As happens with many cultural products, wine can be experienced in a fun and convivial way, as well as in a technical and professional sense, with a very high degree of work specialization. We talked about the new opportunities available for those who want to work in the world of wine with sommelier Cristina Mercuri.
Wine education today offers various possibilities for wine enthusiasts. Cristina Mercuri has recently launched her academy for enthusiasts and professionals: it is called Wine Club and is based on the international WSET standards. It offers training, information and consultancy solutions for those who want to learn more about oenology and is aimed at those who are passionate about wine but are not necessarily interested in the world of service. Let's see all the opportunities available today.
What does it mean to be a sommelier today?
Today the figure of the sommelier is - in my opinion - a more complex figure than in the past : it is no longer just a matter of great connoisseurs of room service, but more and more we are moving towards a real Wine Expert who knows the world of wine at 360 degrees.
The data is demonstrated by the growing interest in courses to become wine experts such as the WSET .
I believe that today the sommelier has a more varied and better defined role, which is increasingly closer to the vision of the professional at an international level. To attend the WSET courses there is no need for a preparatory qualification, but I notice that many students on my courses who already have a sommelier qualification feel the need for a more horizontal training that delves into the wine business from an international point of view .
- Read also: what you need to know about the WSET
The figure of the sommelier exerts a lot of fascination, especially on young people. Why?
Young people are by nature curious and open to learning and learning. Wine is a fascinating drink especially due to its production process. Young people want to understand how it is technically done: this is why they are fascinated by the stories of oenologists and agronomists to understand how the harvest leads to the glass. In the past, the figure of the sommelier was seen as something elitist and niche, it created awe and increased the distance between consumer and professional.
A distance that is getting shorter, fortunately, precisely because some patterns from the past are being modernized. This is happening thanks to the increasing offer of courses at different levels. The WSET has favored this process: its aim - like that of other Anglo-Saxon courses - is to ensure that the professional passes a clear message using technically exact and perfectly understandable language .
In addition to the technical aspects, what are the qualities that a good sommelier must have?
Time and space management, entrepreneurial sensitivity and ability to sell. To know how to sell you need to know how to communicate. To know how to communicate you need to have the sensitivity to know how to observe and listen to the interlocutor. Understanding the customer is not for everyone.
And knowing how to use serious but not serious language , but above all understandable to those who listen, is the key to obtaining a loyal customer. In my academy the courses are tailor made and adapted to the needs of those who purchase this consultancy. We want the world of wine to be communicated in a clear, honest, transparent and easily accessible way.
The world of wine is always a tension between tradition and innovation. Millennials and Generation Z are distinguished from previous generations by new food and wine habits. What profiles of enthusiasts are there today?
The young people indicated are the most important group to study today to understand the trends that will dominate the next twenty years. For this reason, the industry at a global level is committed to profiling consumers to understand new needs and trends. Only in this way will producers be able to offer wines that live up to market expectations, in order to attract new consumers and satisfy current ones.
Furthermore, young people are more sensitive to environmental issues. A recent study by Deloitte shows that over 50% of young people in the world are worried about the consequences of climate change. Therefore, a type of attentive enthusiast emerges, looking for lighter bottles , alternative formats (Bag in Box and can), and low intervention wines (orange and natural wines), organic or vegan friendly.
Young people are more sensitive to health also understood as physical fitness. There is therefore a profile of the Lo-No ABV (low & no alcohol) enthusiast, who seeks de-alcoholized wines or with a lower alcohol content in order to consume fewer calories.
And then young people are interested in growing trends that are here to stay and are buying cannabis-infused wines (not yet in Italy). Young people love to be present on social media by appearing in leisure, party and entertainment situations. So the profile of the enthusiast of Provençal-style Rosé or cocktail wines such as Champagne for mixology or Port Tonic in a convenient pre-packaged can explodes. These are the new enthusiasts who will decide the volumes and values of the industry of the future.
We talk about the "world of wine" but we mean different disciplines: from oenology to marketing for the valorization of the territory, and the whole HORECA world. How to navigate between the various professional offers?
The right answer is to understand what you love to do and what perspective you have for the future. The offer of courses is increasingly varied and really allows you to satisfy every need.
1. For those who aspire to a profession in catering, I recommend starting with a sommelier course and then adding a second and third level WSET course.
2. Instead, if the aspiration is to work in hospitality, marketing, export or become a teacher or critic , I recommend attending the WSET , and not stopping at the third level. The fourth level (Diploma Level) is equivalent to a degree course, is structured around six multidisciplinary teaching units and has the aim of providing the tools to truly understand the world of wine in depth and to be able to describe it with a critical and objective approach.
3. Finally, if your aspiration is to work in production (therefore vineyard and cellar activities) or have your own winery, I suggest a degree in oenology and agriculture , and perhaps, subsequently, attend a WSET level 2 to acquire the suitable tools to convey your message to consumers.
Moving on to enthusiasts, digital information has contributed to creating wine knowledge as we understand it today. What advice do you give to those who want to find reliable sources, discovering original interpretations?
I'm really happy to see so many authoritative sources increasingly available to publish free content on their sites and social networks. Magazines such as The Drinks Business , Decanter and Wine Enthusiast offer serious and authoritative information, but understandable and appropriate to the reading public. Wine Club has a news section with content differentiated based on the profile of the readers: content for wine lovers, wine enthusiasts and wine geeks, with content for true wine nerds.
You have just launched Wine Club: what are its specificities?
I come from less than positive corporate experiences, which is why I decided that Wine Club would have very strong specificities and ethical values.
As a Benefit Company, it is committed to ensuring a benefit not only for members and workers, but for the entire community. For this reason, every year it will donate part of its profits to organizations and associations involved in wine research, as well as to an association committed to the protection of women victims of violence.
Getting to the heart of things, I can say that Wine Club is an innovative academy .
Innovative because it offers services at different levels of interest: training, information and consultancy. Our commitment is to aim for the excellence of our students, and to establish lasting relationships with national and international industry interlocutors.
It offers training, through various learning solutions, aimed at both the B2B and B2C sectors : we range from introductory courses to wine, to professional courses such as the WSET, up to an innovative tailor-made learning and knowledge enhancement formula.
Wine Club offers information, with editorial content designed for the different needs of readers, with content for wine lovers, wine enthusiasts and wine geeks. The articles are always original and updated every week.
We offer personalized consultancy, making our wealth of wine knowledge available to satisfy the various needs of wineries and restaurants. Staff training, sales techniques, wine list editing, social media management and collaborations are some of the services dedicated to improving the value of wine also in B2B.
The Wine Club motto is “Beyond tailor-made training”. For me, training a Wine Expert means guaranteeing the most appropriate certification for your cultural purpose. It's an ambitious project and I invite Sommelier Wine Box readers to follow me on social media and subscribe to the newsletter: we'll drink some good ones!