Got weeks of lockdown ahead of you and are thirsty for wine knowledge? These free online courses might be the solution to get you through days of isolation
One never knows enough about wine. It's when you think that you master a region that a new appellation pops up, a labelling term changes, maximum yields drop, and you've got to start all over again. Unsurprisingly, sommeliers and wine professionals spend most of their career developing, increasing, and updating their knowledge.
As most people are now stuck at home due to the coronavirus lockdown, drinks professionals are presented with the unmatched opportunity to focus most of their time on study or revision.
The worldwide web, however, is full of online activities, so finding a suitable – and free of charge – activity might turn into a painfully frustrating web search. Whether you're a bartender looking for more wine knowledge or a somm preparing for WSET Diploma or the CMS, we’ve selected some of the best designed and up-to-date e-learning activities available for free to help you in your research.
If you know of any online activity or programme that you believe should feature in this list, just drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, we’ll keep it updated.
Australian Wine Discovered
Trade body Wine Australia has just revamped its Australian Wine Discovered course, originally launched in 2019.
The new format features 25 topics all focusing on Australian wine, including Australian varieties and regions, plus themed sections such as Foundations of Australian wine, Organic and biodynamic wine, and Aged Australian wines.
There are additional, downloadable resources to support the study, including tasting mats, videos and certificates of attendance.
Rioja Wine Academy
Last month, Wines from Rioja upped its education game. The new Rioja Wine Academy is an online educational platform made up of a range of courses each focusing on different student profiles, all free of charge.
The Rioja Wine Diploma is mainly aimed at enthusiasts, while the Diploma in Rioja Wine for Trade and Distribution allows professionals to ‘establish the bases for [Rioja wine] sales and marketing by means of a market launch plan’. Finally, the Diploma in Rioja Wine Tourism focuses on the ‘implementation of experiences, activities, customer service, situation management, wine and tasting services’.
Comité Champagne has its official online training programme too, dubbed Champagne Campus, accessible here.
The programme offers three training pathways: ‘novices’, ‘enthusiasts’ and ‘lovers’, which Comité Champagne says are intended for enthusiasts as well as educators.
Users are first asked a range of questions to assess their level of knowledge, then assigned a suitable pathway. The programme explores wine-growing regions, vines, winemaking, tasting and history, and ends with a quiz. Users can test their knowledge on the complimentary Champagne Campus app too, which features 150 questions on Champagne wines and the Champagne region.
The Sherry consejo regulador offers periodic in-class training to sommeliers, educators, and restaurant and bar staff.
However, with Spain now busy battling against covid-19, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to attend in person anytime soon. Fortunately, the Sherry.wine website offers some of the best content on the famous fortified wine that is freely available online. It features thorough information on history, viticulture, winemaking, ageing and bottling. Really worth spending an afternoon on.
Discovering Bourgogne Wines + Bourgogne Maps
Once only dedicated to industry professionals, Discovering Bourgogne Wines is now available to all. It includes films, 360-degree photos, interviews and quizzes. It only takes 90 minutes and is mostly aimed at beginners, yet it’s been recently updated with the latest key figures and new appellations, so worth a look anyway if you're an expert.
In addition to the official e-training programme, there's a range of very detailed maps now available on the website, which CMS and WSET students will definitely find useful to look at. Bourgogne Maps has been recently launched; it's an interactive cartography tool that features an accurate mapping of all appellation segments, plot by plot, from régionale to grands crus appellations. Wine geeks could spend hours with this. I definitely can.
On a similar note, Vins Alsace's official website features a remarkable mapping tool too, freely available for all geeks and students out there to play with.
The tool allows you to visually identify soil types and even highlight single communes. But it’s the grand crus that Vins Alsace has decided to focus on. Not only does the tool give crucial information such as soil type, grapes planted, altitude etc; it offers spectacular 360-degree birds-eye views, too. Stunning.
Wine Tasting: Sensory Techniques for Wine Analysis by University of California, Davis
A little more serious this one, one that requires more commitment, which shouldn’t be too much of a problem if you’ve got weeks of lockdown ahead of you.
The course introduces students to the physiological aspects of wine tasting and teaches how to ‘set up your own tasting, pick up sensory vocabulary, examine the defects in wine, and master the techniques used to spot the defects’. It’s a beginner-level course but could be useful to intermediate-level professionals too as it offers a different approach to tasting when compared to WSET. It’s free to audit and accessible here.
Wines of South Africa
The promotional body for South African wine has its own Online Wine Course too.
It features six modules covering a variety of topics ranging from history and varieties, to wine styles, winegrowing regions, sustainability and tourism. Each module takes about one to two hours, and closes with a multiple choice quiz, which you'll need to pass (minimum of 80% of correct answers) in order to to progress to the next.
Usefully, you'll be able to save your session to login at another time and redo the test if you're unsuccessful on your first attempt.
The Online Wine Course
Beverly Hills-based sommelier Cristie Norman is offering her Online Wine Course free of charge to any hospitality professionals who are out of work due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The course is aimed at beginners and takes about 3.5 hours to complete (but students are allowed to start and stop as they wish). It features videos - each with its own worksheet, 16 sections, 16 quizzes and a final exam.
To get the free access, email Norman at email@example.com or DM her on Instagram @cristienorman_somm.
For those who like to purchase the course, Norman is offering a 50% discount using the code SUPPORTSOMMS, with $50 (US) will be donated in the purchaser's name to the The United Sommeliers Foundation to benefit somms out of work