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How to Become a Wine Professional

We look at the ways to learn about wine to gain those prestigious diplomas and coveted qualifications necessary for success in the business world of wine

Wine School Beaune BIVBPeople come into the wine trade from all angles, it may be a part-time barman who wants to know more, or the oil trader looking for a change of direction to find a new life. Others have grown up in a family of wine growers and need the know-how to carry on the tradition. What may begin as a hobby often turns into an all encompassing occupation.

We look at the ways to learn about wine to gain those prestigious diplomas and coveted qualifications necessary for success at work. There can't be a better environment in which to learn than in Burgundy: the beautiful vineyards, prestigious wine businesses and some of the best wines in the world will all contribute to your new-found knowledge. Whichever route you take, this is not a quick fix, it requires years of dedication and an almost obsessive love of the subject of wine.

Oenology is the study or knowledge of wine. There are many strands and directions to follow: marketing and business, sommelier and hospitality management, tourism and the media. Viticulture and wine production require different skills again and specialist education. Once you have the overview of the world of wine, then there is the specialization whether it is Burgundy or Bordeaux, Chile or Australia. Wherever grapes are grown, there are people wanting to know more about wine, and it is a truly international profession where you can discover the world through the liquid in the glass.

Case Study 1

Yang Lu - Wine Director Shangri-La Hotels


Yang Lu was majoring in physics when he decided to 'get into the wine universe'. He enrolled in a two year viticulture and winemaking program at Niagara College in Canada and at the same time joined the Sommelier Diploma Programme of the International Sommelier Guild. After graduation, he specialised in the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. Further exams and accreditations followed as he worked as a sommelier in Toronto before applying for a job in his hometown Shanghai. In 2009 he joined the opening team at the Shanghai Peninsular hotel. There as head sommelier, he created the wine list, with one of the largest Burgundy wine selections in the whole of China. Currently he is the group Wine Director for Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts.  

In his spare time, Yang judges international wine competitions and regularly teaches wine courses, being an official Certified Wine Educator for both Burgundy (see below right) and Bordeaux. He writes for several magazines and translated the book 'How to Taste' by Jancis Robinson into Chinese in 2010 which became one of the best-selling wine books in China.

Case Study 2

Allard Nooitgedagt - Wine Merchant

Allard Nooitgedagt

Allard Nooitgedagt from the Netherlands completed a MSc in Wine Business in 2010. He is the founder and managing partner of Nowinex Wine Merchants in the Amsterdam area.

During his student days in Holland studying, Allard had a job distributing wine for student parties. His goal then became clear - he wanted to become a wine merchant. With a degree in Business Administration, he joined the Burgundy School of Business course. The MSc in Wine Business he says dealt with many aspects of the wine industry from an academic and commercial point of view. 'I like the fact that the classes are small and interactive and my classmates ambitious, making for a great opportunity to discuss one's own beliefs and ideas.'

Together with his brother Kristian, who studied wine at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, they now run the Nowinex Wine Trading Company.

Case Study 3

Ivy Ng - Private Client Sales Manager

Ivy Ng, Burgundy Wine Educator Hong Kong

Ivy Ng was an investment banker in her native Hong Kong before looking for a career move. She became a financial headhunter and events took her to Japan. There she discovered that the wine culture was quite different to Hong Kong at the time - it was more sophisticated and deeply entrenched in the Japanese way of life. Then, import duty was much lower in Japan and there was a sense of discovery and experimentation in the air.

Returning to Hong Kong inspired by wine, she enrolled in the WSET courses. Almost eight years later with exams behind her, she decided it was time to become a wine professional and made a career change once more, this time in wine sales with Armit Wines Ltd., the Hong Kong office of a British wine merchant in Hong Kong. Burgundy wines feature well on the Armit wine list, with a selection of over 500. In Hong Kong Ivy markets and sells wine from all over the world, promotes Armit's exclusive agencies in HK and arranges tastings and wine dinners.

In her spare time, Ivy is a Certified Wine Educator and has attended the Burgundy Wines Accreditation Seminar in Beaune to increase her knowledge of this particular wine region for selling and training purposes. The passion for Burgundy is clear, she enjoys her annual visits to the region not only to taste the wine but to indulge in the fine cuisine too..


The courses

The Wine and Spirit Education Trust - WSET

The Wine and Spirit Education Trust WSET

With international recognition, WSET is Britain's educational body for the wine and spirits trade, based in London. The courses are an ideal stepping stone to other qualification and their courses are at all levels and you can attend classes or study online. With 44,000 students, the WSET works with an extensive network of over 400 third-party teaching and examination centres, known as Approved Programme Providers, in over 50 countries around the world who offer one or more of their qualifications. The diplomas are a pre-requisite if you want to progress to the Master of Wine course.www.wsetglobal.com

Institute of Masters of Wine

Master of Wine

This is the qualification, the pinnacle of the wine trade, which will open every door. Around 300 people have achieved the qualification which has been in existence since 1953. This is a self-study course lasting for a minimum of two years involving theory and practice with a dissertation at the end all with the help of a Master of Wine mentor.  www.mastersofwine.org

Degree Courses

Dijon Business School

There are only a few institutions worldwide offering a business orientated master in the wine industry. The Burgundy School of Business in Dijon, known also as the Groupe ESC Dijon Bourgogne, has two courses, one culminating in an MSc in Wine Business, the other an MSc in Wine Management.  Both courses are taught in English.

MSc in Wine Business

If you are thinking of starting your own wine business, this course is for you. Over 16 months you will learn about the global wine market in all its forms from how to run a wine estate to manage a cooperative wine cellar, become a wine merchant, importer or agent, and understand the marketing and financial management involved. This course is for those with a Bachelor degree and previous experience in the wine trade or someone who is a professional with some years of experience in business and a passion for wine.

MSc in Wine Management

For those with no experience in the wine industry, on this one year course, you will learn everything you need to know to sell wine from logistics to legal issues to do with oenology. It will enable you to gain a managerial position in all the related sectors. A Bachelor degree relating to business is required for entry.

Specializing in Burgundy Wine


The Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne (BIVB) , the Burgundy Wine Board represents the industry in the region, educating and spreading the word about the wines of Burgundy. It also defends the interests of the wine growers and wine merchants. The website is bursting with information on all aspects of the subject from the wine villages to wine related events. L'Ecole des Vins, the wine school, is a branch of the BIVB.

Ecole des Vins de Bourgogne in Beaune

Ecole des Vins de Bourgogne

Here you can find training in wine at all levels. If you want to do a  'tester' and see whether there is a future in in-depth wine education for you, it could be a good place to take a weekend course or to go to a tasting conference. Some of the courses are in English but of course it is best of all to discuss your individual needs with the school and get their advice.

Burgundy Wine Educator

For students who have already started their studies and gained some diplomas, there are advanced training courses on Burgundy wines which will enable you to eventually become a Burgundy Wine Educator (BWE) in global locations. Having achieved this diploma, you will be entitled to use the logo of the Ecoles des Vins de Bourgogne in your promotions, receive training material, news updates and sell trips to the wine school.

If you are selected by the BIVB to participate on the six day BWE course, accommodation and training are paid for but not travel costs. Your geographic location is taken into consideration to avoid competition in any one town. On completion of the course you will be required to run Burgundy Wine sessions and file quarterly progress reports. The accreditation lasts for three years when it has to be renewed. More details from the BIVB (link above).

Other Links

International Sommelier Guild

The Court of Master Sommeliers

The Society of Wine Educators

The French Wine Society