Wine school graduates 10 with Level 2 Awards

Wineschool3, the only educational organization that offers certifications in wine and spirits knowledge in the Cayman Islands, recently saw the first batch of Cayman Islands residents pass its Level 2 Award in Wines & Spirits. 

Those who passed earned certifications from the London-based Wine & Spirit Education Trust, often abbreviated to WSET. In the U.K., those certifications form part of the national qualifications framework. In addition to that qualification, those who passed the course in Cayman received Wineschool3’s “Junior Sommelier Certificates” after completing the 28-hour course at the business’s Mirco Centre location. 

Wineschool3 instructor Christian Esser said 10 of 11 participants passed the first-ever Level 2 Award course, which took place over seven consecutive weeks, with participants having the choice of attending either Wednesday evening or Saturday morning classes. At the end of the course, the participants had to sit for a 55-question, 60-minute exam. 

“We had a very high success rate, with a lot of people passing with distinction and merit,” said Esser. 

The course focused on grape varieties and the influence of climate and wine-making techniques on the various styles of wines produced around the world. In addition to still wines, the course covered sparkling, sweet and fortified wines, as well as delving into some food and wine pairing basics.  

Esser said the participants sampled more than 40 different wines during the course, including some that were oxidized from being too old or “cooked” from overheating to help them identify some common wine flaws. 

The course also covered six different spirits, including vodka, tequila, rum, gin, whisky and bourbon. 

Most of the participants worked in the hospitality industry in one way or the other, but Esser said two lawyers also took the course just to learn more about wine and spirits. 

Antonio Hafner, a bartender at Grand Old House who took the first Level 2 course, said he was there to learn more about wines because he already knew a lot about spirits. 

“It was really good at helping me understand certain flavors in wine,” he said, adding that the exam at the end of the course was a good challenge. “I would recommend [the course] to anyone. 

One of the participants in the second Level 2 course that ended in June was Mark Nevin, a long-time restaurant professional in Cayman who is now working in wine sales for the Cayman Distributors Group. He also found the course very worthwhile and highly recommended it. 

“It’s a great learning tool,” he said, noting that by taking the course, he is now better able to distinguish and describe various flavors in wine. “You learn a lot and it’s not overwhelming.” 

Course participants who pass the test are allowed to use the WSET Level 2 Certified logo, something Esser believes will gain traction in Cayman as it becomes more widely known.  

Esser said that many local restaurants, hotels and beverage distributors are sending employees to Wineschool3 so that the can learn more about wines and spirits. In the past people in Cayman had to travel abroad to take similar certification courses, something that would not only require time away from work, but also cost much more when factoring in airline tickets and accommodations. 

In addition to offering the Level 2 Award in Wines & Spirits courses, Wineschool3 has also conducted a Level 1 Award in Wines course and offers a variety of two-or-three-hour courses about various aspects of wine ranging from unique and rare wines of varying qualities, Champagne, food and wine pairing, wine service, as well as courses on mixology and particular spirits. 

Any of the short courses are available for booking with a minimum of five participants and Esser said he’s about ready to host a mixology class for a local business as a team-building activity. 

By the end of this year, Esser said he plans to offer WSET’s Level 3 Award in Wines & Spirits course. 

Wineschool3 has also donated services to Cayman’s National Workforce Development Agency by hosting a four-hour course covering wines and spirits for Caymanians who are looking to find jobs in the restaurant industry. 

“These were people who had been in the industry before and are looking to get back into it as servers,” Esser said. “It’s a way of giving back to the community.” 

Wineschool3 instructor Christian Esser, fourth from left, along with some of those who obtained the WSET Level 2 Award in Wines & Spirits including, from left, Shalico Christian, Lorraine Ebanks, Jeremy Varlow, Antonio Hafner, Tibor Hollos, Alex Curris and Henry Vasquez.