‘How did you end up in the wine industry?’. This is the question I have been asked the most over the past 14 years after people learn of my job. Let me tell you how it happened.
Wine had been part of my diet for several years already, but it wasn’t until I had started my first serious job that I began to understand the complexity and extensiveness of the subject wine. After graduating from university, I was lucky to find work at a publishing company of food and wine related books and magazines. In this function I got introduced to numerous wine writers, wine importers, wine retailers and wine events. I then knew I wanted to gain more wine knowledge, so I completed the WSET Level 2 in Wines course at a local wine shop.
At one point my employer asked me to attend The Australian Wine & Food Experience in Amsterdam and to write an article about it. The event involved a food pairing with wines from the Barossa Valley, presented by Matt Skinner, an Australian sommelier and wine author, best known as Jamie Oliver’s wine guy.
Being a country girl I had left for the big city well in time and arrived way too early at the venue. The only other person in the room had his back turned towards me. He looked like a surfer dude, with his messy hairstyle, old jeans and flannel plaid shirt. Call me prejudiced, but his appearance together with the fact he was setting the tasting room, made me believe he was the waiter. Only when he turned around and introduced himself, I realised he was Matt, the guy from down under hosting the show. This introduction was a prelude to what was to come. A fun, low-key, relaxed, easy-to-understand and entertaining tasting.
In my younger years I had always associated wine as a drink for the elite and, more specifically, older men with serious facial expressions and Burgundian lifestyle bellies, using all these difficult words when sipping wine. This tasting event was a big revelation. A game changer. Matt made wine young, trendy and no-nonsense. This could be something for me! This is what I wanted to do. To simplify wine, to make it accessible for a broad audience. Serious but unpretentious, inspiring and fun.
Not long after Matt’s presentation, I passed my WSET Level 3 Award in Wines exam, quit my job as marketing & sales manager and began working in that very wine shop where I had done my first WSET wine course. A career switch that gave my parents a headache, but one I needed to make for myself. I had to start from scratch to work my way up the wine career ladder.
Since then I have completed the WSET Diploma Level 4 in Wines and Spirits, started my own APP (WSET Approved Programme Provider) in the Netherlands, have been teaching about wine, have hosted countless wine tastings, have worked in wine cellars and vineyards, have imported wines and have travelled the world to promote Spanish wine as export manager.
Today, taking a glance at my signed copy of his book Thirsty Work, I read Matt Skinner’s dedication: “Happy Drinking Always”. This is what he wished me back in 2008 and that is exactly what I have been doing ever since!
I wish you wine lovers the same and would like to add “Never stop learning.” WSET wine education helped me find my wine career path. Keep an open mind and never cease to marvel at the many facets of wine.