Congratulations to Mary Pittman-Jones, SWS, for passing the Spanish Wine Scholar exam with highest honors!
Prior to moving to the UK in 1983, I was neither a wine enthusiast nor a professional. I was an English literature teacher, but upon arriving in Clapham in the 1980s, I was fortunate to work at a wine bar and restaurant owned by a wine enthusiast, Derek Orme, who noticed my interest in his wine list (truth is, I was absolutely lost in his 200+ list of wines from all over the world) and paid for me to start working toward the Wine Spirit Education Trust Diploma. I worked in the trade throughout the 80s managing Derek’s wine bar/restaurant and later a wine shop in Chelsea. At the time that I was studying at WSET, the Master of Wine qualification was open only to UK citizens, so, being American, I finished my wine study with the Diploma.
When my husband changed jobs, I returned to teaching, this time in France and then later in the United Arab Emirates. We recently retired back to London, and I wanted to update my wine credentials. I needed a course that would build on my previous knowledge but also inform me on the latest changes in viticulture, vinification methods, and wine law. As soon as I found the Wine Scholar Guild courses by searching online, I felt they were exactly what I was looking for. Whether I come out of retirement to work in the trade again or whether I just pursue my desire to find wines that I have never tasted before, the Wine Scholar Guild has given me a firm understanding of Spain, its regions, the strengths and challenges of wine production in the 21st century, and an appreciation of the incredible work that is being accomplished by winemakers all over the country.
If there were further courses available that would allow me to go deeper into each Spanish region, to learn more about individual producers and their methods in the vineyards and wineries, I would take them. I had a wonderful experience with Rick Fisher in the online course, who brought his passion for all things Spain into the region by region study.
I took the Wine and Spirit Education Diploma between 1984-1987 in London at the Upper Thames Street site. When we returned to live in London in 2019, I wanted to refresh and update my knowledge of wine after being out of the trade for 30 years. Since my main interests are in Spanish, French, and Italian wines, the SWS seemed perfect for me. In just 15 weeks, I feel as if I have a solid foundation on the Spanish wine industry in 2020.
When the quarantine is over, and we can return to London, I will take more SWS courses. Right now we are in quarantine in our house in the Pyrenees-Orientales, on the Spanish border. Our internet access is not robust enough for me to follow an online course right now.
I learned an enormous amount of information in an organized manner through this course. I can talk competently about the similarities and differences in wine styles across Spain and the impressive number of indigenous grapes that lend Spanish wines their distinctive character. I have already taken advantage of the knowledge in purchasing wines at the huge Grau wine store in Palafrugell, Catalonia, just before the quarantine began – wines that I never would have purchased previously. I look forward to exploring more after the pandemic has subsided and sharing my good finds with friends and relatives.