Congratulations to Natalia Morrison, SWS, for passing the Spanish Wine Scholar exam with highest honors!
Over ten years ago, my husband, son and I left our home in Canada to move to Japan for a one to two-year family adventure. After having lived there almost 20 years before, my husband and I knew that our new home would be a perfect jumping-off point for touring around the area and decided early on to take full advantage of the opportunity.
On one of our earliest trips, we lucked into a short wine tasting event and were hooked. We’d enjoyed wines since our university days, but didn’t really know much about it. Our blind tasting events at the time consisted of two wines in paper bags and having our dinner guests vote on which they liked better – still an important question!
Recently, with our son now an adult, our holidays are mostly wine-related – Priorat, Piemonte, Tuscany, Provence, Languedoc-Roussillon, Tasmania and South Africa so far. All of these trips have had unique, memorable moments most of which revolved around winemakers sharing stories of how nature, or their initial lack of experience, challenged them as they tried to grow the best grapes and make the best wines they could but how they eventually triumphed - although sometimes after colossal failures. They reinforced the great truth that life is an adventure to be experienced to its fullest without regrets from not having gone all out to succeed at something you’re truly passionate about due to a fear of failure.
After recently “retiring” from the field of health and nutrition, I decided to take advantage of living in Hong Kong (our family had moved here after four years in Japan). I studied Traditional Chinese Medicine and got a Diploma in Clinical Acupuncture, wrote our family history, wrote a cookbook/resource guide with a lovely Filipina lady, and was asked to consider becoming a wine educator. Since then, I have been working part-time at AWSEC Hong Kong teaching WSET Levels 1 and 2.
After moving from Japan to Hong Kong, my husband and I looked for something we could do together in our free time. Remembering how much fun we had with the wine-tasting event on that fateful trip, we checked into wine courses in the area. We discovered AWSEC Hong Kong and began by studying WSET Level 1 in Wines. We went on to do Level 2 in Wines and Spirits, then Level 3 in Wines and then Level 3 in Sake. We also took a few interest classes focusing on German wines, South African wines, Bordeaux, Burgundy and more!
Having the available time, and the good fortune to win a scholarship, I then decided I would dedicate some time to completing the final WSET qualification – Level 4 in Wines and Spirits. I am now half-way through the second year and learning a lot – but realizing that there’s so much more to learn.
A dear friend I met while studying Level 4 introduced me to the Wine Scholar Guild. We had registered to go on the Wine Scholar Guild’s study trip to Alsace this summer and were devastated when it couldn’t go on due to COVID. Instead, we decided to take the Spanish Wine Scholar course as we both enjoyed Spanish wines but knew relatively little about them.
In WSET Level 4, the third unit covers “Wines of the World”. It’s massive and takes up the whole second year. Understandably, it cannot cover each region in depth. Instead, taking Spain as an example, it highlights key historical and regulatory factors, plus consumer demand, topography, climate and regionally-specific vineyard & winemaking components in assessing the quality and style of the wines that are made. In contrast, the Spanish Wine Scholar course was, by design, able to give me more of the comprehensive breadth and the depth I needed to really understand and appreciate Spanish wine styles from the different regions as well as the “big picture” that forms Spain and its wines. In my opinion, an absolutely invaluable complement to the WSET course of study.
I look forward to taking the French and Italian Wine Scholar courses (as well as future offerings!)!
The understanding I gained through this course has deepened my appreciation for Spanish wines and has increased my desire to go back to both visit and to try many more of the wines from different regions. Wine is such a great doorway to a country and Spain has a fascinating treasure trove of history, culture, gorgeous landscapes, and, of course, wines to offer its visitors. Spain – here we come!
Career-wise? Maybe one day, after travelling further in Spain and gaining more practical experience with its wines, I hope that I’ll be asked to teach this course to students eager to learn more about Spain and its wines!