From Wine Enthusiast to Certified Wine Lover - Wine Certification Programs

From Wine Enthusiast to Certified Wine Lover

By Wine No Comments

Ready to take your love of wine to the next level?  Well, you’re not alone.  Wine certification programs aren’t just for those seeking a professional position within the wine industry anymore and have become increasingly popular with wine enthusiasts across the country.

There are a number of options when it comes to wine certification, so how do you choose which one is right for you? It depends on your ultimate goal as well as your skill set.  Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help you narrow it down:

  • Why are you looking to get certified? This could be for personal enrichment, professional advancement, “street cred”, for the good fo the wine industry or if your organization wants you to.
  • Are you looking to be a wine specialist or wine generalist? Is there a specific wine type or region that you are particularly interested in? Or are you looking to gain more general knowledge about wine overall?
  • How much time are you able to commit to getting certified? Different programs require different time commitments.  Make sure you fully understand what those will be before starting your program.
  • What degree of difficulty are you willing to undertake? Or in other words, how much studying are you willing to do?
  • What is your “tipping point” when looking at the cost/benefit ratio of a program? Wine certification programs vary greatly when it comes to cost – but overall, the higher the certification you are seeking, the higher the cost.

Now to look at a two of the main wine certification options for the wine enthusiast (or someone not looking to fully work in the wine industry):

      • The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET)
        • The program includes five different levels of certification, highest being an Honorary Diploma in Wine and Spirits.
        • Study can include both wine and spirits
        • The program requires no prerequisites to begin
        • Courses range from $199 – $875
        • If you were interested in wine jobs, you could expect the following roles for this certification:
          • Marketing position in a wine-related business
          • Wine Educator
          • Wine Distribution Manager
          • Sensory Analyst
      • The Society of Wine Educators (SWE)
        • The program includes a number of certifications:
          • Hospitality/Beverage Specialist Certificate
          • Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW)
          • Certified Specialist of Spirits (CSS)
          • Certified Wine Educator (CWE)
        • Study can include both wine and spirits
        • This program requires no prerequisites to begin
        • Courses range from $100 – $550
        • If you were interested in wine jobs, you could expect the following roles for this certification:
          • Wine Educator
          • Many roles within the hospitality and beverage industry
          • Wine Director
          • Beverage Manager

There are, of course, many more wine certification programs but most are focused on educating wine professionals rather than the everyday wine enthusiast.  If you are seeking a professional position in the wine industry, the programs listed above are excellent resources as well as the Court of Master Sommeliers (MS), the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW), and the Wine Scholar Guild (formerly French Wine Society).

Living in the Moment: the South American Attitude Towards Life

By Food, Taste Vacations, Wine No Comments

Traveling through Chile & Argentina over the past few years, I’m always struck by the beauty, cuisine, and, of course, wines of these charming countries.  But what has had the biggest impact on me is the South American attitude towards life. From my perspective, South Americans enjoy focusing on living in the moment rather than have their lives be dictated by a clock.

As a North American that used to be in the heart of the hustle and bustle of a large metropolis, working a fast-paced, high-stress job, and being one of those people who never used all of my given vacation days, I can wholeheartedly appreciate this kind of life philosophy. Us northerners can take a page from our southern friends and take a step back to enjoy each experience to the fullest. Now that I have my dream job where I get to split my time between the marketing of Taste Vacations and Zephyr Adventures, and guiding tours all over the globe, I find myself trying to help our guests to do just that.

There have been many times, especially at the beginning of a trip, where I’ve needed to gently remind a guest that vacation isn’t necessarily about getting from point A to point B so that you can check it off your list. But it is rather about the journey and experiences that bring you from one destination to the next, even if some of those experiences were unplanned. In fact, it’s the unplanned ones that usually end up creating the best memories!

But there are two sides to every coin. As a travel guide leading a tour through South America, it can be tricky to stay on schedule and make sure that you are delivering on the promises that the tour itinerary has laid out. Things happen at a slower pace in Chile & Argentina, which means we have to sometimes pad our itineraries to account for delays in crossing borders, the time it takes to get a lunch bill paid at a small restaurant, hotel check-in processes, etc. Though we try to predict where these delays can happen and plan accordingly, we can’t always foresee the hiccups that arise.

In my mind, a perfect solution would be to meld the two approaches together. At Taste Vacations, we actively try to blend the efficient and detail-oriented processes of North America with the South American ability to slow things down and truly savor what life has to offer. I encourage you to try to do the same, wherever your next vacation may be.

Wine Blogs for Wine Tourists

Top 5 Wine Blogs For The Inquisitive Wine Tourist

By Wine 2 Comments

At Taste Vacations, we are clearly passionate about wine travel — we have more luxury wine tours than any other type of offering.  In our free time, we also love to read about wine travel and have a few favorite wine blogs where we pick up tips about exploring new wine regions or tasty tidbits about some of the old standards. Below we’ve compiled a list of wine blogs that show a variety of perspectives, highlighting a number of different wine regions.

5 Wine Blogs You Should Start Reading

    1. EnotecaMarcella – Looking to learn more about Italian wines? EnotecaMarcella is the wine blog for you.  Marcella’s main goals are to introduce you to the expansive list of Italian grape varietals and wines, teach respect for the Italian culture, and be a resource for the latest information on the current world of Italian wines.
    2. Wine Country Getaways –  Before planning your next California wine vacation on your own, you’ll want to consult Wine Country Getaways. Janelle and Joe Becerra have been exploring California wine country since 1965 and have a wealth of knowledge to bestow.  They provide recommendations for wineries that most wine country visitors will find interesting and fun, as well as provide wine trail guidance so that you can experience a wide range of different types of wineries.
    3. Ken’s Wine Guide – In search of the perfect wine for you next event? Look no further than Ken’s Wine Guide.  Ken features notable wines, restaurants, wineries, and wine country accommodations for wine lovers of all ages and knowledge levels.
    4. Riviera Grapevine – Chrissie McClatchie brings a fresh perspective on French wine as an Australian living in Nice, France. Working in the wine industry herself, she provides tips, recommendations, and resources that would be beneficial to anyone planning a trip to the Riviera.
    5. Grape Expectations – You’ll find a little bit of everything on Grape Expectations.  Cindy Rynning writes about various wine regions, wine varietals and tasting techniques; features interviews with winery owners and wine experts; and shares delightful stories of her wine travels.
Undurraga Terroir Hunters

The Emergence of the Terroir Hunter in Chile & Argentina

By Taste Vacations, Wine No Comments

On a recent trip through Chile last November, I had the pleasure of touring the stunning grounds of Viña Undurraga.  During the tour, the guide introduced me to a new term that I have quickly fallen in love with – Terroir Hunter. Basically, a Terroir Hunter is someone that seeks out premium veins of soil to help optimize the growth of specific varietals of grapes in previously unexplored areas.  Undurraga is one of the leading vineyards employing this type of practice and has even dedicated a whole line of wines under the TH (Terroir Hunter) label.

According to Undurraga, “T.H. is an innovative project in Chilean winemaking. After more than a century of producing wine, Chile is reinventing its viticulture, taking more risks, getting off the beaten track and emphasizing its diversity of climate, soil and topography. A country almost 5,000 kilometres long with abrupt topography ranging from sea level to mountains as high as 6,000 metres has potentially many more wine production areas than those that have historically been cultivated, which are located mostly in mid-Chile’s central valley. In fact, over the last decade, a small number of winemakers have ventured beyond the traditional areas. T.H. seeks to be the leader in this quest to explore new winemaking regions.”

Check out Undurraga’s video explaining their TH program.

Focusing on the terroir is certainly not a new practice for the rest of the world’s wine regions, but it is quite groundbreaking for South America. Over the past ten years or so, there has been a big shift in thinking, from caring mostly about the ease of farming and quantity of production to the terroir and ultimately the quality of the wine.  Eric Asimov of The New York Times recently wrote about the same shift occurring in Argentina in his article To Move Beyond Malbec, Look Below the Surface.  One potential reason for the slow adoption of this practice may be the complex nature of Chile and Argentina’s soil.  “The process has been a challenge because the soils of Mendoza are incredibly complicated… The soils change radically from one row of vines to the next, sometimes over a matter of meters.”

As a consumer, it will be interesting to see how the wines from this region transform over the next few years as the Terroir Hunters track down untouched pockets of exquisite terroir right under their noses.

Cortona, Tuscany, Italy

The Simple Pleasure of A Tuscan Gastronomical Adventure: Cortona, Italy

By Food, Wine No Comments

There is a very large hill leading up to the town of Cortona in the province of Arezzo, in Tuscany, Italy. Seemingly endless switchbacks give light to the infinite beauty below the town, rolling hills of vineyards and hay slowly falling back as you continue to climb up. The ambiance is enhanced by the setting sun on my last ascent up to the breathtaking town.

I have a hand-drawn map, given to me by a friend who has spent many years exploring Italy. I have never been to Cortona before, but I know exactly where I want to go, even if I can not pronounce the name of the venue properly.

Tucked into one of the tiny winding streets that spiral the city center, my restaurant awaits me. I walk in and point to a table outside. Sitting down, the aromas of fresh bread and rosemary assault my nostrils in the most pleasing way. I decide then and there to indulge in ½ liter of house red wine, linguine all’arrabbiata as my primi piatto (first course), and the pollo al marsala as my secondo piatto (second or main course). Now that the hard part of deciding what to order is over, I peacefully wait to savor my meal.

First comes the fresh bread, still warm. I drizzle olive oil on the plate with a few sporadic drops of balsamic vinegar and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. The wine is dark and robust, perhaps too strong, but it tastes good. I tell myself it has antioxidants in it and drink up.

About 10 minutes later the arrabbiata arrives, al dente, of course. I am always amazed at how such a simple dish of fettuccine, olive oil, garlic and chili pepper in a simple tomato sauce can taste of utter perfection. I love spice and this heat gives balance to the often astringent garlic. All is made smooth and subtle by a homemade tomato sauce that tastes nothing like anything I have been served in the states.

Next my beloved chicken marsala, a dish so savory I can’t help but close my eyes while I enjoy the first few bites. Essentially, it is a butter and wine sauce finished with mushrooms and fresh herbs. There is something about it that makes it seem like these ingredients were destined for each other since the dawn of time. Chicken dredged in flour and sometimes lemon, then pan fried and topped with marsala. At this point in my meal, I am very happy that I ordered as much wine as I did, for it has opened nicely and balance has been achieved.

I finish my meal with a panna cotta topped with fresh raspberries, and a macchiato, because I still have to ride my bike home. The panna cotta was clean, pure, and simple. The raspberries were small and wild, full of flavor and giving of nutrients. I was in a complete state of bliss. The family who kept the restaurant has continuously checked in on me, as though I am starved for conversation (it seems they forgot I don’t speak Italian) or perhaps they too enjoyed the ambiance, the aroma, and the incessant smirk on my face for being in the right place at the right time.

Post written by Kerry Dopler, Taste Vacations’ Customer Care Coordinator.

You too can enjoy the simple pleasures of an extraordinary Tuscan meal.
Join us on the Tuscany Food & Wine Tour!