Uncorking excellence: the importance of Wine Spirit Education Trust training in hospitality

We can all agree that work becomes more enjoyable when you have a genuine interest in the subject matter. Even more so, when you get to learn about that subject in great depth, and surely there’s no better pinnacle than when the subject in question is wine.

Hugo Maclean, Beverage Manager at Treehouse Hotel in London, has successfully completed both his Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Levels 2 and 3 in wine with Bibendum Wine. We recently caught up with him at the Treehouse Hotel to talk all things wine training, and how it has not only impacted his own career growth, but also contributed to enhanced staff satisfaction and retention within the business.   

The impact of training on hospitality staff  

Within his role, Hugo works as the buyer, drinks curator and manager for the hotel’s bars and restaurants. While he has long been a wine enthusiast, he acknowledges the profound impact the courses have had in his day-to-day work, as well as his overall career progression.  

 “I think it’s so important to have a world view of wine and be able to experience and get background knowledge on every kind of region and style,” he shares. This broadened knowledge of wine has proven particularly valuable for building wine lists at the hotel’s specialist venues, allowing Hugo to familiarise himself with lesser-known categories.  

When curating lists for Italian and Mexican dining, as well as a bustling rooftop bar, he finds that his new “world view” on wine has emboldened him to make more interesting choices. “The WSET courses delivered at Bibendum really make you take a step back and appreciate everything in the wine world. It gives you the tools to take on anything.” And what better way to learn, that in a room full of self-professed wine geeks from all sides of the industry, who can share their unique experiences and learn from each other. A proud wine geek himself, Hugo shared "it’s not often you get that many people in the one room just talking about wine, from different perspectives.” 

Hugo McClean, Beverage Manager at Treehouse Hotel

Customer experience and boosting wine sales 

Over the last few years, many members of the Treehouse team have also taken part in the WSET level two and three with Bibendum Wine. Hugo has observed that the uptake in WSET course participation is strongly linked to the team’s overall enthusiasm. “The more staff are trained the more enjoyment they find in their job... enjoyment in knowing what they are talking about,” he explains. He believes that wine education is the key to igniting his team’s passion for all things vinous, and in his words, “it makes them more enthusiastic to get out of bed to go to work.” Between the lively conversations with guests on the wine offerings, and fiery discussions during staff tastings, Hugo has no doubt of the impact of added wine education. “The more staff we can put through the WSET program, the better for all of us,” he says, “that energy and passion for wine is infectious.” 

Moreover, this infectious passion for wine extends to guests as well. As Hugo puts it, "there’s really nothing better than going to a venue and immediately getting a sense that staff (a) know what they’re talking about, and (b) can guide you in the right direction. Once that level of knowledge is conveyed to the guest, I believe it can truly enhance their experience. They’re then much more trusting that the selection is top notch.” 

And as more new categories crop up in the wine world, guests who are unfamiliar with them are likely to steer clear. But equipped with the right knowledge, Hugo finds his team can their sway interests towards brand-new categories such as English still wine, commenting that “it is still an unknown category for a lot of the public and so it’s vital that the staff are trained on the flavour profile.” Proving his point, he recently added Kent-based winery Balfour’s Luke’s Pinot Noir as a by the glass option at the Hotel’s rooftop by ‘The Nest’ and has watched it fly off the shelves as guests are delighted by the locally sourced wine.  

Hugo also finds this to be the case with their environmentally conscious wines listed. Within their restaurants, as well as at the hotel’s larger events, part of their package is to offer sustainable wine. While guests can sometimes be a little hazy on sustainability terms stamped on wine bottles, he finds that they are easier to sell when staff have “knowledge of the vineyard and of the practices adopted by producers. The more you can project how great sustainability is for the wine world, the better for everyone.” 

Training that gets results  

If you are wanting to build a wine education program at your hospitality workplace, the Bibendum team runs WSET classes, in addition to offering bespoke courses to suit your needs. Or for online wine courses, you can explore our e-learning platform for a digital approach to wine education. Speak to your account manager to learn more about wine education with Bibendum.

View our training calendar

We run WSET level 2 and 3 in wine courses at the Bibendum office in Primrose Hill London.

A hospitality girl at heart, Nina fell in love with wines from behind the bar. After finishing a degree in classical singing, it was the world of food & wine that really caught her interest. Growing up in Melbourne, Australia a wine region was never too far away. While enjoying wines from across the world, a Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir will always taste deliciously of home.

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