Every time I tell people about the college summer I spent in Geneva, Switzerland perfecting my French, I get the inevitable salacious question about whether I learned French “à l’oreiller,” or ‘by the pillow.’ The Swiss countryside sojourn with the sophisticated banker who introduced me to wine was depressingly Rated G (see my April 27 post). While I’ve had many a gringa girlfriend share stories about learning español in-country with the help of a Latin lothario, I, sadly, had no such luck with my French.
I did, however, approach my French studies the way I approach learning about anything I’m passionate about – intensely focused and relentlessly goal-oriented. Which brings me to wine. This weekend finds me cramming for the final exam in the UCLA Extension “Introduction to Wine” class. So I thought I’d take a break from the books to blog about getting schooled in wine, for those of you who are thinking of pursuing a more formal approach to learning about vino.
First things first: Ask yourself what you want to do with your wine knowledge. Maybe you’d like to…
- Sound reasonably smart at wine tastings
- Know what to look for when you’re buying or selecting wine
- Impress your hombre, mujer, amigos
- Work in the wine business (restaurant, hospitality, retail, etc.)
- Become a sommelier
- Teach classes about wine
- Channel your inner Francis Ford Coppola and make your own wine
- Add to your impressive display of framed diplomas and certificates
For me, it’s the first two. That’s why I’m considering pursuing a certificate in Wine Education and Wine Management from UCLA Extension. I just learned last week that the program is now accredited, which will add credibility in some circles.
If you’re serious about working in the wine business, explore programs offered by the Court of Master Sommeliers, the Society of Wine Educators, the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, the California School of Culinary Arts, or the International Sommelier Guild (www.internationalsommelier.com).
If you really do want to make wine or rack up a prestigious diploma, one of the most reputable degree programs in winemaking is at UC Davis, where you can get a B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in viticulture and enology. (El Full Disclosure: I am a graduate of the University of California and admit some bias toward UC programs!)
This is by no means an exhaustive list; if you have additional resources or suggestions on pursuing a wine education, I’d love to hear from you. And as my Intro to Wine instructor cautions, be rightfully skeptical of any wine education program whose offers sound too good to be true.
Okay, I’ve procrastinated long enough – back to the books…and the botellas.