My father, Anthony Miles, of Miles Madeira, was an Executive Director of the Madeira Wine Company and my great uncles, Peter and Noel Cossart, were still working in the business. Peter, as head winemaker at Henriques & Henriques and Noel, of Cossart Gordon, was about to retire and write his seminal book on Madeira “The Island Vineyard”. Furthermore, my godfather, David Rutherford, of Rutherford, Osborne and Perkins, headed up a distribution company in the Drinks Trade in the UK.
From my mother’s, French side, I inherited a love of food and wine. I learnt at a very young age that the former cannot be enjoyed without the latter and vice versa. Probably because it was instilled in all of us by my grandfather, Étienne Vacher, who at the time was the Managing Director in the UK of what was then known as the British Transport Hotels, with famous hotels such as Charing Cross Hotel and The Grosvenor Hotel in London and Gleneagles and Turnberry in Scotland.
I spent most of my professional life working in or around the Drinks Trade in Europe, but it was only really when I came to Canada,eight years ago, that I re-joined the trade. This time on the wine education side, helping trade professionals to advance their careers in the industry and wine enthusiasts to make better, more informed wine choices.
Your school IWEG, offers both our French Wine Scholar™ and Italian Wine Scholar™ courses. What drew IWEG to Wine Scholar Guild courses originally and how long have you been teaching these courses?
IWEG has been running the French Wine Scholar™ program since September 2012 and the Italian Wine Scholar™ program since September 2016.
We realized that there was a need to complement our Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) awards with specialized study and certification programs that provided practical knowledge to our students, which would enable them to hit the ground running.
Those of our graduates who work in the Trade and have successfully taken these courses are using their acquired, specialized knowledge to make better wine buying decisions, as well as more informed customer recommendations.
Those students who are wine lovers and enthusiasts are enjoying also their newly found knowledge to make better drinking and cellaring decisions!
What type of education experience do you provide at IWEG that you think sets you apart?
With over forty years of operation, IWEG is passionate about helping our students achieve their personal or professional goals.
Our instructors, including two who are the globally top-ranked Wine Scholar Guild instructors, are subject-area experts and professionally trained educators, dedicated to student engagement and success.
Many of our graduates have progressed to assume leadership roles in the Drinks and Hospitality industries in Canada.
We have higher than global average pass rates for WSET courses, and offer a unique student experience, including proprietary study aids, the availability of study scholarships and field trips: experiential visits to local wineries to bring the classroom to life, all of which is only made possible by the generosity of our sponsors and trade partners.
On the community engagement front, we offer a host of monthly networking events and sought after master-classes at the school.
Finally, our student-centric approach means that our scheduling is diverse and flexible, offering in-class or online study; day or evening classes; and condensed or less intensive formats as well as custom corporate programming.
What are you most excited about right now, as far as the wine industry or the direction of wine education in Ontario? Are you working on any new projects or partnerships?
Right now, the wine industry in Ontario is going through tremendous change whether it be because of the still relatively recent introduction of beer and wine in private, grocery retailers (outside of the government controlled, LCBO, retail stores), or the “unknown” disruptive impact, which legalized consumption of marijuana (as of October 17, 2018) will have on the industry or simply because of changing buying patterns, as witnessed by the rapid growth of e-commerce sales, as Millennial consumers no longer distinguish between the physical and online retailing world.
However, in the last decade, demand for wine education in Canada has grown exponentially and is at a record high, as more and more businesses are recognising that education and well-trained staff are the foundations for better customer service, which will trigger repeat business, as well as stronger profits.
Coupled with this is the more recent interesting phenomenon that wine education is no longer just for the trade professional but appeals also to the “consumer/wine lover”, who aspires to know about and drink quality wines from the world’s classic wine regions.
At IWEG we are working hard to deliver world-class education across three separate streams: wine, spirits and sake. The latter is a very interesting segment, which is rapidly growing in terms of trade and consumer interest in Ontario.
However, I must say that we are very much looking forward to the launch of the Spanish Wine Scholar™ study and certification programme – the Spanish wine category is so important in Ontario and the new WSG course will be much in demand and a huge success for WSG and IWEG!
If you were a wine, what wine would you be and why?
I’m not a wine… but I will play along with you and try to answer to the best of my ability…. I would have to be true to my Madeira heritage…. resilient, some would say indestructible…, versatile: I can be dry or sweet or anything in between… and definitely authentic, inimitable!