Sauternes. Vouvray. Amarone. Would you be able to explain
the differences among these wines for an indecisive guest with an insatiable
thirst or recommend the perfect food pairing to go with each for your owner?
In an industry of perfection, it takes absolute dedication
to attain the highest standards of service. With interior training achieving
more respect in recent years, the bar for dedication has been set even higher
than before — including expanding your wine knowledge.
It’s this kind of objective that led former Chief Stewardess
Kaki Burgess, whose American boss had an extensive onboard cellar of his
favorite California Cabernets and Tuscan Reds, to become trained in wine.
“As we were also an extremely busy charter boat with
twenty-four-hour turnarounds and with international clientele, I felt I needed
to be able to order and discuss [wine] based on my knowledge of what I had on
board [and] based on what our chef might prepare for those guests,” she explains.
Burgess decided to refine her taste buds with Wine &
Spirit Education (WSET), which has become a more common and serious
qualification since the Professional Yachting Association’s (PYA) GUEST program
recognized it as an accredited course.
“WSET is rigorous and can be very scientific and may be more
than what yachties want to learn during their vacation time, but I haven’t met
a yachtie yet that doesn’t like to drink wine,” says Burgess. “Especially for
[interior crew], we don’t usually get high-ranking certifications, so I
consider this to be one of them.”
Burgess isn’t the only one who seems to feel this way.
Although more than 40 years old, WSET is now adding some serious weight to
“Over the last seven years that I have been offering WSET
training, I have seen a definite shift to accredited wine training becoming a
‘must have’ on a CV rather than something quite nice and ‘fun,’” maintains
Helen Brotherton, president of Fine Wine Works, which offers WSET courses in
Vence, France, and Palma, Mallorca.
“We also know from captains and senior crew that it
definitely plays a part in sorting through CVs and applicants for the job,” adds
Brotherton. “Investing in your career by attending recognized training courses
gives the message that you are serious about this vocational profession.”
Burgess herself highly recommends WSET for those serious
about taking their interior positions to the next level. The WSET comprises
four levels of courses, depending on how serious of a wine connoisseur you want
to become. But how do you decide which course is the right one for you, or if
at all, for that matter?
Level 1 offers basic wine knowledge and an introduction into
the world of wine for both beginners and those who want a refresher. Level 2,
which does not require a prerequisite, is a three-day course that provides more
of an overview and understanding of all wine, regions and pairing, says
Caroline O’Neil, sales and marketing manager at The Crew Academy, which offers
WSET Level 2 and Level 3.
“In the PYA’s GUEST program, the three-day course is ideal
for chief stews or those wishing to climb to that senior position and who will
need to manage wine purchases on behalf of guests in the future,” Brotherton
One of the main reasons Burgess took the WSET route is
because it’s known worldwide, so it would be able to translate no matter what
she did or where she lived after yachting.
Those of a similar mindset should consider taking WSET Level
3, the five-day, more academically challenging course that is ideal for the
stew looking to transition on shore. According to O’Neil, WSET Level 3 not only
helps stews progress in their career, but also provides training they can use
for other jobs once leaving the industry, including hospitality, Michelin star
restaurants and sommelier.
Burgess is proof of this. “Having the WSET on my CV
continues to help after I’ve left yachting now that I am helping my mom run a
food company,” she says.
O’Neil also suggests taking WSET if your vessel’s owners
drink a lot of wine and you want to remain up to speed on the latest, thereby
allowing you to discuss various wines together.
“When I started in yachting, there was no Internet on board,
so to Google which wine went with veal we really did have to know our ‘stuff’
back then, but what WSET taught me was how to properly smell and taste and talk
about wine,” Burgess maintains.
This will provide stews with what Brotherton calls the main
benefit of wine training — the extra confidence when it comes to knowing the
value of the product and dealing with all and any aspect of wine purchasing,
storing and service.
And a boost of confidence helps you deliver higher quality
With more than 600 APPs in more than 60 countries around the
world, WSET offers many options for crew to take the course no matter their
location, whether it’s through a wine school, a training center such as the
Crew Academy or crew agency such as Riviera Yacht Support in Antibes.
Some places will even bring the service to you. Fine Wine
Works, for example, offers onboard training and training in shipyards, perfect
for when you’re stuck on board or your yacht is going through refit. To find a
provider near you, visit WSET’s “Where
to Study” page and search by region.
Whether you want to taste the world of wine is up to you,
but it may well be worth the investment. You may even pick up a new party trick
along the way, just as Burgess did.
“[I] ask the bartender to bring me their favorite glass of
wine and [to not] tell me what it is, and I promise [the guests] that I can
tell them what type of wine it is and from what region,” she shares. “Most of
the time, I can do it just by sight and smell without even a taste.”
She jokingly adds, “I’m not sure if that’s WSET or just a
lot of drinking wine…just kidding, it’s WSET.”
Want more? Check out: