Meet Christophe Mercier, founder of Wine & Spirit IQ in Bangkok, first wine school to launch the French Wine Scholar and Italian Wine Scholar programs in Thailand!
Could you give us a bit of background on your personal and/or professional history in wine and what made you decide to create your own wine school: Wine & Spirit IQ?
Hi, my name is Chris. I am a wine geek based in Bangkok. Born and raised at the crossroads between Jura, Alsace and Burgundy, I was exposed to wine at an early age: At every family meals, my dad sent me to go and fetch bottles of wines down the dark cold cellar! (at the time I was still afraid of “the monster under the stairs”). As a teenager I went to culinary school and I particularly enjoyed learning about wine. I had a Master who taught me to understand what I was tasting, and I really got a kick out of it. After school, I went to work in Hotels, Relais & Châteaux, Michelin-starred restaurants in France, the UK, Canada, the US, the Caribbean’s, and ended up in Thailand. I quickly realized that the more I learned about wine, the more there was to learn. But what is knowledge if you don’t share it? When I arrived in Thailand, while still working in hospitality, I was invited to teach a few F&B classes on a part-time basis in Universities. This eventually led to a full-time position with a famous culinary school for which I launched a wine studies program. After several years of success, with a few friends, we decided to offer our own wine classes; and so, Wine & Spirit IQ was born.
What type of education experience do you provide that you think sets you apart?
After over ten years in Thailand, I have come to understand a little about the local market. It seems that both Thai wine lovers & professionals are thirsty for knowledge, but nobody like to be taught! So, the approach is to guide rather than teach. The world of wine can be a complex maze, and I see myself as a sort of “Ariadne's thread” for learners to find their way into this maze, discover what they like and to make sense of it all. Fortunately, Yui, Miew and Nicky - the other educators in this venture - share the same philosophy and they can run classes in both English and Thai. We believe in practical-based, learner-centered experiences; not educator-centered programs, but don’t get me wrong: Every educator holds either a WSET L3 or Diploma and/ or the Italian Wine Scholar and French Wine Scholar certifications.
Wine &Spirit IQ is going to be the first wine school to launch a WSG program in Thailand, could you tell us more about the wine education market in Thailand? Are certification programs important and popular?
The wine education in Thailand is still in its infancy. We see great efforts by importers, distributors, retailers (and even producers) who offer frequent informal wine tastings and wine dinners. This greatly contributes to the local wine culture. However, professionals and enthusiasts have only a few local options to learn a bit more formally about wine; and even less options regarding globally recognized certifications. As a result, many enroll online programs or, when they can afford it, fly abroad to learn. So, by bringing the Wine Scholar Guild to Bangkok, we hope to fill this gap. The wine & spirit trade is becoming increasingly professionalized, and we want to contribute to the acceleration of this trend.
Christophe, if you were a wine, which one would you be or like to be?
Arbois, Domaine du Pélican Ouillé Savagnin 2016. Shy at first, (it’s from a cool climate alright), it slowly reveals complex scents, reminding minerals, lees and citrus zest. Bone dry, full-bodied, almost creamy on the palate, it has a long lingering fresh finished.