made up, impressive (?!) sounding expert. This time invented by yours truly to give the sense of combining learning and fun. But as I have mentioned as silly as the name may be I do have the qualifications behind me too.
Please do use this website to look up our members and get in touch with them to host your event. Or get in touch if you would like the chance to join us too.
Wine professional + AWE logo = some great learning and tastings!