Coralie Strong is clearly not scared of the sight of a text book. After spending three years doing her degree at Leeds University (and a few WSET exams along the way) she then embarked on a MSc Viticiulture and Oenology course at Plumpton College. Having just completed that she’s now all set to embark on trying to do the MW examination. Here she talks to The Buyer about why she is so focused on a career in wine, and how she is also enjoying running her own blog – Every Glass Matters – as she looks at what her next steps might be.
With her Plumpton qualifications under her belt, Coralie Strong is looking for her next challenges – starting a career in wine and embarking on the MW course.
Tell us about yourself and how you got interested in the wine industry?
I wanted to help more young people drink better wine and increase their knowledge in this sometimes complicated subject. Also, I was always amazed at the range of wines and wine styles available and how the taste and texture of these wines differed so greatly so I wanted to understand how techniques in the vineyard, winery and overall location had such an effect.
At Leeds University I joined the Wine Society during my WSET level 3 and went on to run it the following year. That gave me a great insight into the level of interest young and inexperienced people have about wine and how important it was to communicate about wine at a range of levels.
How and why did you want to do a course at Plumpton?
Whilst I was at the University of Leeds studying food Science and nutrition I came across Plumpton for my WSET level 2, from that moment I knew I wanted to study at Plumpton college and the course suited my ambition. The beautiful landscape, being right in the heart of the English wine lands and surrounded by like-minded people and tutors really appealed to me.
As I am still quite young, 24, I think it’s important to have a strong base of wine knowledge that will help me to hopefully excel in my wine career and an MSc made perfect sense. My family live close by so it made sense to attend the three-day WSET course there.
What full time course are you doing at Plumpton and why?
MSc Viti and Oeno. I chose this course as I wanted to increase my knowledge level of these two important subjects. The MSc will ultimately help me to pursue the Master of Wine as the level of detail and scientific knowledge is key. Also to improve my understanding of grape growing and winemaking which I believe makes me a better taster and wine writer.
What’s the topic of your thesis project and why did you choose that?
The Potential and Consumer Perception of Pinot Gris (Grigio) still wine in the UK. I think the still wine UK market is still relatively unexplored, rightly the focus is on producing high-quality sparkling wines as these dominate the reputation and market, however, as the UK industry grows a good understanding of commercial grape varieties for still wine is key.
I am also extremely interested in the market side of Pinot Gris vs Pinot Grigio. Outside of Plumpton I often look into consumer trends and understanding so this is something I wanted to bring to the project.
What has the research involved and how have you gone about doing the project?
I had a limited UK producer response so had to slightly alter my original plan and rely on literature for the grape growing and winemaking sections. For the consumer section, I used surveys to look into the online presence of the two styles and how the UK public perceives the styles of the variety.
What challenges have you had pulling it together?
The consumer survey was difficult to analyse due to the level of response and the statistical approach required. There was a lot to write about as it is such an interesting variety, grown all over the world. The comparison between Alsace and Trentino-Alto-Adige was an ongoing theme of the report so it was occasionally difficult to not show other exceptions to the rule – for example in New Zealand or America where winemaking techniques are often more varied.
What do you hope your research will achieve?
I hope the research will encourage UK growers to plant more Pinot Gris, assuming they have a high-quality site with the required features recommended in the report. I hope it will also show people in the wine industry (who know the stylistic differences between Pinot Gris and Grigio) that the consumers have much less of an understanding, likely due to supermarket exposure, and this should be a priority when marketing and selling this cultivar.
How will you apply what you’ve learnt to your future career?
The range of subjects taught through the MSc at Plumpton was invaluable. From ‘Grape Berry and Wine Composition’, ‘Applied viticulture and Oenology; to the ‘Science of Sparkling Wine’ and ‘Climate Change and Sustainable Wine Production’ the course has provided me with a breadth of knowledge that I think will be useful in any career in the wine industry.
What’s the next step for you at Plumpton?
I have graduated from the WSET-Diploma and was awarded the Derouet-Jameson Memorial Foundation award to help fund the first year of the Master of Wine programme. So it looks like I will be doing a lot more studying in the coming years.
I will continue to run Every Glass Matters – my own blog and education website – with the aim to increase readership and write for other brands/publications.
What would you say to people looking to do a course at Plumpton – what do you need to understand before coming to make the most of it?
The location. It can be very difficult to easily access Plumpton without a car, although there are buses they are not always frequent! It can be an intense course as the theory is concentrated into two long days with frequent deadlines therefore, it is important to be prepared to work hard from the start.
The dissertation can be a difficult and lonely process so it is important to remember the support from tutors that is available.
What sort of career are you now looking to follow?
I am currently a wine wine and really enjoy it. It has given me great access to a huge range of brilliant wines, events and press trips. However, it is very difficult to start something like this from scratch, so I also really enjoy working at trade events representing different brands, aimed at sales or increasing public knowledge.
I would like to start running more tasting events and masterclasses for the public.
I am also potentially looking at the more commercial sales or buying route as I think this is so key to the industry and something that I think could combine all of my skills.
Which countries and wine regions around the world have you visited and most liked?
An almost impossible question…For wine, I have really enjoyed visiting Georgia as it was a completely different experience with such a history of winemaking. Seeing Qvevri’s being made and tasting such a range of indigenous grape varieties was a brilliant experience. I also adore Alsace for its beauty and high-quality wines.
Which countries/ regions do you most want to go to and why?
I certainly want to explore two key continents: South America and Oceania focusing on Chile and Argentina first and then New Zealand and Australia. These are such huge countries with extremely diverse winemaking I think it would be incredible to explore more of these important places.
Closer to home I would like to gain a much better understanding of Jura and Savoie as these two regions are full of outstanding but slightly less discovered producers.
What inspires you the most about working with wine?
I am constantly being told that ‘young people don’t drink wine’ which I know is completely untrue. Young people are drinking less wine than generations before but I believe that is largely due to an overall different movement on food and wine in general. The way young people interact with alcohol has also changed. Young people are interested in wine but often feel they don’t have the confidence or knowledge to buy wine as it is considered to be more complicated than beer/spirits.
Equally, less wine knowledge is passed down through generations, family and friends, so young people feel as if they are starting from scratch. Quick and easy to use social media and the concept of being able to ask google anything doesn’t inspire people to sit down, read a book and take on a challenge as big as learning about wine when you can google a label and be told what to think. This is something I could go on about for a while.
Your favourite kinds of wine and why?
Anything different and new to be. I love exploring different regions and discovering indigenous grape varieties especially in single varietal blends so you can focus on the unique features of the grape
I am also very focused on the texture of the wine rather than the flavour profile. I think that’s what makes a great wine outstanding when you end up describing more about the wines’ texture than anything else.
- You can follow Coralie’s wine writing on her blog – Every Glass Matters – and on Instagram at @everyglassmatters.