As someone who teaches courses run by the WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust), it's no surprise that I think wine education is important. On a personal level, I just love learning about wine (as well as many other subjects) and I love sharing what I've learnt. I first experienced wine by drinking and enjoying it, but what got me really hooked and drew me into the industry was learning all about wine, the history, the people, the grape varieties, the regions, the science, the trade, and so much more. But why is wine education important not just for wine geeks like me?
A frustrating aspect to wine is the snobbery and reverse snobbery directed to what is, after all, fermented grape juice. There is a sense of elitism, which is unfortunately proved by some within the industry but also believed by the general consumer. The concept of wine education can underscore that feeling: if wine needs to be educated about, it must be difficult and only understood by those in the know.
You of course don't have to have taken a wine education course to enjoy a glass of wine, just as you don't have to have a university degree in literature to appreciate a book. But wine education serves many purposes for both those in the industry and those who enjoy drinking wine.
For the wine industry itself, educational courses enable professionals to sell wine to consumers. This is why a school such as the WSET was created in the first place: to promote understanding of wine within the industry and therefore among the public who buy wine in restaurants or shops. Knowledge of the product is important in all trades, and wine is no different. And, again like any other product, wine needs to be sold—in this respect, education is vital.
Wine is a vast, broad topic and there's a lot to learn, which is why it can seem off-putting; and, unfortunately, there are wine professionals who do not wear their knowledge lightly. But wine is also a fascinating topic, which is why so many non-professionals take wine courses, whether casual introductory classes or more formal certifications.
This is how I got into wine. I wanted to go beyond appreciating a bottle to understanding it. I took an eight-week night class; and then WSET Level 1; and then WSET Level 2; and then WSET Level 3 in Florence; and then the Diploma, which I started in Manchester and finished in San Francisco. Learning about wine pushed me into the industry and it's how I met my wife. And now I live in California and run blackpoolmatt's wine club.
Rather than wine education reinforcing the idea that to enjoy wine you must have deep expertise, it helps wine professionals sell wine and furthers consumers' appreciation. Learning about wine has seen me travel and move around the world, and build a career. It might be that you just want to know a little about wine, or that you want to know a lot about wine. Either way, let wine take you where you want it to.