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Studying the science of the sommelier

Feb 16,2017
Students are learning how to smell and taste different types of wine at Winevision School. [WINEVISION]
Drinking isn’t the only way one can explore a passion for wine in Korea. A growing love for wine in the country has given rise to an interest in studying wine. Varying from training how to taste different flavors in wine and how to match wines with food to studying the characteristics of wine producing regions, many students aim to get prestigious certificates after taking a series of tests.

Le Cordon Bleu, a French culinary school in Seoul operated in collaboration with Sookmyung Women’s University, is opening its doors once again for the French Wine Master Class for those looking for ways to better enjoy French wines. The class will be taught by instructor Lee In-soon, who is certified to teach wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy. Lectures on other wine-producing regions in France, including Champagne, Rhone, Loire Valley and Alsace will also be covered, as well as the tasting of wines from there.

Since the class is done within a French culinary academy, the class will also teach participants how to maximize the taste of foods by pairing them with the right wine. Chefs at the school will prepare dinners paired with French wines so that students can get a better idea of what to order when eating out at a French restaurant. The class, which starts March 8, is expected to have students from all different background and not necessarily only those working in the restaurant industry, as the program last year had many non-experts including doctors.

“The program is not only about wine, but will enhance understanding of culinary culture overall as well as help people develop a network by meeting people from similar and different careers or personal backgrounds,” said Kim Ji-hyung, chief director of the Le Cordon Bleu-Sookmyung Academy, adding that contrary to their expectations, applications from those not in food and beverage industries had increased since last year.

Increased interest in wine has been seen at academic institutions as well. Winevision, an institute that arranges tests for the globally known WSET, a shortened name for the Wine and Spirt Education Trust based in the United Kingdom, has seen an increase in students over the past few years. While a total 447 people took the tests in 2015, the academy saw 53 percent increase in 2016 to 685. Out of 685 that took classes last year, 525 were not from the beverage sector, a 27 percent increase from the year before.

“Many wine drinkers, especially the young ones, seem to want to know more about what they are drinking,” said Jason Oh, executive director of the academy. “We are trying to continue diversifying classes so that anyone can extend their knowledge in wine and even get to know more about how to better serve the drink.”

Pushed by the interest in such certificate programs, the academy has decided to also launch other teaching programs including one certifying people as Italian wine experts. Also to help aspiring sommeliers get proper job training, the academy also plans to open a Sommelier Training course, which will include an internship at a bar or restaurant.

Another academy that teaches classes to prepare for WSET certificate is WSA Academy. The number of students at the institute almost doubled in 2016 and representatives forecast even more will sign up this year.

“The number of students is steadily increasing, but more usually sign up in the beginning of the new year in an attempt to do something they have always wanted to do, just like people signing up for gyms,” said Jung Kyeong-shin, a manager of the academy.

“Also, people usually gather more for the certificate programs that only open once or twice a year, and such classes starting early this year have also driven the overall number of students at the academy up.”

BY LEE SUN-MIN [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

For more information about the French Wine Master Class at Le Cordon Bleu-Sookmyung Academy, go to www.cordonbleu.co.kr or call (02) 719-6961~2. For more information about classes offered at Wine Vision School, go to www.winevision.kr or call (02) 514-1855 and classes at WSA Wine Academy, go to www.wasacademy.com or call (02) 516-3733.