Congratulations to Stephen Kennard, IWS, for passing the Italian Wine Scholar exam with highest honors!
Although my background is finance and accounting I have always had a keen interest in the wine and drinks industry. I read my first wine book when I was thirteen and was brought up drinking interesting and exciting wines with my family. I went on to captain my university team in a National Blind Wine tasting competition but decided not to enter the industry at that time.
In recent years I have judged wines and spirits for various international competition and have also lectured on wine.
I regularly advise restaurants and bars from a finance perspective as start-ups or on-going businesses but also on various aspects of their drink procurement.
Most of my wine education has been self-study but after many years tasting and reading about wine I decided to formalize my knowledge. I consequently sat and passed the WSET Diploma.
Obviously the WSET Diploma is an excellent qualification. It is internationally recognised and is a high standard. However, it is also, by necessity, a generalist qualification. Some areas of the world are only touched on briefly and none in the detail provided by the Wine Scholars Guild. The WSG qualifications allow you to delve more deeply into the area of study and highlight nuances and subtleties that may be missed otherwise.
As many of my friends and colleagues drink French wines regularly I initially took the FWS exam to aid discussion and to help expand their experiences.
It was, however, the wines of Italy that I had a particular interest. Having spent many holidays there with my family I was in awe of the variety of wines produced and the different regions. Quite correctly, to cover this country in detail requires two comprehensive text books.
I have genuinely been impressed by the study manuals and details the courses provide so I am already started to plan additional exams with the WSG. I expect to study the Spanish course next before embarking on one or two of the Master programmes.
One area of the manuals that I have found particularly inspiring is the notes on local foods and traditions for eating and drinking. Although not necessarily tested in the exams these are areas that truly round-off the study and often bring everything into context. It will prove invaluable when visiting Italy and regional Italian restaurant.
Without doubt the IWS has fueled a renewed passion for Italy: its wines, food and culture. Hidden gems from less renowned areas can now be sought with confidence.