Golden Vines applicants – two Koreans

Jeong-hyun, Korean wine student

Korea’s only MW student and another, equally determined, wine student outlined the challenges they face in South Korea in their applications for a Taylor’s Port Golden Vine Diversity Scholarship. Above Jeong-Hyun Lee, below Hee Sung Park.

Hee Sung Park writes Becoming a Master of Wine involves a lot of sacrifice and effort and I know it is not easy to have the MW title. However, I believe I am well prepared for this challenge because I studied and passed the wine examinations step by step from 2011 to now. I hold the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Diploma, Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) Advanced, and Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI) Diploma Gold. Also, I am already in the MW programme and I am preparing for the stage 2 exam next year.

When I started to study wine in 2011 in South Korea and jumped into the wine industry, I realised that wine is an enjoyable beverage from daily wines to high-end quality wines. However, as a wine expert or sommelier, it is hard to taste all this range, particularly high-end quality wines. Therefore, I decided to take up the challenge of becoming an MW or MS because I believed it would give me the opportunity to join many tasting sessions. Then, I perceived the importance of theory and communication through studies and examinations, and when I met wine students from all over the world.

Through many experiences of different wine courses and trips, I found what I really want to do when I become MW or MS. First of all, I would like to help many wineries, wine associations and organisations that are interested in the Korean market. I also want to be an expert in the world’s fortified wines to promote sales in Asian markets, particularly South Korea. It is not just that I like fortified wine, but for me, fortified wines are the most historical wines in the world. For this reason, I became a Madeira Wine Educator and Roussillon Wine Educator last year, passing the examinations. Also, I am planning to attempt the Port and Sherry Wine Educator certification programmes in the near future. This way I can communicate and work with each fortified-wine association to promote their wines.

Furthermore, as a wine educator, I would like to be a mentor for many wine industry people or enthusiasts who want to become an MW or MS. I believe the wine industry will grow and mature if there are more wine experts in the Korean wine market.

Hee Sung Park, Korean MW student

There are two main reasons why I am desperate to get a scholarship. First, in Korea, I am the only Master of Wine student. There are very few WSET Diploma holders who can share their knowledge but their goals are different from mine, which makes me study by myself. Therefore, I always reach out to Caroline Hermann MW, who was the WSET Diploma instructor, and Tim Jackson MW, MW programme mentor, to ask for help with my studies. However, many times I feel limited compared with MW students who live in the UK, the US and near Hong Kong because they can easily organise a study group and have access to many mentors. Secondly, Korea is a third-world wine country with a lack of experience of viticulture and vinification, which makes me want to visit many wine regions and countries.

Jeong-Hyun Lee writes Since I first started studying wine, I have felt that the wine industry, education and facilities in Korea are significantly lacking. For these reasons, I have always dreamed of becoming a person who can contribute to developing the Korean wine industry and promoting it to the world by participating in the global wine culture. I believe these efforts would also help to bring diversity to the global wine industry in the future.

Currently, I am majoring in wine and sommelier studies at graduate school. Since there are no academic courses of WSET Level 4 in Korea, I am trying to complete all of the wine-related studies that I have access to in my country. I passed WSET Level 3 and obtained certifications in various wine-producing regions including Bordeaux, Rioja, Portugal and New Zealand. I also completed the Professional Sommelier introductory course, WSET Sake, and Mastering Australian Wine at the Sydney Wine Academy. In addition, I was able to learn about wine-producing facilities and the scale of different wine regions by visiting wineries in Australia, France and China.

I am eager to participate in and contribute to the Taylor’s Port Golden Vines Diversity Scholarship Programme. First, I can provide valuable information on Korean wine. The Korean wine industry continues to develop and has strong potential in the world wine market. As I am not only a Korea liquor sommelier, but also a person who plans to research wine-producing methods to compare the differences between foreign and Korean wines, I would be able to provide useful information about Korean wine within the global wine community. I am confident that this would serve as a solid foundation for strengthening and expanding the attractiveness of the wine industry in the future.

Additionally, I have a clear understanding of diversity and communication based on my experience as a foreigner in multiple countries. I lived for few years in Canada and Australia, and also spent several months in the UK. While living abroad, I took language and wine classes. Through these experiences, I have been able to develop an understanding of diversity and have built my ability to communicate with people from different countries.

Moreover, during an internship programme at the Korea International Sommelier Association, I managed foreign judges at the Korea International Sommelier Competition. I also studied French and Chinese while preparing my admission into a French professional wine school last year. The global wine community features a wide range of people from all over the world. Given my background and experience, I would be able to maintain good relationships with them and we could exchange global wine information.

Based on prior experience, I am confident that I have the required persistence and passion to achieve my specific goals in the wine industry. As I changed my major from polymer engineering, it was challenging to keep up with other colleagues studying wine. However, my persistence and determination enabled me to get an A grade or higher in all graduate classes and to obtain various liqueur certifications. In fact, WSET Level 3 was the result of the challenge I set for myself of passing three exams in four years.

In a previous article, I read that Gerard Basset was able to win the World’s Best Sommelier after six attempts without ever surrendering and with great determination and an enormous amount of work. After reading this article, I realised that I was gradually improving and I was able to succeed in the end without giving up. To become an MW or MS, tremendous determination and a willingness to make a significant effort are needed. Relying on my persistence and passion, I wish to become an influential person in the wine industry, similar to Gerard Basset.

My expected graduation date is next February. After graduation, I originally had plans to study wine abroad to expand my wine knowledge. Therefore, I would be able to fit my full schedule into the Scholarship Programme. This Diversity Scholarship, with its invaluable internship and mentorship opportunities, would serve as an ideal foundation to nurture my own talent and promote countries where wine has not significantly developed yet.