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Training scheme aims to fill education gap costing companies "time and resources"

Published:  13 June, 2016

It might seem like an obvious point that sommeliers and those working in the on-trade need to be able to help customers get the most out a wine list.

It might seem obvious that sommeliers and those working in the on-trade need to be able to help customers get the most out a wine list.

But Clara Rubin, ex-sommelier and national training manager at Berkmann Wine Cellars, says that this skill is worryingly lacking in certain areas of the industry - and that the trade is suffering as a result.

She is hoping to fill this gap in wine education via Veraison, the new educational arm of Berkmann Wine Cellars, which is aiming to offer practical education for front-of-house teams.

The scheme is open to anyone working in the trade, but Rubin hopes to create a net to catch newcomers who sometimes fall between the gaps of other training initiatives.

Rubin, who developed Veraison, said: "The WSET courses are fantastic, but if you're 19 or 20 and just coming into the trade, it's a big investment in terms of time and money. Also in the hospitality industry there's a high turnover so managers might not want to make that investment. Consequently, there is a knowledge gap."

Verasion is aimed at those working front-of-house between the ages of 18 and 35; and can be adapted for everyone working in pubs and bars to Michelin-star restaurants.

Rubin believes this type of training is vital not only for businesses to function but for the health of the trade as a whole.

"I constantly witness the fear and intimidation experienced by staff and guests when faced with a wine list. Both parties are equally fearful and the safe words, 'house wine please', are used once again so the wine list is completely ignored by both diners and their waiter or waitress. It stops quality wines from being enjoyed," she said.

Verasion has also been designed with the changing role of the sommelier in mind and offers commercial education as well as training on customer-facing interactions.

"When you're a sommelier you don't just land on the floor in the front of a customer with a wine-list. There's a lot of research that goes into developing a wine list and a lot of commercial decisions to be made. I always say 'a wine list isn't just a list of your favourite wine'," Rubin said.