Congratulations to Lorna Rouse, SWS, for passing the Spanish Wine Scholar exam with highest honors!
I have worked in the Irish wine trade for almost 17 years and I guess you could say that I found myself in this sector by being in the right place at the right time. While studying for a Master’s degree in marketing I worked part-time in the Commercial Office of the Embassy of Chile in Ireland. Back then, Chilean wine was experiencing huge growth in the Irish market (it’s now in number 1 position!), with several of the leading brands having established offices in Dublin to capitalize on Ireland’s thirst for their produce. When the time came to choose a topic for my Master’s thesis, it seemed an obvious choice to focus on the wine market, as I had good access via the embassy to people working in the Irish wine trade. While researching my thesis I interviewed several people from the sector, carried out an in-depth study of the relevant market stats and was lucky enough to gain access to some wine trade events.
I recall being intrigued by the vibrant and thriving nature of the industry. I was so impressed by the depth of expertise and the passion of the people I met and with their generosity in sharing their knowledge that I set my sights on seeking a marketing role with a local importer. I have a clear memory of spotting the newspaper advert for my first role in the trade and instantly feeling “This is the job for me!”. Thankfully I secured the job and went on to work in marketing with Irish wine merchants for several years. I have since gained experience of the retail sector with an Irish-owned chain of wine shops. For the last five years I have worked in a business development role with United Wines—a wholesaler that services both on-trade and retail sectors. As the world of wine is ever-evolving, my goal is to view it from as many angles as possible over the course of my working life. This philosophy has served me well so far and will, I hope, continue to open doors to new experiences, as well as provide new opportunities to learn.
I studied the WSET courses up to Diploma level and completed the Certificate in Spanish Wine Education at the WSET’s wine school in London. Having studied Spanish in college and spent some time living in Spain during and after my student years, the country has always been close to my heart. As a member of The Certified Dipsos, a wine club for WSET Diploma students and graduates here in Dublin, I have had the opportunity to explore many wine regions throughout Spain, and across Europe. A few years back I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of weeks working in Bodegas Luzón in Jumilla during harvest time. I feel that this type of on-the-ground experience really enriched my wine education outside of the traditional classroom setting.
Like many of our colleagues in the wine trade, a shorter working week during the pandemic left me with some time on my hands. This gave me the opportunity to return to more formal wine education, so I enrolled in the SWS! The course was perfect for me, as it allowed me to refresh my knowledge of Spanish wines and bring it up to date, covering all the new and up-and-coming regions in mainland Spain and The Islands.
I have my eye some of the other very tempting courses being offered by the WSG, particularly the Certified Sherry Wine Specialist. I have heard whispers that there may be a Master-Level program in the pipeline that will focus on a Spanish wine region. I feel that the SWS program should give me an excellent base from which to embark on either of these courses.
The SWS has reignited my love of learning about wine, which is something that I will continue to nurture. I guess, like anyone who has worked in a particular area for quite a while, one can become rooted in a comfort zone when it comes to learning and knowledge. In our industry we are of course surrounded by wine and wine people on a daily basis. During the pandemic we have been deprived of our usual avenues of informal learning such as trade tastings and masterclasses, encounters with visiting winemakers and simple but very important things like tasting with fellow wine enthusiasts in an offline setting. I really felt the absence of these learning opportunities, which I had previously taken for granted. As we start to see some kind of normality return to the world and to our industry, I look forward to applying the knowledge I have gained from the SWS in my day-to-day work. I am keen to build on my rediscovered love of learning through future WSG courses and by diving back into the rich and bottomless source of knowledge that is the world of wine.