By Jessica Lovell
If you’ve ever walked into the LCBO to buy a nice bottle of wine but found yourself overwhelmed, the University of Guelph may have a solution.
The university’s School of Hospitality and Tourism is offering two courses to the general public this fall that should help make choosing a wine a lot easier for participants.
“We’re absolutely going to remove the intimidation” from the subject of wine, said course administrator Bruce McAdams.
The courses are offered through the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), based in England.
“They’re the biggest and most reputable wine education organization out there,” said McAdams.
Guelph will be one of only five locations in the province offering the WSET certifications.
While the University of Guelph already offers courses for credit that include wine-tasting and wine knowledge, it’s not always easy for a member of the public to get a spot. The hundred or so spaces in those classes are mostly filled by U of G students, but inquiries from interested members of the public led McAdams to believe there was an audience for the WSET courses in Guelph.
While students in the WSET courses won’t earn a university credit, they will walk away with an internationally recognized accreditation.
Participants in the first course will earn a Level 1 Award in Wines; those in the second course will come away with a Level 2 Award in Wines and Spirits.
The difference between the courses is that the second is more advanced and more detailed than the first, although neither have prerequisites.
“Level 1 is made for the recreational wine-drinker,” said McAdams. Describing it as a kind of Wine 101 would be accurate, he said.
The eight-hour course, which is being offered over two days on Sept. 29 and 30, is a basic introduction to wine. It includes information about different varieties of grapes and different styles of wines, and should help people learn what wines go well with certain foods.
That information should go a long way toward helping wine consumers know what to choose when staring down the rows of bottles at the LCBO.
“They’ll get a better sense of the value of wines and how to find good deals,” said McAdams.
It is the less expensive of the two courses.
Level 2 is a more expensive and more extensive 10-week course “that’s for the more advanced wine person,” said McAdams.
Though it has obvious appeal to aspiring sommeliers or to someone in the hospitality industry, “definitely someone in the general public would benefit if they are a bit of a wine collector,” he said.
The classes will run Monday evenings from 7 to 9:30 p.m. starting Sept. 24.
The classes will cover key grape varieties, tasting technique, different styles of wine, and the production of spirits and liqueurs. It includes a tasting component every night, said McAdams.
Though you don’t have to be in the restaurant business to take the course, those who are in the biz will especially appreciate the added knowledge, McAdams said, speaking from experience.
His experience comes from being vice-president of operations with Oliver Bonacini Restaurants, which includes a number of restaurants in Toronto.
In a fine-dining restaurant, wine can make up as much as a quarter of sales, and it also a huge expense for restauranteurs, McAdams said.
“I was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and really didn’t know that much about wine,” he said.
He took the WSET courses to get a stronger grasp of the subject.
“It’s good to have someone making informed wine decisions in your restaurant,” he said.
Locally, the courses will be taught by William Predhomme, senior sommelier at Canoe Restaurant, one of the Oliver Bonacini restaurants.
“He’s just incredibly knowledgeable,” said McAdams. But Predhomme is also entertaining, he said. “He makes wine approachable and fun.”
The deadline to register for the courses is Sept. 14. With only 30 spots available, the classes were filling up, said McAdams.
“If these courses are well received, we’re going to plan on running them every year, every semester,” he added, noting there is a possibility of offering other WSET courses in future years.
To register for this fall’s courses, visit www.htm.uoguelph.ca/wset or contact Lisa Fodor at email@example.com or 519-824-4120, ext. 56116.