Rioja Wine Academy: going from strength to strength
The educational project of the Control Board of the Rioja Qualified Designation of Origin goes from strength to strength with the launch of the first-ever “Official Rioja Wine Educator” programs since the Rioja wine academy was launched. In autumn this year, 15 leading wine experts, including several Masters of Wine, stage-two students from the Institute of Masters of Wine, WSET Diploma Graduates and specialist educators representing wine and sommelier academies from far and wide, traveled to the world-famous wine region to receive their diplomas from the Rioja wine academy.
Rioja Wine Academy, the educational platform of the Control Board of the Rioja Qualified Designation of Origin, goes from strength to strength with the launch of the first-ever “Official Wine Instructor” programs. The academy’s course draws to a close this year with more than 15,000 students from more than 125 different countries. Furthermore, the academy welcomed 15 pre-eminent wine experts to the world-famous region in autumn to award a diploma in recognition of their successful completion of an online course, making it the first prestigious training facility to offer courses designed to help specialist educators further enhance their knowledge and understanding of Rioja wines. RWA students simply access the e-learning platform and choose from three kinds of certificates depending on their profile and personal objectives: “Rioja Wine Diploma“, “Rioja Wine Diploma for Trade & Distribution” and “Diploma in Rioja Wine Tourism“. In addition to these online courses, for which participants can enroll free of charge all-year-round, Rioja Wine Academy organizes a fourth program aimed at professionals who specialize in the training and promotion of wine-making traditions and practices; the “Official Rioja Wine Educators Programme” takes place once a year under strict selection and numerous clauses criteria and requires participants to visit the region to complete a face-to-face teaching module. In the last few weeks, Rioja has welcomed two groups of international prescribers including 15 pre-eminent wine specialists, several Masters of Wine, stage-two students from the Institute of Masters of Wine, WSET Diploma Graduates, and specialist educators representing wine and sommelier academies from far and wide. One group was made up of WSET diploma graduates who are qualified as Approved Program Providers (APP): these official instructors teach at various levels of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust which, in the past 5 decades, has forged a reputation as the most widely recognized provider of wine qualifications and leading organizer of wine and spirit courses. Several of the instructors also have their own academies. These agreements are the product of a close working relationship with the prestigious WSET academy based in London. On both occasions, the comprehensive and ambitious programs combined technical knowledge pills and a trip to a dozen or so wineries and vineyards, with a tasting session involving approximately 200 wines from the region. The programs gave participants the opportunity to exchange views with 80 winery owners and winegrowers who have volunteered to talk to participants about the diversity and quality of Rioja in person. In light of COVID restrictions, some students from China and Taiwan were unable to travel to the region, which is why they will be invited to attend a special Asia ’22 event next year. Ana Lópezcano, who manages the Rioja Wine Academy project, was impressed by the considerable expertise of participants and the enthusiasm with which the wineries involved in the modules embraced the project: prescribers are pre-eminent figures with an uncommon level of expertise and showed great respect, interest, and admiration for what we do in Rioja”. Lópezcano remarked that the specialists praised the initiative as “a field trip which gives participants the chance to personally experience and understand the complexities of Rioja in terms of quality, authenticity, and diversity”. While Rioja has provided training courses since 2016, the academy in its present form was launched in 2020. Many other academies around the world have since followed suit. The courses are designed to attract not only enthusiasts of wine, gastronomy, and wine tourism but also wine experts. The Educators course also sets out to attract prescribers with strong communication skills and an ability to influence consumers in the top wine drinking nations. By preparing them to become approved ambassadors, the Control Board is able to monitor the quality and accuracy of the information they convey about Rioja wines. The scope of the project is demonstrated by the coverage it has received in leading international publications such as ‘Forbes’, ‘Weinwirtschaft’, ‘Sommelier’ and ‘Wein+Markt’, and the academy is also now starting to make its mark on internationally renowned academics and organizations. ‘Rioja Wine Academy’ has forged numerous partnerships with distinguished academies around the world such as WSET, ‘Napa Valley Wine Academy’, the ‘Culinary Institute of America’, the ‘Florida International University, and the ‘Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers’.
Monika Bielka Vescovi, USA. WSET Dip. Graduate. MW Student.
“Rioja Wine Academy gives you an amazing opportunity to experience the diversity of Rioja wines first hand. This unique educational program will set you on your way to becoming a great Rioja Ambassador”.
Dale Gatcum, WSET Dip. Graduate.
“Certainly one of the best, if not the best, field trip I have ever had the pleasure of taking part in”.
John Callow, UK. WSET Dip. Graduate.
“An outstanding opportunity to discover the authentic Rioja. If you’re an instructor, this is one you won’t want to miss”.