Education, education, education...

04 March, 2011

The unrivalled industry benchmark for product knowledge in wine and spirits is the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, which has a ladder of qualifications for people of different abilities.?The Foundation Certificate is an entry-level stage covering an introduction to the main styles of wine and is aimed mainly at those who are working in the industry as a first job.?People coming to your business with a little more knowledge or who are already wine enthusiasts may start at the intermediate level. This offers broad coverage of all product categories, along with the theory of tasting technique.?The Advanced Certificate provides more comprehensive coverage of wines and spirits from around the world and a higher focus on tasting.?After that, the qualifications become more specialist in nature, and will probably only be taken by staff in specialist wine and spirit merchants and those with a particular passion for their subject.?The Diploma combines product knowledge with an insight into important commercial matters, and becomes more appropriate the greater the individual’s level of involvement in the buying, marketing and selling process.?There’s also an Honours Diploma, which allows students to pursue their own research project in a specialist field of their choice.?Study can be undertaken at one of dozens of education centres around the country – details can be found at beer industry is some way behind wine and spirits in its provision of education for the industry, though the Beer Academy is now an established training body with increasing numbers of retail staff going through its courses.?The Beer Academy is an industry-backed body that delivers courses at regional breweries and pubs around the country.?The one-day foundation course costs £120 plus VAT – with possible discounts for group bookings – and looks at how beer is made, how the ingredients influence the flavour, with an exploration of some of the lifestyle aspects of beer drinking.?There’s also the chance to taste 13 beers and pair some of them with food.?A two-day advanced course goes into more depth, with a look at different beer styles and beer-making countries, and a session on how to taste beers.?Typically, more than 30 beers would be tasted over the duration of the course, which costs £240 plus VAT.?There’s also a half-day course, priced at £65 plus VAT, on beer and food matching. This focuses on food matching, presentation and how to taste, a course on judging beer for £65 plus VAT and 90-minute tastings at £27.50 (including VAT). More details on all the courses are available at or by contacting

There was a time when everything that anyone who sold alcohol needed to have was excellent product knowledge, but the introduction of the Licensing Act in 2005 changed all that. Since then, anyone applying for a personal licence – other than those who qualified for ‘grandfather rights’ – has been required to sit an approved licensing qualification such as the BIIAB Level 2 National Certificate for Personal Licence Holders, to ensure that they know their legal and social responsibilities as a retailer of alcoholic products.?The NCPLH, which will become the BIIAB Level 2 Award for Personal Licence Holders with effect from April 1, covers all relevant areas of the Licensing Act 2003, including applications and renewals, prohibitions for the sale of alcohol, police powers to close licensed premises and the protection of children.

The qualification is available in Chinese, Welsh, Turkish, Polish, Thai and Bengali as well as English, and is available from more than 450 BIIAB approved centres through a one-day training course.

Successful completion of a 40-minute multiple choice exam is required to achieve the qualification.?Commitment to socially responsible alcohol retailing is essential for business success and this can be achieved through further qualifications.

The BIIAB Level 1 Award in Responsible Alcohol Retailing is designed for staff responsible for selling alcohol to ensure that they know the law and what their responsibilities are. For anyone who is a Designated Premises Supervisor, the BIIAB Level 2 Award for Designated Premises Supervisors ensures they have a full understanding of all aspects of their role.?For more details on any of these or any of the other industry related qualifications offered by BIIAB call 01276 684449 or visit

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English wine: a happy harvest for Christmas

All across England and Wales, vineyards are being harvested. Down winding country lanes come armies of welly-wearing conscripts wielding secateurs and buckets, ready to reap the rewards of our vines. Happily they come, their cheeks ruddy with pride. Half an hour later they’re crawling over muddy clods with lacerated hands, drenched in claggy juice and cold sweat, as if ploughing through an endurance race.

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Is blended Scotch overshadowed by single malt in retailers?

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