Throughout the UK right now if you're in the wine trade you won't have failed to notice the number of 'wine students' at tastings. They're also highly active on social media, eager to share their new found knowledge with anyone who'll listen.
Global candidate numbers for the WSET courses are up by 19% in the 2016-17 academic year. Everyone, it seems, wants to learn about wine. But there is a serious side to this topic. How do brand owners and wine companies harness this raw energy and translate it into value for their business? You can fill a tasting with people eager to educate their palates, but when will that convert into sales?
That our industry is attracting so many amateurs is to celebrated. But will these new ambassadors continue their interest professionally, or switch off within a slurp?
Retaining their interest and enthusiasm is linked to well-devised educational campaigns which instruct and inform. Accredited, professional courses are a valuable means to keeping talent and enthusiasm within our business. Many wine producing regions have instigated their own educational programmes, for example, the One Day Wine School run by Wine Australia in association with the WSET, or the Official Sherry Educator Course run by the DO Jerez y Manzanilla. These are courses which impart essential knowledge and build relationships with people who are potentially future influencers and attending tastings and events is an essential extension of their classroom learnings.
A collective groan can often be heard when lists of attendees are circulated, "Oh, they're all students". Beware cynicism. Those students might well be the next Majestic buyer or London City Girl...