Everyone’s got a story about working with the boss from hell. The manager who barks insults at the team whenever anything goes wrong – not the most helpful or constructive method of problem solving – or the maverick injecting his personality into the business, who turns out to be more sociopath than innovative thinker.
We’ve all worked with difficult colleagues at some point, but in the wine business they tend to be the exception, not the rule. Generally speaking, the wine industry is full of lovely people.
This can be easily explained. The appeal of working with wine is so strong that people flock to it from all sorts of other, more highly paid industries.
That makes the core motivation of the industry about the pleasure of the product instead of cold, hard profit.
Some commentators might remark that this is precisely the wine trade’s problem. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Retail is the coalface of the industry, and its sales force exemplifies the work ethic of the wider UK wine trade.
Hours are long and unsocial, competition is fierce, profit is scant and recognition is rare. That will sound familiar to most wine producers around the world.
And I’m sure they’d agree that if the product weren’t so beguiling, morale and loyalty would be rock bottom. As it is, the appeal of wine itself sustains the motivation of the trade.
Filling an industry with overqualified masochists isn’t enough to make an industry prosper. There’s another critical factor: education.
Learning more about wine is by far the best way to nourish your enthusiasm. That’s no righteous platitude either. The more you learn about wine, the more you understand it; and the more you understand wine – indeed, anything – the more you can enjoy it.
That’s the crux of the matter: improving your vinous education will generate ever more pleasure from drinking wine. And that’s the reason we’re all here.
Everyone in the wine industry should be taking Wine & Spirit Education Trust courses. The education they provide underpins the strength and status of the UK wine trade. Levels one, two and three are great foundations for everyone beginning and developing their career, while the level four Diploma should be taken by all those who are serious about staying in the wine industry for any length of time.
Then there’s the Master of Wine qualification – logically the ultimate way to glean maximum pleasure from your glass. I’m currently two-thirds of the way through, so I’ll let you know.
The point is, learning about wine should be done not for the sake of your customers, nor your bank balance – though both will benefit – but for your own sake, because the enjoyment of wine is the thing that keeps the industry – in other words, us – happy.