Wine can yield a profit margin of around 70% in restaurants, making oenology an important area of expertise for future food and beverage managers. So it is no surprise that wine forms part of the curriculum at specialised hospitality management institutions.
Les Roches Global Hospitality Education in Switzerland is one such institution. Here, first-semester students of both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes attend the ‘World of Oenology’ course, studying the history of winemaking, viticulture, grape varieties, vinification, wine regions and appellations for four weeks.
As part of the course, there are several tasting and pairing sessions, focusing on the world’s major wine regions and grapes, but also discovering the autochthone varieties of the Swiss Valais region surrounding our campus, including visits to local producers. At the end of the course, students deliver a group presentation on a certain region and complete a written assignment.
Far and wide
With a diverse student body of over 90 different nationalities, the level of their previous wine knowledge differs drastically. While some European students, especially French, Italian and Spanish, already bring a solid understanding of wine, others might be tasting it for the first time.
In the Asia-Pacific region, where wine is not necessarily part of the tradition and culture, interest and consumption have risen dramatically, with China poised to become the second-largest market after the US. Another non-traditional wine market is Dubai, where sales are rising due to a soaring hospitality industry.
Despite different cultures and backgrounds, the course objective is to bring all students to the same level of wine knowledge.
However, there are always some students with interest in wine that exceeds the scope of a four-week course. Hence, the Les Roches Wine Club, a student-led forum for wine enthusiasts to deepen their knowledge, discover new regions and varieties, and discuss new trends at weekly meetings, often in collaboration with producers, appellations and export promoters.
Since 2016, the Wine Club has been organising an annual Wine Expo on campus, where students and the general public can sample regional wines, meet local producers and participate in educational workshops.
Students get the opportunity to attain a certificate issued by the Association of Swiss Professional Sommeliers (ASSP) through extra-curricular coursework and individual study.
It’s a useful additional qualification to their hospitality degree, especially those interested in Food & Beverage Management, where wine knowledge can be a big career boost. Today, alumni and former Wine Club members have gone on to become sommeliers at some of the world’s leading hotels and restaurants. Students dive into varied careers, from running a wine hotel in Cahors, France to developing a consultancy business in emerging wine markets.
The writer is a service instructor and sommelier at Les Roches Global Hospitality Education, Switzerland. He is a holder of the ‘Brevet fédéral de sommelier’ qualification, and also heads the Valais chapter of the Association of Swiss Professional Sommeliers (ASSP).