Last week I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Steve Charters, Master of Wine and Director of Research at the School of Wine and Spirits Business, ESC Dijon in Burgundy. Master of Wine since 1997 with a PhD in consumer behaviour, and experience in wine retail, marketing, consultancy, management, writing, research, and academia, Steve has a well-rounded perspective of the wine industry. While our original topic of conversation was to centre on wine tourism, I picked his brain on the wine industry in general, wine accreditation programs, and his own wine journey. In part one of the interview, In Conversation with Steve Charters Master of Wine, you can read more about Steve and his insights into the industry. The conversation offers plenty to think about and much to chew over for anyone considering a career in wine. The post will be released separately but I wanted to take some time now to write a few things down about my insights from the conversation with Steve.
I consider myself a wine student, first and foremost, and I will be one for a very long time. Although I hold the WSET Level 3 in Wine and Spirits, I also know that I have lots to learn, lots to taste, endless places to explore and many good conversations to be had. The world of wine is incredibly vast and I’ve only just started to get my beak wet. Thus far, it’s been wild and a bit of dream come true. I’ve tasted some incredible wines, I’ve adventured through beautiful country roads across Germany, Switzerland, France, Spain, Portugal, California and Ontario – all in the name of wine – and I’ve met great people along the way. As a passion, my wine affair has taken me places, beautiful places. But as a new career, it’s been somewhat overwhelming with hint of nerve-wrecking on the mid-palate (feel free to roll your eyes). Occasionally it seems there is too much to know, too much taste, too many places to explore and an overload of information and opinions. While many times I’ve journeyed alone (both literally and metaphorically), I’ve found support, advice and encouragement from many different sources. Friends, family and acquaintances have cheered me on and rooted for me, which has been an incredible help. But I’ve also found lots of great insight and advice from top wine folks like Master of Wine Steve Charters, wine journalist Jamie Goode and Portuguese winemaker Anselmo Mendes. Whether or not they understand their impact on me (however brief our meeting) I cannot say but they have been fundamental in one key insight: there are those who have achieved success in their careers that are willing to give their time, willing to engage in conversation, willing to listen, to teach, to guide and to encourage those that are just starting off. This is huge and must be recognized. So to them, I tip my hat.
I’m still in the early stages of my wine career and I’ll be embarking on a new wine adventure (an academic one) in the fall. From what was just a spark of interest two years ago, ignited in Portugal while on vacation, has turned into a real commitment and dedication. Through this blog I not only share great visits, delicious wines and fascinating stories but it also serves as a means of sharing my experiences, my thoughts and my emotions of finding my ground in this industry. I know I’m not alone in my sometimes overwhelming emotions (I can recall various classmates in my WSET Level 3 course) and the confusion of not knowing which way is the right way, which path is the best one. I’m certain there are other men and women who are trying to figure out a way to change their passion into a successful career. As Steve mentions in the interview (please see next post), passion is not enough and it certainly doesn’t pay the bills. But as a compass in finding your ‘north’, it is required. And as a way of experiencing the joy of living, it is fundamental. For what good is it to have success without joy? But I understand his caution since passion without action is just dreaming. Passion along with a vision and having flexibility like an acrobat, to go through hoops and overcome obstacles, is what turns a passion into a success story (in my humble opinion). Along the way, there are various stepping stones that allow you to reach the next stage of the game. Whether that is stocking shelves at a wine shop, writing a blog, or working as a cellar intern they are just that, stepping stones. Passion lays the foundation, the vision leads the way and the certainty of meeting the right people who offer a hand or an encouraging word at the right time is just the way the world works (at least my world)… But… if all else fails, at least your passion gave you a hell of a good time.
I want to thank Steve for his time, his insights and a great conversation. I’m very grateful for his advice and I hope it will serve others well too.
And while I’m thanking… I also want to thank all the people who offered me a hand, a glass of wine, a good conversation and those who read this blog. More specifically, I want to thank Marco Lourenço (Cegos por Provas), Paulo Pimenta (Wine & Stuff), wine expert Joe Guedes, Sergio Santos (Portus Wine Trip), and all those who took me under their wing while in Portugal. Many thanks to Alan and Lara Buckle (Quinta Horta da Rija) who trusted me with their tractor and their vines. And of course to the wonderful wine producers, winemakers, and winegrowers that have welcomed me to their vineyards and wineries.
And now without further ado…