Clara Rubin Q&A: Outstanding Achievement in the Wine Industry
During her four years as the national training manager at Berkmann Wine Cellars, Clara Rubin co-created and wrote the first-of-its-kind wine-service education programme Veraison, tailored to professionals in the hospitality and wine trade.
Where does your passion for wine education come from?
It comes from studying social anthropology at university. I like history and am obsessed with people and how they behave. That couples with my other obsession in life, food and drink, led me into looking at wine as a social construct – how we consume, where and with whom.
What about the teaching side?
We’re not raised to understand things in an olfactory sense: if something happens you ask, ‘What did you see?’ not ‘What did you smell?’ To try to understand what you taste and smell is a new skill for most people, so that’s what education means to me.
And you like being that link in the middle?
I get so much from it. When someone who works in service, who has never really been academic, gets to grips with smelling and tasting something, they get an incredible sense of achievement. You see a light behind their eyes, and I just think, ‘My job is awesome.’
So, your role knits these things together?
You’re part stand-up comedian, part personal trainer, part translator and trying to bring everyone together. It’s a tiring job.
Are you a natural teacher?
I selfishly get so much from it, but you’ve got to have whatever that personality type is. Being a flaming extrovert helps.
What has been the key to the success of the Berkmann Veraison sessions?
The success was that it had to be focused; it doesn’t try to do too much. Veraison has one job, which is wine-service education. With eight books in the set, we could ask people what they wanted to learn and tailor our programmes.
Was that hard to do?
It took a couple of years to hone. Wine educators have been around for decades, but I think they never looked outside the industry to see how other sectors were training staff, which I did.
What is your career highlight so far?
It’s the people I get to talk to and meet. Those who talk to me months after a session or find me on social media and thank me – it’s great.
Who is your wine inspiration?
My contemporaries are really inspiring to me, particularly a lot of working women in different sectors. Also, a group called Women in Wine London. I cannot single out another networking group that provides women in the professional wine trade with the same forum for discussion, debate, support and development as they do. They’re doing something quite incredible.
Watch Clara Rubin's winner interview:
The Outstanding Achievement in the Wine Industry Trophy is sponsored by Waitrose.
The late Julian Brind MW was a leading light in the wine trade and an integral part of the Waitrose wine team for more than 40 years. We have created this award in association with the IWSC, where he was a long-standing judge, to honour his contribution and service to the trade he loved. He was a trusted and committed mentor to many aspiring young wine professionals, as well as being a dedicated family man, full of energy both for his work and his leisure activities.
Julian was always interested in quality and true wine value; he was also unswervingly enthusiastic about innovation and discovery. For example, as a supermarket buyer in 1973, he was involved right at the start of the New Zealand Sauvignon craze.
Each year, we award this prize to the man or woman who demonstrates they have the courage of their convictions, dedication to the industry and real passion for wine. The intended recipient will have established an early track record in their field, be seen to be “going places”, and will already be taking part in the wider aspects of the wine trade, showing commitment and determination in everything they do.
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