With people spending more time at home to slow the spread of COVID-19, Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) has a full slate of online continuing education opportunities for those looking to spend some of that time learning about wine and spirits.
“During these challenging times, we’re finding a surge in people looking for an opportunity to continue their learning journey with a focus on wine and spirits, both from a global and local perspective,” says Barb Tatarnic, CCOVI’s Manager of Continuing Education. “Our online courses not only provide an opportunity for personal and professional development, but they’re fun, too — which can hopefully serve as a positive coping mechanism during what is a difficult time for us all.”
CCOVI is a licensed program provider for the globally recognized and internationally certified Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), and currently offers WSET Levels 1 to 3 in Wines, as well as Levels 1 and 2 in Spirits, in an online format.
The recent online WSET offerings at CCOVI have seen enrolment double on average, with the latest course seeing six times the number of students register as compared to an average enrolment.
A more recent addition to CCOVI’s slate of online courses is the Certificate in Ontario Wine online course, which provides a formal introduction to the Ontario wine industry and certification through CCOVI. With wineries across Niagara seeing a marked increase in their online wine sales, Tatarnic says the course is a perfect match for those looking to learn more about the Ontario wines they’re purchasing and the appellations they hail from.
The innovative course was launched in 2017 and became the first integrated online program specific to Ontario Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) wine. It was also the first online course offered by Brock to the general public. The course is open to everyone from the casual wine enthusiast looking to expand their general knowledge to professionals working in winery, hospitality or retail sales environments looking for formal certification.
Marc Pistor (BSc ’06), a graduate of Brock’s Oenology and Viticulture program with years of experience in winemaking, wine education and wine sales has been teaching the course since its inception.
Although it has set start and end dates, the course itself is flexible. Students work through the course material at their own pace, developing an understanding of cool climate viticulture and winemaking and the impact of the various appellation systems within Ontario.
There is also a tasting and sensory component involved, providing students with an understanding and appreciation of the wines they’re consuming and improving their confidence in making wine purchasing decisions.
“We dive into some theory about sensory assessment, the responses that wines elicit in us biologically and psychologically, and how we can build skills to better understand and communicate the experience,” Pistor says.
Given physical distancing measures currently in place across the country, the instructor will work virtually with students to easily and safely access the wines needed to complete the course. With more than half of Ontario's VQA wineries offering free shipping promotions or some form of contactless delivery or pickup, Pistor says he “hasn’t seen a better time to order wines online.”
Online chat sessions, forums and message boards built into the course also provide opportunities to connect and network with other likeminded students. This helps with their studies as well as allowing them to socialize with fellow wine-lovers and put their learning into practice by discussing the wines they are learning about.
Registration is now open for the next Certificate in Ontario Wine online course, which runs from May 8 to June 12. Online WSET certifications are offered on regular basis, with several options available throughout the year.
For more information and to register for CCOVI’s online continuing education courses, visit the institute’s website.