By Fiona Fang and Liz Thach
One of the most fascinating aspects of wine, according to many wine aficionados, is that there is always something new to learn. Indeed, with more than 1000 grape varieties in the world and 70 wine producing countries, each with multiple wine regions, there is plenty to keep knowledge-seeking wine lovers engaged.
Fortunately, there are many options for wine education globally, from general to specialized tracks, and range from targeting everyday hobbyists to dedicated professionals. These include rigorous wine certifications, such as WSET, Master of Wine, Certified Sommelier, Master of Sommelier, Certified Wine Educator, and many others. Universities also offer degrees in viticulture, enology and wine business, and of course, there are many interesting books, blogs and websites to keep wine devotees busy reading to enhance their wine knowledge.
However, what many may not realize, is that there are some high quality free online wine courses, videos, and podcasts. We decided to research these different options when some of our wine students and friends approached us during the “shelter in place” period, asking for recommendations on what they could do for continuing education while staying home. We decided to focus on interactive online options, and after reviewing over 50 different possibilities and consulting with wine fans on which sites they found most useful, we narrowed our list down to these top ten free online wine education options. They are not listed in order of priority, but by three interactive formats: Online Course, Video Series, and Podcasts.
- Wine Tasting Sensory Techniques: https://www.coursera.org/learn/wine This 18-hour course is offered by UC Davis on Coursera (free to audit, paid version for certificate also available) It allows you to learn about the physiological process of wine tasting, the classic wine types of the world, faults and defects, and wine and food pairings. It is self-paced, so you can start and stop at any time. Good for beginning and intermediate wine enthusiasts.
- World of Wine: From Grape to Glass: https://www.edx.org/course/world-of-wine-from-grape-to-glass Offered by University of Adelaide in Australia through EdX (free to audit, paid version for certificate also available), this course highlights a range of wine industry topics weekly over six weeks, from wine styles, sensory evaluation, to vineyard management, production, winemaking and wine science. Suitable for beginners and intermediate hobbyists who want to learn the building blocks of how wine is made along its supply chain.
- Aldiploma: https://www.aldi.co.uk/aldiploma Geared towards casual drinkers, international Supermarket chain Aldi partners with resident wine expert, Sam Caporn Master of Wine, to bring this very short introductory course, covering wine varietals and styles, how to taste, read labels and understand jargons, for beginners to learn more about wine in an approachable way.
- Wine Folly: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyHNNb7v43Xyeg3oE_XW4Pw Popular among wine enthusiasts as a fun and approachable wine knowledge and appreciation content website and community, Wine Folly features videos on learning styles by drinking, comparing regions and varietals, interviews with industry experts, and more. Their website and blog are also worth checking out for written and multimedia content.
- The Grape Explorer: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXa677aQvfoDN7_WFFN5ULg Started by WSET level 3 “Grape Explorer” based in the UK, this channel showcases wine regions and varietals, tasting notes, interactive WSET-based quizzes and product reviews. This dynamic, up-to-date channel is suitable for those who may be interested in taking WSET at levels 1 to 3.
- V is for Vino: https://visforvino.com/#watch Santa Barbara-based certified sommelier Vince Anter takes viewers on a journey around the world through this independently produced series. Each episode shows a featured destination, where Vince discusses the local wine culture of wine, vineyard geography, agriculture and economy in the experience of wine drinking and enjoyment.
- Guild of Sommeliers: http://guildpodcast.com/ Established in 2009 by Master of Sommelier Geoff Kruth, this website offers new podcasts on a monthly basis on many diverse topics, ranging from specific wine regions to how to study for wine exams. Geoff interviews many wine experts, and keeps the podcasts interesting and timely. Targeted at intermediate to advanced wine lovers.
- Levi Dalton, I’ll Drink to That!: https://illdrinktothatpod.com/ Wine writer and veteran Sommelier Levi Dalton interviews renowned and knowledgeable wine personalities on this podcast. Older episodes are archived on the website of playlists including top 10 episodes from 2012 to 2019, wine by regions, interviews with sommeliers, writers and critics, importers and distributors, auctions and more.
- Wine for normal people: https://www.winefornormalpeople.com/category/podcast/ Host Certified Sommelier Elizabeth Schneider dedicates this podcast “for normal wine-loving people” through a range of interviews with winemakers, sommeliers and industry experts to “take the snobbery out of wine”. Well-researched, comprehensive content is delivered in an easy-to-understand and light-hearted way.
- Interpreting Wine: http://www.interpretingwine.com/listen focuses on wine and hospitality internationally, featuring interviews with Masters of Wines, Masters of Sommeliers, winemakers, bartenders, chefs. This curated podcast is especially suitable for industry experts seeking more in-depth, sometimes technical information.
Obviously, this list is not comprehensive, and there are a number of other excellent free online wine education options that we are missing – please let us know your thoughts. It is worth noting that there are also many quality paid online wine courses and video series. A few of these include: UC Davis Online Winemaking Class, Sonoma State University Online Wine Business Certification, Wine Spectator Online Wine Classes, Udemy Mastering Wine with Jancis Robinson, and Wine Masters.