One week ago today I earned my first wine certification from the International Wine Guild. The IWG is a wine college devoted, as its website states, to “fostering wine education at the highest levels and helping both wine professionals and wine enthusiasts increase and expand their knowledge and understanding of wine.” Rated by Food and Wine Magazine as one of the Top 5 Professional Wine Schools in the United States, the Guild is a fully accredited wine school, approved and regulated by the Colorado Department of Higher Education, Private Occupational School Board.
My class of ten students was fortunate enough to have for our instructor a man named Claude Robbins, the Guild’s Director and President, who is certified as both a Guild Wine Master (GWM) and Guild Master Wine Educator (MWE) and has more than 30 years of experience teaching about wine. He doesn’t normally teach the Level I Seminar in Virginia, but owing to uncharacteristic circumstances, he ended up teaching the one I attended. I couldn’t have hoped for a more auspicious beginning to my wine education.
On our first day of class, he told us that the aim of the course was to change the way we think about wine. By the end of the course, my classmates and I had tasted nearly thirty premium wines produced on three continents from a variety of winemakers, participated in two blind tasting flights (wherein after sampling three wines of a particular variety, we were challenged to identify which was which), learned about old world, new world, and fortified wines, and evaluated wine and food pairings with both cold plates and warm plates. And these, I am proud to say, are not even half of all that I learned during this course designed to benefit wine professionals and enthusiasts alike.
Claude Robbins’s instruction style made for a comfortable learning environment. Demonstrating an engaging mastery at braiding amusing, insightful anecdotes and personal reflections into his lessons, he is more than anyone I’ve known recently the picture of a professional, a leader in his field, and a skilled raconteur. I have spent much of my free time since completing the course reading wine labels at local wine shops, pleased at last to know the purpose of various label components and nomenclature, and of course, applying my newfound wine knowledge to new wine purchases. Learning is fun. Lots and lots of fun…
I took this course because while food is the chief element of Flavorful World (difficult as it may be to believe that comestibles should be a point of focus on a food blog) I wanted to be able to speak and write with more understanding and authority when it comes to wine. Given the amount of wine that I drink in a week, this is a sound rationale already paying big dividends in how I comprehend and evaluate them. At the conclusion of class, the question was put to us: “Did we change the way you think about wine?” Indeed, Mister Robbins. You changed how I think on wine, and more things related to its cultivation, production, and enjoyment than I can list here. And this is something for which I will always be grateful to you and the IWG. This newly certified Cellar Manager can’t wait until the next course in his continuing wine education.