Almost anyone of age can obtain, taste and enjoy wine in some capacity. When it comes to mastering what’s in the bottle, however? That isn’t always the case. Most traditional wine certifications require countless hours of rigorous study and hundreds to thousands of dollars, two big barriers that put the subject out of reach to many. That’s begun to change. A new wave of low-cost or free virtual offerings is making wine education more accessible. Whether you want to pursue a career in wine or simply fuel a passion, the following courses, workshops and guides can get you started right from your couch, and for next to nothing at all.
The University of Adelaide
One of the most comprehensive free offerings in wine education, the South Australian school offers a six-week, self-paced virtual course with an option to obtain a certificate from the University for $199. Taught by four of the university’s wine and viticulture professors, “World of Wine: From Grape to Glass” covers topics like grapegrowing and winemaking practices, and how they impact a wine’s appearance, aromas and flavors, as well as how to describe wine like a professional. Around 80,000 people from more than 100 countries have enrolled in the program since its launch.
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
Widely known for its elite portfolio that includes famed producers like Chateau Ste. Michelle and Patz & Hall, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is now sharing its wealth of vinous insight. The firm recently curated a free smartphone- and tablet-friendly online course that dives into making, tasting and serving wine. Called “The Wine Companion,” the free guide includes advice from Ste. Michelle winemakers and a quiz at the end of each of its three chapters. “Initially, the [platform] was intended for folks who work in restaurants, bars and other wine service venues, but we quickly realized that it provided a great wine 101 foundation for anyone interested in wine,” says Paul Asikainen, national wine educator for Ste. Michelle.
Sunday School Wine
This is not your typical Sunday School. Started by a pair of wine pros in Portland, Oregon, this offers out-of-the-box, weekly online wine sessions to the masses. Past classes featured original titles like “WTF is Orange Wine,” and “Natural Wine: Naked, Pure and Thoroughly Contentious.” Spots are reserved by donation (they recommend $30) and classes are free for individuals who identify as Black, Indigenous or people of color.
“We were conscious that a lot of people were put off by the snobbiness and exclusiveness of the traditional wine world, so we created Sunday School as a casual and inviting space where anyone, regardless of wine knowledge, can learn about wine,” says Cofounder Mallory Smith. “Our classes are approachable and accessible, fun and playful, and we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
San Francisco Wine School
Typically priced between $95 and $125, the San Francisco Wine School hosts online workshops that explore a wide array of subjects like Bordeaux, bubbles and beverage law. Any wines included in the class can be shipped to your door, but if you supply your own vino, you receive a 40% discount on the course. The best part? If you enroll in a full program after completing a workshop, the school will refund its cost. “These are a great way to sample a full program and see if it’s the right fit for you,” says Kristin Campbell, co-owner and chief operating officer. “Students can home in on the specific topics they’re interested in, whether it be a particular region, grape, style or technical topic.”
Did you know? You can also start your official wine education with us: This year, Wine Enthusiast became an approved provider of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) program. Classes are available online. For more information and to register today, visit Wine Enthusiast Academy.
Published on October 7, 2020