The Grape Debate: Love fine wines?

Kerry Parkin

The most common question I always get asked is “how did you become a wine writer?”

To be honest – it took a long time, perseverance, tasting upon tasting, a good dose of luck and a willingness to always learn. While my friends kicked back on a Thai beach, I’d be tasting away in a rainy wine region. As some were out partying, I’d be off at a wine course broadening my palate.

Unlike many other industries, working in wine requires a constant investment, both in time and money, in your education. No two vintages are the same, so the wine you tried last year and rated a success, could well turn out a dud the year after. The industry moves at a dizzy speed and it’s essential you keep up.

Tuesday night was another night of learning for me. I had the great pleasure of attending one of my favourite tasting lessons – hosted by the very knowledgeable and lovely wine writer Peter Bourne. I have known Peter for a number of years and I’ve attended quite a few of his classes. From the casual tasting on Tuesday night of Gourmet Wine’s top Cabernet Sauvignons, to introductory and specialized courses.

What I love is that it doesn’t matter how much or how little you know about wine, Peter’s courses embrace everyone. He has a rare world view of wine, backed by years of formidable tasting and a palate that hits the spot every time. For me it’s not just the fact that all his courses are served with a helping of generous cheese, but also a dollop of true passion.

There are a range of courses on offer for those who want to learn about wine – from beginners right through to masters. If you’re a Sydneysider your first stop should be Peter’s introductory course. It’s detailed in all the right places, entertaining and generous with the wine. Check out Peter Bourne

If you live outside of Sydney perhaps try The Wine Society They offer a range of courses to suit every level and some classes run in VIC, SA , QLD and NSW. A particular favourite of mine is their Young Winemaker of the Year nights – you’re introduced not only to the next generation of wine makers but also the fabulous wines they are producing.

Alternatively try the Wine and Spirit Education Trust A worldwide network and internationally recognized qualification, the WSET courses are conducted all over Australia. You can join everything from a beginners course right through to diplomas.

Finally for those that want to get serious, there are a range of university courses which cover everything from wine business, wine marketing, wine making and viticulture to the science behind the creation of wine. Starting at $2000 a term these courses can be a financial reach for many – but if you’re serious, would like to turn your hobby into a career, then check out Wine Diva for a full list of institutions.

As for me? Well my next courses are strictly vineyard research based – a trip to Shoalhaven for some Chambourcin tastings, the King Valley and finally the Adelaide Hills. Remember not all learning is in the classroom!

Tell me – which wine courses have you attended and which do you rate?