Wine is a miracle we can choose to enjoy everyday. It is an entertaining story and a cerebral experience.
Carla Perez Santos, Wine Education Manager – Wine Story Academy
I’ll be honest: I got inspired to come up with this article after I found out about a woman who got underestimated for being an alcohol professional because she was, well… A woman.
It made me look back on my career and realise, I myself have been on the receiving end of many strange (sometimes demeaning) reactions for being a woman (what’s worse, a Southeast Asian woman) doing what I do: An old Australian man told me that Asians are generally expected to go off on a rage (he apologised after I called him out on it). During a vineyard visit in Napa, a guy giving a vineyard tour looked me up and down and started speaking to me in a horribly condescending manner after I was introduced to him as a “wine professional”. In fact, a popular fixture in the Manila wine scene consistently treats women like sexual objects, ability to carry an intelligent wine conversation be damned.
What I’m trying to say is, as I’m normally inclined to look at the positive side of my industry, I think this makes it an exciting time for brilliant Filipina alcohol professionals to come into focus because I really don’t feel like being female (or Pinay) makes any difference in what we do: we can do (and actually do) the work.
I decided to start off with a field in the industry that is incredibly close to my heart: Wine Education. I do this myself, and people tend to underestimate the amount of work that we put into getting a lecture together (researching wine facts, familiarizing ourselves with wine styles around the world, studying maps, preparing slides, adhering to international standards if you’re teaching a certification course, figuring out a wine term in an entirely different language then pronouncing it in a class where there’s a 50/50 chance there’s a student from that country correcting your pronunciation*, figuring out food and wine pairing, constantly calibrating our palates… Eek!).
One Pinay I know who’s the living embodiment of intelligence and hard work required from a wine educator is a good friend of mine, Carla Perez Santos, Wine Education Manager of Wine Story Academy (you might have seen me mention her name from time to time in previous posts). Carla is a WSET Educator, WSET Certified in Level 3 Award in Wines and Spirits, and has undergone training from several top winemakers in Bordeaux, L’Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux, and Lisa Perotti-Brown.
But, she’s also a friend… And because she’s a friend, she was gracious enough to take time out of her busy schedule and indulge me in an interview for the blog.
2shotsandapint: What type of work are you doing now?
Carla Perez Santos: Having tried working on both the retail and the corporate office side of our business, I’d like to think I’m blessed to have the best of both worlds. My job is a hybrid of teaching, marketing and sales. I don’t only get to share my passion with wine enthusiasts who are thirsty to learn, I have fun while I’m at it. I also collaborate with our Marketing team for brand-building efforts, and with our Retail Sales team to engage our guests in their search for a wine beyond their wildest dreams.
2shots: How did you become a wine educator?
CPS: I didn’t envision myself in this profession, being once very shy and soft-spoken. Knowledge is held in high regard across our brands (Wine Story and Planet Grapes in particular), and the company generously invests in training our personnel. Training, tasting, and travel immersed us in wine – this is how my knowledge and passion flourished. From leading the pioneer team when Wine Story was born in 2010 to building new wine talent for Planet Grapes when it opened in 2013, I felt I had found my calling. When the company put up Wine Story Academy, I was appointed to head it, which was a real honour as I could truly get behind its aim to increase wine literacy and appreciation in our country.
2shots: What prompted you to pursue a career in wine and/or wine education?
CPS: It’s funny to think about how it happened. My love for wine wasn’t in any way planned or pre-meditated. It seemed like I was guiding other people along, helping them get started in the wine retail business. Before I knew it, I was neck-deep. Then, I realised how fun it was to swim in it. Promoting wine appreciation in our culture isn’t easy, but it’s fulfilling once you totally change someone’s mind about wine. Wine is a miracle we can choose to enjoy everyday. It is an entertaining story and a cerebral experience. I don’t know how anyone can resist it! I guess this is what keeps me going. It’s been a journey like no other.
2shots: What does a typical workday look like to you?
CPS: My days are never the same. My days can go from different tastings for Wine Story and Planet Grapes, to reviewing my class teaching decks or talking to different potential clients who want me to conduct wine talks, to as fun as giving my teammates a variety of quizzes, like Guess the Aroma.
2shots: What was your favourite moment as a wine educator?
CPS: I have many, from the thrill and fulfilment of seeing my students sparkle – whether it’s by acing their WSET certification exams, to excitedly teaching their novice friends about wine, to seeing my former students step up in the wine industry because of the knowledge and passion that was imparted to them.
2shots: What are the challenges you deal with as a wine educator?
CPS: The Philippine wine industry is very young, yet shows promising growth. I hope that as the trade develops, more diverse wine selections become available, and that the quality of storage conditions improves as well. This is especially important for the WSET courses we conduct. Also, I wish we would have more accessible venues to network with experts from other wine cultures. I’ve been very blessed with opportunities to meet amazing wine makers and Bordeaux personalities. It’s a rare and wonderful privilege to dialogue with them and learn from them.
2shots: What is your favourite wine?
CPS: Pichon Lalande (Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande). I’ve tasted several vintages of this château’s wine and I’m always in awe of the sheer elegance, restrained power, sublime complexity and perfect balance.
I’m a firm believer that a person’s favourite wine tends to be a reflection of his/her personality, and I think Carla is the same. Taking a page from her tasting notes, it’s indeed a privilege to know a fellow wino that is a perfect balance of hard work and intellect.
Carla Perez Santos now conducts classes in Wine Story Academy. You can enrol in some of her classes, some of which are indicated below:
- WSET Level 2 Award in Wines & Spirits
- July 28-30, 2017
- November 24-26, 2017
- *Examination schedules to be confirmed
- WSET Level 3 Award in Wines
- Lectures: August 12, 13, 19, & 20, 2017
- Examination: October 28, 2017
- Wine 101 and Food & Wine Pairing Classes Back-to-back on afternoon and evenings of:
- July 22
- August 26
- September 23
- October 21
- November 18
- December 9
For inquiries, please log on to www.winestory.com.ph, or call their number at (+632) 633-3556.
Very special thanks to Carla and Ms. Jo-ann Ramos of Wine Story, Wine Story Academy, and Planet Grapes for absolutely everything.
*true story, it happened to me several times (as a couple of my German friends know, German is not my language… Don’t get me started on Hungarian)
**photos used with permission from Ms. Carla Perez Santos