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Germans are drinking more and more wine, and at the same time they have more and more opportunities to expand their knowledge about wine. This is true for private wine drinkers as well as for employees in gastronomy and trade who deal with wine on a daily basis, to industry professionals who produce, buy and/or market wine. According to the German Wine Institute (DWI), average wine consumption in Germany rose by 0.7 litres - i.e. one bottle - to 21.1 litres per person between 2012 and 2013. Ten years ago, the annual per capita consumption was still 19.8 litres of wine.

In line with the stronger demand for wine, the range of training and further education courses on the subject of wine in Germany has also grown considerably: specialist wine shops organise wine tastings and seminars for their customers, chambers of industry and commerce (IHKs) offer courses, professional further education institutes have specialised, and universities differentiate their courses of study. The market offers almost everything - from rather sociable tastings to multi-level programmes and internationally recognised certificates. The courses of the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) are considered the international standard in wine education, and the "Master of Wine" (abbreviated MW) is the highest, because most demanding, private educational qualification in the wine world. Participants can apply for financial support for many certified courses.

Growing market for wine seminars

Stefan Metzner (Photo: Weininstitut München)
"Germany imports about 15 million hectolitres of wine annually and is a major wine market with a per capita consumption of over 20 litres. The trend within this market is towards less volume with higher value. So people are drinking less and less, but better. This development is followed by an increased demand for wine knowledge on the part of consumers, and with it also comes the demand for qualified advice. This results in an increasing market for wine training," analyses Stefan Metzner, one of the two managing directors of the Munich Wine Institute.

"The opportunities for further training on the subject of wine for interested amateurs are currently huge and wide-ranging," confirms Astrid Zieglmeier, head of the Gastronomy & Indulgence department at the IHK Academy in Munich. "The offer ranges from wine courses to guided wine tastings, trips to wine-growing regions, wine portals on the internet and a large selection of literature on the subject. For professionals as well as for career changers who want to become professionally saddle-fast, we can also ascertain a variety of offers."

Astrid Zieglmeier (Photo: IHK Academy Munich)
Zieglmeier divides the market into two types of training: On the one hand, there are "seminars that are strongly theoretically based and thus create a first access to wine. In the lessons, important basics of the cultivation and development of wines and an international tasting vocabulary are taught. On the other hand, there are the courses with a strong practical orientation, before which a basic knowledge of wine is basically required through previous internships in the winegrowing business as well as study trips to winegrowing regions and professional experience in gastronomy or trade."In these practical courses, participants would be trained in business management, customer advice, wine quality determination and craftsmanship at the guest's table. "The further education courses offered by the IHK Academy Munich are naturally based on practical vocational training and are internationally recognised," says Zieglmeier. In addition to courses on meat, cheese and gastronomy and hotel management, they include several degree courses for sommeliers with a focus on wine, distillates and tea.

Focus on German wines

"The range of advanced wine training courses for wine enthusiasts and professionals is larger than ever before. Among them, there are some large providers on the German market who offer their seminars in a very professional and demand-oriented manner," observes Manuel Bretschi, head of department for training and further education in the Gastronomy & Trade department at the German Wine Institute (DWI) in Mainz. "The DWI is one of the most important providers of training and further education in the wine industry. The DWI's seminars, which are primarily intended for professionals from gastronomy as well as specialist and food retailers, are also popular with wineries, cooperatives and cellars for the further training of their employees or for customer loyalty. In over 30 years, more than 100,000 seminar participants have already been trained."

Manuel Bretschi (Photo: German Wine Institute)
Bretschi emphasises the close ties to wine producers and winegrowers' associations, thanks to which the DWI provides "up-to-date information at first hand". The offer is divided into individual seminars, which take place on a fixed date in various German cities, and so-called in-house events, which are booked by vocational schools, hotels, trading companies, cooperatives and wineries. According to Bretschi, the seminar "Recognised Consultant for German Wine" is the most successful in Germany; in addition, more advanced sensory seminars are offered. "Due to decades of experience by qualified trainers and value-neutral product information, the satisfaction of course participants is above average. More than 96 per cent of all participants in the individual seminars rate them as 'good' to 'very good'," says Bretschi. "The DWI seminars are offered at particularly attractive conditions and can be combined with different modules to suit the target group."

From the taster seminar to the WSET course

Johannes Jentgens (Photo: Viniversitaet)
Another major provider of wine seminars is Viniversitaet, which, as Jacques' Wein-Depot's "wine school and competence centre for high-quality wine events", has been offering wine seminars for wine lovers, individually designed wine events for companies and groups, and cross-industry training for professionals throughout Germany for 13 years. According to the company, over 50,000 wine enthusiasts have taken part in the events to date. "The opportunities to further educate oneself as a wine lover or as someone who deals with wine professionally and to specifically deal with wine are manifold in Germany. The market for wine education has changed significantly in the last ten years due to a significant increase in the number of offers," explains Viniversitaet managing director Johannes Jentgens. "From taster courses to beginners' seminars to training courses with internationally recognised degrees (online and offline), everything is represented in terms of quality and quantity. It is therefore important to take a closer look here. Viniversitaet and its wine experts place special emphasis on wine and wine tasting and on making wine a cultural asset that can be experienced. The offer ranges from basic, thematic and sensory seminars to the courses of the WSET.

Their importance is again underlined by Stefan Metzner: "The range of wine seminars of various types and quality leads to general confusion and uncertainty among students, but also among employers who cannot assess the real qualifications of diverse 'yodelling diplomas'. The Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) offers sound, tried and tested training with international recognition. The training provided by the largest wine school in the world is now available in 26 languages and always maintains the same high standard. The requirements for the trainers are strictly regulated and are reviewed to maintain the high standards. Finally, the highest level of modular training is so highly regarded that it is recognised as an entry requirement for the Master of Wine course."

Internationally recognised degree

Metzner's managing director colleague Bernhard Meßmer of the Munich Wine Institute elaborates on the point, but first takes it a little further: "In Austria, even in restaurants and inns that are far off the beaten track, you often find a good wine list and staff who know a lot about wine. That gives me a lot of pleasure as a guest and I like to order a second glass or even a whole bottle. Unfortunately, we are still a long way from that in Germany. Many restaurateurs have so far failed to recognise the potential and are criminally missing out on additional turnover through wine sales and customer loyalty." In a sensible wine training course, employees from the gastronomy and retail sectors are not only taught the right way to handle wine, but there is also a focus on the combination of wine and food. "Especially the joint enjoyment of wine and food and the mutual enrichment of the partners are still little in the awareness of consumers in Germany," says Meßmer. Furthermore, he said, it is essential that students develop a sure sense of how to describe and assess wines in addition to theory. This helps with qualitative purchasing and supports one's own confidence and competence when talking to customers.

Bernhard Meßmer (Photo: Weininstitut München)
This is where Meßmer's certified further education comes into play: "The WSET courses, which are divided into four different levels, place great emphasis on internationality. Both in theory and in practice, we at the Munich Wine Institute deal very intensively with the international wine market in WSET courses 2 and 3. In the six days that the Level 3 course covers, for example, around 80 wines and spirits are tasted blind and discussed together. The advantage is simply that you can systematically look beyond your own favourite regions and learn to classify wine from your own or preferred growing region in an international context. The competence gained in this way makes it easier to advise customers in a more targeted and comprehensive way, to build trust, to radiate and generate enthusiasm in the customer and ultimately to sell more in the long term." In addition to the WSET courses at levels 1 to 3 - there are five levels in total - the Munich Wine Institute also offers its own further training for wine seminar leaders.

According to Meßmer, the WSET courses differ from all other offers he is aware of because of the "enormously broad international acceptance of the degrees and certificates": "Due to the fact that the WSET is active in a large number of countries and has more than 40,000 students every year, the certificates have global weight and are becoming more and more popular with internationally active companies from the wine trade or the hotel industry. Another aspect that should not be underestimated is that the standardised wine language that we are conveying to more and more wine professionals, but also to private wine lovers, makes it easier and more precise to exchange ideas about wine. At the same time, the individuality of good wines and the emotions associated with them do not have to fall by the wayside."

Further education courses with a WSET certificate are state-subsidised in Germany, although the regulations for the corresponding education vouchers vary depending on the federal state. WSET courses are also offered by the Weinakademie Berlin and Heilbronn University, among others. According to the perception of Professor Dr. Michael Brysch-Herzberg from Heilbronn, consumers interested in wine are now "very well informed"; attending a wine seminar is now "no longer exotic".

To Part 2 of the article series: Wine competence in the hospitality industry

To part 3 of the article series: Dynamic development at the universities

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