So, how did I end up working in the wine industry and owning a wine school? I still can't believe how lucky I am.
Not a traditional career choice and certainly not on an option on the career day at school.
My first job was in Finance. My passion for tasting wine was probably thanks to some bad weather and a great sommelier....you know those people we avoid in restaurants in case they try to rip us off!
Half way through an Italian ski trip there was an avalanche; the roads and the ski slopes were closed - disaster! Stuck in the town, we couldn’t go up the mountain, couldn’t go down, so what to do? Obviously, a wine tasting in the local wine bar and why not? The sommelier opened 6 different bottles from the local wine region, the Aosta Valley. We tasted and listened intently, his knowledge was mind blowing - I had no idea there was so much to it.
There was one wine that helped me understand how and why tasting wine was important, to savour it rather than just drink it. The name of that wine translated to "The Blood of Judas" - red, chilled, sweet, some bubbles. We all loved it, it wasn’t expensive, just new, different, delicious and of course paired beautifully with the local cuisine. Top tip: “if it grows together it goes together”; local wine and local foods are often the best pairing.
Everyone in our ski group bought 2 bottles and got them home in ski boots, a bottle in each boot!
Back at work, someone was talking about the WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) and how he was studying wine! What? There were qualifications in wine? It was then I started my journey - at the very beginning with WSET Level 1 Award in Wines a one day course, I progressed to Level 2, and Level 3 - I enjoyed reading, learning, drawing maps and tasting a lot of wine. The highest WSET qualification is the Diploma and I’m very proud to say I passed, less than 10,000 have the qualification around the globe!
During this time the world of Finance was changing dramatically. I’d had a great career but on reflection I was spending a lot of time, too much time at my desk. I needed and wanted a change. It must have been fate, the opportunity to buy a wine school came up and I jumped at the chance, what’s the worst that can happen?
Running a wine business is hard work with lots of late nights, weekend working, keeping up with the markets and trends but it’s a lot of fun at the same time and very rewarding....I'm not complaining at all. I get to taste some amazing wines, talk about wine, meet other wine lovers and experts, to teach and every now and again I can diversify into beers and spirits.
At East London Wine School, we host informal courses plus we teach others the WSET qualifications. When you see someone have that “light bulb” moment, when they understand why French Syrah is different to Australian Shiraz for instance (same grape!), it’s so rewarding. I love it!!!
Samantha Alder, DipWSET