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Alexander A. Kohnen (Photo: International Wine Institute)
Alexander A. Kohnen, Managing Director of the International Wine Institute (IWI) in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, specifically addresses the situation in the gastronomy and hotel industry and first summarises the market situation: "Wine is in the consumers' favour. German wine consumption has been stable for years and the tendency of consumers to enjoy high-priced top wines is steadily increasing. Wine is also cost-intensive and requires a lot of advice. So wine education has a very high value." However, he identifies deficits in traditional hospitality education that the IWI can close: "Specialist knowledge and skills of employees are of utmost importance for businesses to be able to hold their own in the market. Professional wine training, for example, is not practised at German vocational schools in the catering and hotel industry," he said, adding that although the curriculum provides for the teaching of wine skills, what is actually applied to the trainees is "shockingly little". "The training company has a responsible task here. Therefore, professional development is of great importance. Young people realise that with sound knowledge they can make a career faster, earn more money and also experience recognition and appreciation as a sommelier," Kohnen argues.

"Compared to the many offers of further commercial education, however, wine education is a niche product with many different providers, degrees and a wide variety of prices. This justifiably causes confusion among prospective students," he finds. "The International Wine Institute specialises in in-service training for the catering and trade sectors in its German training programme. We offer well-founded wine training programmes that build on each other: from Commis Sommelier (IWI) and Wine Consultant (IWI) to Sommelier (IHK) and Sommelier Master Class." All courses are part-time and designed as blended learning. There is a high level of compulsory attendance, and in the little free time the participants also have to work on specialist content on the IWI training server and complete assessment tests. "We see ourselves as a young, innovative training company with the highest demands on ourselves and our participants," defines Kohnen. "Admission tests as well as personal counselling interviews before and during a course are obligatory for the flagship courses." As a neutral and independent training institute, the IWI is certified according to DIN EN ISO 9001:2008 and has an "elite character". "Internationally active lecturers, representative wines and sustainable support for the participants are of utmost importance," says Kohnen. State subsidies are also available for IWI further education courses.

Further training with IHK certificate

Johannes Steinmetz (Photo: German Wine and Sommelier School)
Employees in the hospitality industry and trade who want to expand their wine expertise have other options. One of them is the German Wine and Sommelier School (DWS), which, according to Johannes Steinmetz, head of the DWS in Koblenz, "as a centre of excellence of the Gastronomisches Bildungszentrum Koblenz, has been one of Germany's leading providers of advanced and further training in the field of wine for over 20 years". Steinmetz explains the background: "The German Wine and Sommelier School has the motto: 'With wine knowledge to top form'. The number of participants in the preparatory courses to become a certified sommelier (IHK) are on the rise because the realisation is increasingly gaining ground in the gastronomy and wine and beverage trade that the key to entrepreneurial success is to be found in professional continuing education."

According to Steinmetz, the further training to become a certified sommelier (IHK) currently lasts 35 days in different time models (full-time, part-time or long-term) - which are very well accepted according to the individual situation of the participants - and covers all topics of national and international wine and beverage knowledge. Further training offers range from one-day courses on sensory wine evaluation for those interested in wine and enjoyment, to seminars for wine tasters, to IHK-certified courses such as Assistant Sommelier (IHK) or, more recently, Wine Culture Expert (IHK). With the IHK-certified sommelier qualification for the gastronomy and trade sectors, freelance work is also possible, according to information from the DWS. The certified courses are also state-subsidised here.

"With his or her wine and enjoyment tools, a graduate of the DWS responds to the complex challenges of the international wine market in a competent and purposeful manner, proving once again that today no one can afford to stop at his or her initial training, but that knowledge and skills require lifelong further development, especially in such a dynamic industry as the wine industry," Steinmetz formulates. "In this sense, we assess the situation of the continuing education market for qualified educational providers in wine continuing education as absolutely positive."

Sommelier qualification

Kurt Wolf (Photo: Hofa Academy Heidelberg)
Another option for wine professionals in the hospitality industry are hotel management schools. "In the colourful variety of training and further education offers, the state college for sommeliers is a solitaire due to its teaching volume of 1,200 hours in full-time form," says Kurt Wolf, director of studies and head of department at the Heidelberg Hotel Management School. "In the subject of harmony of food and wine, students benefit from the dovetailing with the kitchen and restaurant master school, in the subject of business administration and languages from the close connection with the business administration further education - and overall from the embedding in a highly lively school atmosphere and the Heidelberg gastronomy and hotel industry network."Graduates of the one-year sommelier school in Heidelberg are prepared for work in upscale restaurants as well as in the specialised trade. In addition to wine and beverage expertise, the curriculum includes, for example, accounting, marketing, personnel management, information management as well as English and French, which was designed in cooperation with the Sommelier-Union Deutschland.

Bernd Glauben (Photo: Sommelier-Union Germany)
Bernd Glauben, President of the Sommelier-Union, gives an overview from the point of view of the professional association: "The training opportunities in sommeliery have improved considerably in the last ten years. There are now quite a number of good training centres or educational institutes that, in my opinion, cover the need. As the Sommelier Union, we recommend these institutes and, for the most part, we also actively support them."

In addition, he said, Sommelier-Union Deutschland has its own further education programme, the Sommelier College, under the direction of Master Sommelier Frank Kämmer, in which young talents are supported with a three-year scholarship on a part-time basis. "Within this Sommelier College we have a contingent of 20 participant places. The participants are trained over a period of three years in regular training sessions and made 'fit' for competitions, so that this training is not comparable with any other," reports Glauben and additionally refers to international offers: "In addition to the classic German educational institutes, there is also the Court of Master Sommeliers for the Master Sommelier exam and the Institute of Masters of Wine for the Master of Wine training. Both institutions are internationally recognised and very renowned."

To Part 1 of the article series: Thirst for knowledge promotes professionalisation

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

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