A summer of wine education

Summer came and went. Along with it were The Business Times Wine Challenge 2015, a short trip to Napa Valley for my Certified Wine Educators examination, and our very own inaugural Singapore Wine Specialist Challenge that advocates continuous wine education. Despite being very intimately involved from the start till the end, and had the privilege to pen five articles telling the stories of the Top 50 wines, there is very little that I can say freely about the wine challenge. So please indulge me as I put more limelight on the Singapore Wine Specialist Challenge.

The situation is obvious. Knowledge of wines had improved across the different areas of the food and beverage scene. People are more aware of wines, participating in more wine fairs, making better informed buying decisions, and asking really intelligent questions.

In the past, we advocated for wine industry workers to further their knowledge. It was useful for most participants, at least within the first few years after attending and graduating from a training programme. But, like all industries, the wine industry changes a little here, and a little there over the years. And one of the concerns was how to make people relevant in an ever-changing landscape.

That was the inspiration for the Singapore Wine Specialist Challenge.

The Singapore Wine Specialist Challenge came in two groups. One for existing culinary and hospitality students, who are tested with theory questions on varieties, wine making and basic viticulture. The second for the trade professionals who are Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW), or equal level. Their theory questions encompass wines from around the world, but more importantly those related to Singapore market. Finally the three top scorers of the professionals group will be further assessed on their ability to taste and describe.

Finalists of professional category

Clearly, we aim to meet different outcomes in one project. The student group questions prepare the students for industry certification after graduation. Questions for the professionals, however, keeps them relevant with updates and finally test their ability to taste and explain in a rational way.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Albert Einstein

The customers from yesteryear relied on recommendation. The customers of tomorrow will be looking for explanation; why would this wine pair better with my food order? Questions will be on the “why” and “how” instead of the “what”. And like the quote (supposedly) by Albert Einstein, it is difficult to explain in a meaningful way if we do not understand a topic well enough. It will be catastrophe if the explanation is wrong to begin with.

The inaugural event saw a small yet meaningful participation, and most notably we had the support from three institutions that train students in areas of culinary and hospitality. Some professionals shunned the project because of the name and commitment, but a handful of highly competent and competitive wine professionals were more than enough to encourage us in continuing this wine education mission.

Regardless who wins the top prize, everyone gains by improving and future-ready. Not everything is certain in future, but the future is now.


Pictures courtesy of Lim Hwee Peng Sch of Wine

the author

One fine day, Wai Xin woke up and decided to throw Java coding out of window in exchange for a career in wine. Believing strongly that wine is for enjoyment and not a trading commodity, he encourages sensible, affordable drinking and the exploration of individual preferences.