Sharon McLean is a Certified sommelier, DipWSET and Approved French Wine Scholar Program Provider at her firm Cru Consultancy, which she owns and operates with her partner, Treve Ring.
She is also the Lead Instructor for the Wine Scholar Guild’s Live Online French Wine Scholar course series, an MW candidate, freelance wine writer and international consultant!
Sharon, given that we couldn’t fit all of your accolades and projects into that introduction it’s safe to say you are one incredibly busy woman! How do you fit all of this in? And... how did you start your wine journey?
Yes, I think you could say that! The trick is that I love what I do. I love teaching, I love learning and I’ve met some incredible people in this crazy industry. It all flows from there.
My wine journey started about 15 years ago, when my children were 6 and 8. Being a mum is the best, but I also needed some “me” time. To do something where I was “Sharon”. I’d always enjoyed wine and I thought a wine course would be fun. Wow, was it ever!
I was hooked and took course after course, starting working part-time in a liquor store and it snowballed from there. It’s crazy how one little decision can shape your life.
Your school, Cru Consultancy offers both our French Wine Scholar and Italian Wine Scholar courses. How long have you been teaching the courses and what drew you to Wine Scholar Guild courses originally?
I’ve been teaching FWS for six years. When FWS launched I was teaching classes in Victoria for the Art Institute of Vancouver. The head instructor there, Mark Shipway, had already taught FWS in Vancouver and had received great feedback from students.
Mark delivered the first class in Victoria and I audited it. I was impressed by the depth and breadth of the curriculum, the quality of the materials and I loved the focus on history. It seemed to fill a real gap in the wine education market.
When IWS was launched it was a natural extension and we were proud to be the first school in Canada to launch –albeit by mere days!
You are the lead instructor for our Live Online French Wine Scholar course. What do you like about teaching these programs in this way and what are the challenges?
Let me start with the challenges! Speaking to a laptop screen for an hour is hard. I’m used to seeing my students and being able to read their body language to know who is bored, who is confused and who is actively engaged.
Without that immediate feedback, it’s hard to gauge if I’m speaking too slowly or too quickly. It is also a challenge to read questions in the chat box and hold onto what you are saying.
We’re on the fourth run now though and I think I’ve gotten the hang of it and I have to say I really enjoy it!
I am so impressed with the level of energy and dedication from our students. It is obvious they have studied hard and done the reading before they come to class and are eager to absorb as much new knowledge as possible.
In a strange way, I also feel I do get to know some of the students’ personalities even though they are in different countries or cities and I can’t see their faces.
The way students type their answers or ask questions shows off a bit of their unique characters and it’s fantastic to see students from all over the world engaging with each other and enjoying the course and the educational experience.
O.k. last question. If you were stuck on a desert island for a really long time (think longer than Tom Hanks in Castaway) and had to choose ONE wine to enjoy on the island during that time (without consideration of cost), what would it be?
Oh heavens. One wine? For ever? Nothing else?! No, oh well. I’d be horribly predictable and go for a Champagne. Pierre Gimonnet, Brut 1er Cru, Rose de Blancs. Seriously delicious pink that would pair well with the endless fish I’d no doubt be eating.