Congratulations to Chad Watkins for successfully passing the Bordeaux Master-Level exam with the highest honors!
''I have been working in the wine industry for almost 10 years. I spent a year studying history and French language in Strasbourg, France. It was here I fell in love with wine. There are few wines better, à mon avis, than a brilliant Alsatian Riesling. Sadly I came back to the US where good Alsatian Riesling is hard to find. But, I couldn’t get rid of my love for wine, a topic that blends many of my great passions: history, geography, language, food. I began working wine retail to learn as much as I could. I tasted as much as I could, as often as I could and never turned down an opportunity which has led me to Bordeaux, Piedmont, Napa and back to Alsace to learn about wine. A few years ago I grew weary of retail and aspired to do more writing and education. This led me to start my own company, (Un)Common Grape, with the focus of helping people understand wine and make it a greater part of their everyday lives. This has been a hard road but is still my passion and my goal. Recently, an opportunity arose for me to learn more about the wholesale side of the business and I accepted a position as Brand Manager for The Winebow Group, specializing in Greek and Australian wines, two areas I am eager to learn about. Ultimately, I still hope to unify all these experiences to contribute to the wine education community allowing others to share their experiences with wine and talk about it in ways that make sense to them.
Apart from the Alsace ML course that I took last year, I have also completed my Certified Specialist of Wine with the Society of Wine Educators and have just begun sitting for my Diploma of Wine Studies with the WSET. Several years ago I also traveled to Napa Valley with the Napa Valley Vintners to complete their Wine Educators’ Academy, making me a Certified Napa Educator. I have continued this relationship and am now a Brand Ambassador for them. I also sat a similar course in Bordeaux at the CIVB in 2009.
I hope to continue my studies with the Wine Scholar Guild with more ML classes and will look at beginning to study Italian and Spanish wine as well as these are countries I know less about. However, my ultimate goal is to enroll in the MW program in the next 5 years. I see any wine education as valuable to this end.
Obviously, the ML program covered very similar material to the week I spent in Bordeaux, but that was several years ago and this was not only a good refresher, but as the wine industry is constantly evolving and changing, current information is always key. There was, for example, just starting to be a conversation about the Chinese market, but nowhere near what we understand today. The need for constant conversation and learning is so important in this industry, courses like the ML are vital.
As a wine professional, it’s important to me to have the right information at my fingertips. Especially in my market (NY/NJ) having to take the time to look something up or giving incomplete information is not only inefficient, but can sometimes come across unprofessional. It’s important to me that I know what I am talking about and can answer questions about wines quickly and accurately. Additionally, for me in particular as a younger professional, having courses like the ML program has given me lots of respect because of the knowledge I’ve gained and the ability that gives me to talk intelligibly about wines to other wine professionals and consumers.''