How to teach your staff about wine

Having good wine knowledge is critical for service excellence, so how can you develop the wine knowledge in your cellar door service team? The key is to know what options you have and work with your team to decide which is the best fit.

Aside from service training, which is what Vintuition is dedicated to, there are three further areas of training for cellar door staff. The first is basic wine fundamentals such as how grapes are grown and wine is made, and the variables throughout the process. Secondly, there is the sensory training which helps students learn to evaluate wine using subjective and objective measures. Thirdly, there is the wonderful world of wine – which includes the history & geography, different wine markets and the business of wine. From a wine tourism perspective, it is the first and second areas that are most worth investing in, read through our recommendations below:

Is the business expected to pay for external training? Yes and no. Our general rule of thumb is that if the staff member has been with the business for at least a year, is on a salary and is performing well, paying for further training is usually a good investment – particularly if they can lead training of other staff. If in doubt, offer to contribute half, or pay upfront in return for a repayment plan. Another option is to cover the cost of training if the staff member stays with the business for a certain period of time – requiring them to repay the investment if they leave the business beforehand. If in doubt, the best approach is an open line of communication and being clear about expectations. View training as an investment, in the same way that new oak, packaging design and signage are viewed and you’ll see the benefits in no time.

Online courses

World of Wine: From Grape to Glass // A free online course by The University of Adelaide, learn about the principles and practices of how grapes are grown and wine is made. Whether you’re a wine novice or a seasoned oenophile, you’ll learn to confidently describe wine appearance, aroma, flavour and taste. 

There are also options from Decanter Magazine, Udemy and loads more.

Attended courses

WSET // It does have its critics but has earned its place as the leading provider of wine education all over the world. Level two and level three are ideal for cellar door staff as level one is very basic and can often be skipped in favour of level two if the student commits to the study time requirements. Level three is quite a jump from level two, and includes a tasting exam. For people who choose to work in the wine industry in general, level three is ultimately very useful and a practical, and a great foundation for further study.

Wine appreciation courses // Most major cities offer various accredited and non-accredited courses. Look for courses which offer bracket tastings, a wide range of wines and a focus on learning rather than recreation.

Books

Australian wine, styles and tastes //  This is the most useful book on the market for training. Keep a copy on site and use it as much as possible. Link.

Wine grapes // The bible of grape varieties, delving into origin, naming and characteristics. A must for every cellar door. Link.

The art and science of wine // A beautiful book which takes a holistic view. Link.

The world atlas of wine // When so much of wine is about geography, this atlas is a necessary tool for any training. Link.

Wine Folly // The ultimate modern, illustrated guide to wine. Link. 

Websites & magazines

Jancis Robinson.com – comprehensive and current and worth every cent of the subscription cost

Halliday & Gourmet Traveller Wine – online and print – both benchmark wine focused magazines with comprehensive websites and brilliant stories about wine, wine producers and food.