Where does the idea come from?
Natalia Blahopoluchna and Nikolay Blahopoluchnyi, members of the WTA Advisory Board – the founders of the Ukrainian Association of Winemakers and Sommeliers, as well as the first Sommelier School “Master Class” in Ukraine. The Sommelier School founders worked in the hotel chain “Intourist” (such as “Dnipro” and “Lybid” hotels in Kyiv). But they were hungry for knowledge about wine. Therefore, the variety of training programs in the best hotels of France, Germany, Cyprus was visited. Additionally, they graduated from the Sommelier School in Bordeaux, France, the Hotel and Restaurant Business School in Bavaria, Germany, and the Center of Sensor Analysis (Marche, Italy). The decision to create something similar in Ukraine became a turning point, from which began the time at which the situation started to change in an important way.
Having theoretical and practical training permitted the founders to launch the First Sommelier School in Ukraine and establish the Ukrainian Association of Winemakers and Sommeliers as well as the Association of Cavists. The Sommelier School “Master Class” is the first and the absolute pathbreaker in this field of business in Ukraine. The school was founded in the 2000s, at the time when even the concept of “sommelier” was unknown in Ukraine, so people confused it with the name of the country – Somalia or with the Sauvignon grape variety. Natalia Blahopoluchna and Nikolay Blahopoluchnyi, hotel and restaurant business experts, made their wish a reality and they`ve got a big success. There are more than 1,500 graduates, who are now successful sommeliers, cavists, managers in wine companies and boutiques, some of them even have their own wine businesses.
More than 20 years
Natalia and Nikolay have been teaching for more than 20 years and, at the same time, have been studying the endless world of wine. They permanently visit numerous wine regions, collect soil, unique terroirs, as well as replenish the enoteca with rare wines and the extensive library with multiple specialized books, and, of course, accumulate knowledge. During the educational process at the “Master-class” school, Natalia and Nikolay accompany their students along the wine roads of the world – not only in theory, but also in practice.
The curriculum of “Master Class”
The training program in the Sommelier School has the largest curriculum content in Ukraine. It includes theoretical courses (lectures and seminars), a course of practical studies on the basics of wine service and etiquette, tasting sessions, students’ creativity in the preparation of topical abstracts, and making their own wine list. It also provides knowledge about well-known wine countries and regions, spirits of the world, cheeses and cigars, organization of customer service in restaurants, and testing sessions. Students learn basics of sensor analysis, management and marketing of drinks, as well as to work with modern wine accessories, develop their smell and taste, etc.
The Sommelier engages students in the meetings with winemakers in Ukraine and around the world. In 2021, the Sommelier School “Master Class” started collaborating with the famous Ukrainian winery from the Odesa region – “Kolonist”. They established Ukraine’s First Viniculture School for Sommeliers. This is an annual training which provides an opportunity to visit vineyards and gain hands-on experience on all the stages of wine production.
Every year, the school, as a member of the Ukrainian National Association of Winemakers and Sommeliers, the Association of Cavists of Ukraine, organizes and holds professional contests of cavists and sommeliers.
Educational wine tours throughout Ukraine and abroad
The school has already organized hundreds of wine tours – to the outstanding wineries from different countries, wine exhibitions and conferences. Students presented their graduation theses by the end of the course. Sometimes these works represent unique studies of the wine-growing regions of the world and the wineries themselves, supported by knowledge gained during the study trips. Students of “Master Class” visited well-known wineries in the Crimea and Odesa, Kherson, Mykolaiv, and Zakarpattia regions.
The new program “Wine Tourism in Ukraine” was presented in 2007. Other wine tour programs were realized to introduce students to the winemaking of France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Hungary, etc.
However, for the founders, wine is not only about learning, but they also see a big prospective in wine in terms of a competition for sommeliers. That is why Natalia and Nikolay Blahopoluchni are organizers of the Ukrainian wine-tasting competition which is called “Variety and Terroir. Microvinification”. The project mission is to discover the Ukrainian potential in terms of winemaking and wine tourism, in particular unique places, varieties, and new names of winemakers.
The ХІХ Ukrainian National Sommelier Contest and the VI Ukrainian National Cavist Contest will be held on November 19-21, 2021. Such professional contests are aimed not only to define the best professionals but provide an opportunity and prospects for the professional growth of its participants.