Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Wine Education in Singapore

"It’s like the desert winds flowing through Egyptian ruins on a mid-summer’s night with a beautiful princess waiting open armed for me. My mind fills with poetry tasting the wine from barrel." With tasting notes such as these (and from a reputable critic, no less), it's no wonder that the wine drinking fraternity has attracted an unsavoury reputation for high-handedness and arrogance. There's even a term for it, "wine snob", a person who believes that his or her knowledge is superior to everyone else's because they drink far more expensive wine.

Counterintuitively, the more a person knows, the more modest the person becomes. Not because education improves character, but realising the scope of a subject is often a humbling experience. This is particularly so in the incredibly diverse field of wine studies. A knowledge of chemistry, plant biology, geology, microbiology, engineering, and sensory assessment is necessary in wine production, while economics, marketing and public policy studies assist in the understanding of wine as a consumer product. And of course, no study of wine would be complete without thorough coverage of its history and geography.

Source: www.thedrinksbusiness.com

Interest in wine education in Asia has seen a manifold increase, perhaps unsurprisingly seeing how seriously education is regarded in this region. The Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) saw a 200% jump in its Hong Kong and China business over the past year, with enrolment numbers matching those in the UK. Closer to home, the top three examination bodies are the WSET, the Society of Wine Educators and the Court of Master Sommeliers. The WSET courses provide a solid introduction to wine, and become progressively more complex at the higher levels where a deep understanding of the wine trade is required, as well as a keen tasting aptitude. The Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) course offered by the Society of Wine Educators provides a global coverage of wine styles with additional focus on US winemaking regions. Lastly the Certified Sommelier course from the Court of Master Sommeliers focuses on the sales and service of wine.

I recently visited Verre Wine Bar, a new hangout at Robertson Quay specialising in Bordeaux and Burgundy wines. The owner, Melvin Tan, is an opera singer as well as a wine lover (if you're lucky, you'll be able to catch him singing at the restaurant on weekends). When I was there for dinner on a slow weekday night, one of his staff was poring over a stack of wine books in preparation for a wine exam the next day. It's a situation mirrored in many restaurants in Singapore as managers realise the need for the specialised skills of a sommelier.

There are numerous local wine appreciation classes as well as some courses developed by WSQ. I have not included them here as they are not internationally recognised. I hear rumours that WSET may be opening up an office in Asia within the next two years, and of the Diploma course being offered locally, but at this point nothing is confirmed. It would be difficult to find people with the requisite academic credentials to tutor the Diploma classes. In the meantime, the following two institutes are your best bet if you are interested in taking up a wine course.  

Shatec Institutes
Offers WSET Intermediate and Advanced courses

Winecraft Marketing & Services
Website: http://www.winecraftmktg.com/
Contact: hweepeng@winecraftmktg.com
Offers the Certified Specialist of Wine course

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