Sue Ray DipWSET
After more than 20 years working in the financial industry and having spent a considerable amount of my vacation time enjoying visits to some beautiful wineries and distilleries around the globe, I thought it was time to document my experiences in the fascinating world of wines and spirits!
I studied for and passed my Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Certificate and Advanced Certificate a number of years ago and in the Summer of 2013, decided to undertake the Level 4 Diploma.
I commenced my studies in September 2013 and attended classes every Saturday at the WSET Head Office in Bermondsey, London. I was surrounded by a great bunch of people, some from within the industry and some from other walks of life. The Diploma is the hardest exam - or should I say set of exams - I have ever undertaken, but fortunately for me, I had some great tutors at the WSET School to help me along the way. The final exams that I took were "Sparkling" and "Spirits" in November 2014, at which time I also submitted my assignment on wines and spirits in China (yes I have to admit, I almost had a heart attack when I received that particular subject!) I received my final results on February 4, 2015 having attended a particularly enjoyable tasting that day - Koshu of Japan - at the beautiful Landmark Hotel in London.
Dec 2015 update:
Since passing the Diploma, I have been maintaining and developing my wine and spirits knowledge by helping out with wine tastings and events at and . Both of these roles provide me with fantastic opportunities to meet some amazing winemakers and taste some fabulous wines and spirits. Notable people I've met this year include Jesus Madrazo from Contino Rioja ( David Pearson, CEO Opus One (), George Sandeman of Sandeman Port () and Melanie Tesseron of Tesseron Cognac (). I have also hosted a Chateau Boyd-Cantenac ( stand at a Bordeaux tasting in London and tasted some stunning wines and Champagnes from Krug, Taittinger and Ridge.
I have been lucky enough to have a couple of articles published in and hope to write further articles for them next year. Links to my articles are below:
It just remains for me to wish all my readers a very Happy New Year and I look forward to publishing more news and articles in 2016!
Jan 2017 update:
2016 was a year of change and one in which I managed to transition fully into the wine and spirits industry.
In the first quarter, I continued to work with both Hedonism and Humble Grape and met some more famous names including Bernard Magrez of Chateau Pape Clement, Jean-Philippe Delmas, Director of Haut Brion and Prince Robert de Luxembourg who established Clarence Dillon Wines which created the first premium brand wine in Bordeaux - Clarendelle.
I joined the panel of the Aldi Wine Club in March for a couple of months where I had the opportunity to sample some of their new wines and provide feedback. That was fun!
From April to June, I wrote and had published a further three articles by Seemallorca. Links to all are below:
In July, I took redundancy from my role in the financial services industry and spent some time over the summer between the UK and Spain. I also visited the IWSC team in Guildford in August to judge Australian wines.
In November, I was offered and accepted a short-term full-time contract working in the Wine Shop at a prestigious London department store, which role I have enjoyed immensely.
As we move further into 2017, I would like to continue hosting and co-hosting wine events and tastings, which I am hoping will complement my retail role. I also plan to attend as many industry events and masterclasses to continue to broaden my knowledge of the wine and spirits world.
Cheers to you all, and let's hope for a healthy and happy 2017!
Feb 2018 update:
2017 was a special year for me as it is the first time that I have become fully immersed in the wonderful world of wines and spirits!
After my initial exposure to retail via a short-term contract, I was very pleased to receive an offer to join the Wine Department permanently, which I accepted. I now work 3 days per week for a highly regarded department store based in Knightsbridge.
During the early part of 2017, I attended numerous industry events. Highlights included a wonderful Burgundy tasting by Liberty Wines, some amazing Italian offerings with a view at Borsa Vini Italiani, an Adelaide Hills Chardonnay Masterclass, more gin that you can imagine at Think Gin and some “muy bien” Spanish gems at Heart of Spain.
In March, I hosted the Ben Glaetzer stand at Enotria & Coe’s annual portfolio tasting held at the stunning Saatchi Gallery on the King’s Road. Here I met some old and new faces, including Troy Christensen, CEO of Enotria & Coe, Oz Clarke, Wine Writer, Stephen Spurrier, Honorary President of the WSET, Matthew Jukes, Wine Writer and Nick Keukenmeester, owner and Managing Director of Heartland Wines in South Australia.
In April, my eyes were opened to a vast new range of varietals at both Viva Portugal and the 2017 Greek Wine Tasting. In May, I flew across the pond to take part in some fabulous events courtesy of the Golden Nugget’s Spring Wine Fest in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Other stand out events in 2017 included Imbibe Live, a fascinating Sherry and Cheese Masterclass hosted by the wonderful Susy Atkins, a private visit to the beautiful Gusbourne Vineyards in Kent, and a very interesting insight into the world of Syrah in Hawkes Bay.
Towards the end of the year, I began hosting “The Gin Tasting Experience” at Ann’s Smart School of Cookery in Canary Wharf, which events I continue to host on a regular basis.
More recently, I have been studying and preparing for the WSET Certified Educator’s exam which I am pleased to say that I passed with flying colours earlier this month. I am now qualified to teach WSET Levels 1, 2 and 3. A huge personal achievement!
Moving further into 2018, I would definitely like to put my new teaching skills to good use and I also look forward to attending and hosting many more wine and spirits events!
Mar 2019 update:
2018 began pretty much as 2017 ended, with a plethora of tasting events all of which continue to enhance my wine and spirits knowledge.
March 2018 was a busy month for tastings; with two wonderful Italian events; Borsa Vini Italiani and Armit Wines Italian Portfolio, some fantastic wines from the US at both the Oregon & Washington State tasting and the Californian Pinot Noir and Chardonnay event, plus the chance to try out some funky new spirits at the inaugural Spirited London.
April saw me returning to a distillery – the East London Liquor Company in Bow, to be exact – my first visit here and highly recommended. Life is Rose was a beautiful showcase of French rose wines and just happened to coincide with a perfectly sunny day in London. Finally, Think Gin, which was actually held on a very rainy day in London, is always a great opportunity to seek out new producers.
In May, I was very lucky to have the opportunity to visit Paso Robles for the first time. I attended various events and dinners as part of the Paso Robles Wine Festival and also visited some local wineries; our friends at Parrish Family Vineyards and made some new friends at Halter Ranch Vineyard.
In June, I enjoyed Junipalooza, much closer to home at Tobacco Dock, and in July, I took my husband on the Whiskey Lovers Tour at the East London Liquor Company. Always enjoy visiting those guys!
For the best part of the year, I continued hosting “The Gin Tasting Experience” in conjunction with a local cookery school, however, regrettably I had to give this up due to taking on a new full-time role at a very small wine company, where I now look after sales and marketing.
Looking ahead, I hope to have the opportunity to attend more tastings and industry events in the coming year, as I strongly believe you can never stop learning. There may also be another distillery visit on the cards if we get over to the US again later this year. Watch this space!
Mar 2020 update:
Time to reflect on another year.
March 2019 was a busy month; I hosted a company stand at Wines from Spain, up in the clouds at the beautiful Sky Garden, followed a week later by our own Spring Tasting at the Royal Yacht Club in Knightsbridge.
In April, I resigned from my Marketing role, as I fancied a change of direction. I did, however, have the chance to showcase Tinto Negro, our new Argentinian range, at a rather prestigious Malbec tasting at the Argentine Embassy, before I left.
In June 2019, we headed over to the USA for another fantastic holiday. I had the pleasure of visiting the OHSO Distillery in Scottsdale, Arizona, where they produce an amazing selection of spirits. This includes a London Dry Gin, Notary – a Straight Bourbon Whiskey, aged for 730 days, plus a range of flavoured vodkas, including Grapefruit, Rosemary, Lemon, Horseradish, Cucumber and Coffee, to name but a few! I was also very lucky to be able to celebrate a special birthday with my husband at Mastro’s Steakhouse in Scottsdale, where we enjoyed an exceptional Frank Family Vineyards 2015 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
We spent much of July in Spain, split between Andalucia and Mallorca, and celebrated our wedding anniversary with some good friends at Adrian Quetglas in Palma, Mallorca – a fantastic evening of excellent food and great local wine!
In August 2019, I visited one of the Wine Car Boot events at Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross – a brilliant showcase for small English and European producers. Later that month, I had a very enjoyable visit to Nico and Natalia at Stanlake Park Wine Estate.
September events included an Enotria & Coe tasting at The Music Room, South Molton Lane, followed later that month by “Collectible California” at the US Embassy; a mouth-watering opportunity to taste some exceptional wines all valued at $50 and above!
October highlights included the Rioja 10 x 10 at the Tate Modern, and the Wine Show Chelsea, which seems to get better every year.
In November 2019, I joined the Exams Team at the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, a role which is certainly keeping me very busy! It did however give me the opportunity to attend the annual graduation of Diploma students in January 2020 at London’s beautiful Guildhall.
So, looking ahead to new challenges and some great wine in 2020. Cheers!