From all of us here at the Napa Valley Wine Academy we hope your July 4th celebrations were fun and full of good food and wine. And undoubtedly you’ve been reliving patriotic red, white and blue fireworks displays amidst a see of red, white and bubbly, so let us help you switch gears and start seeing life again in red, white and green. To help with that, we invited Geralyn Brostrom, C.W.E., I.W.P., co-founder of Italian Wine Central, to write about the Italian Wine Professional (IWP) and how it came to life.

How the Italian Wine Professional (IWP) Certification Was Born
by Geralyn Brostrom

Italians love the word “born.” They use it to describe how many things besides people come to be created—a new wine or even an idea. The opportunity to create the IWP evolved as I crisscrossed the U.S., training thousands of members of the wine trade. For some 15-odd years, the question was always the same: “Where can I get information and education about Italian wine?” Although Italian wine is the largest category of imported wine in the US, it was evident that even those in the wine trade found Italian wine confusing.

Courtesy of IWC

Map example of Sicily – courtesy of IWC

The Genesis

At that time, no central source existed for the wine trade to have up-to-date information at their fingertips while they went about their daily routine of selling Italian wine, so we set out to create Italian Wine Central (IWC). Not long after the website’s launch, Nick Poletto, the director of education for Kobrand Wine & Spirits, sent this encouraging message: “This site is incredible, and something that has been in dire need for a long time! I use this kind of information all the time. Finally—a website that is one source that has correct information! Well done.”

The Italian Wine Professional (IWP) certification course was a natural outgrowth of the website. Several colleagues, knowing my background and interests, suggested that I develop a course. As one said: “We need an Italian wine certification course here in the U.S., designed by someone who understands the market AND the category like you do, and who understands training.” Many were convinced that there was potential for more Italian wine sales and enjoyment if importer and distributor sales teams, journalists and bloggers, and enthusiasts had a broader knowledge and comfort level with Italian wines.

At first I resisted. It seemed unwieldy. However, I do like a challenge. I began by soliciting input from the market segments who would use the course most—importers, distributors, retailers and restaurateurs, plus other prominent educators—to help determine its content and level of difficulty. The challenge was to wrap this up in a neat and easy-to-follow package, taking full use of my training and experience in the field of education.

Key Differentiators
What sets the IWP program apart is that it is organized by style—the same way people normally buy, sell, and drink wine. Importer and distributor sales teams can relate to this when analyzing a wine list or a retail shelf set—it helps them identify opportunities right away. Consumers benefit as well, often telling me it is an efficient way to study because the course functions in a similar manner to how they typically shop for wine; and how wine lists are often presented.

Wine list analysis and pronunciation exercises, along with a mandatory presentation (for those pursuing the credential), are additional key differentiators of this program. As a recent IWP graduate who already spends six months a year in Italy guiding tours has said: “In my opinion, it is imperative for any professional in any field to pronounce the vocabulary relating to his/her specialty correctly in order to gain respect and secure the position as a qualified expert. The wine list exercise was my favorite part—as everyone can relate to that.”

Catherine Bugue, D.W.S, heping IWP students to decipher a wine label

Catherine Bugue, D.W.S, heping IWP students to decipher a wine label

Italian Wine Central takes education seriously, because we want all our students to come out of the program—whether in live classes or online—with a newfound passion for Italian wine and a greater ease in talking about it. Christian Oggenfuss, D.W.S., F.W.S., A.I.W.S., I.W.P., co-owner of the Napa Valley Wine Academy, thinks the program is hitting the mark: “The IWP is one of the best-designed wine education programs available today. The course was clearly conceived by a team that understands the importance of pedagogy in designing a course that will elevate students’ understanding of a complicated subject.”

What’s Next?
In August, we’ll launch a standalone, interactive online course that will greatly widen the availability of the IWP. It is embedded right into our website, so students have access to the specially created course materials and the deep content (all 407 DOPs and all 118 IGPs, plus scads of grape varieties) on the website simultaneously. Beyond that, we have a few more initiatives up our sleeve, so keep in touch!