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Bonnie boom

Published:  23 July, 2008

With a population of just 5 million, Scotland has at least two million fewer potential wine drinkers than the bustling streets of Greater London, and 45 million less than England as a whole. But despite the relatively small consumer base, its wine industry is thriving.

At Wine Scotland, Edwardes hosted a highly successful food and wine matching event in association with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), which was popular with the food-focused visitors to ScotHot. The WSET is keen to capitalise on the growing interest in wine education that is evident in Scotland, and appointed a new business development manager for Scotland in July 2004. Jo Williamson (see box p23) works three days a week drumming up new business for the WSET in Scotland and the north of England, although his main role thus far has been to ensure that the 14 approved programme providers and 12 recommended tutors in Scotland are in a position to take up any new business that he creates.

Currently The Metropolitan College in Glasgow is the only venue offering the WSET diploma course, but the new Professional Certificate in Spirits is also now available in Scotland (the next one is at Chivas Brothers in Paisley on 13-14 September), and the number of approved programme providers for other WSET courses is growing.

Williamson has also been able to advise members of the Scottish wine trade on the availability of Individual Learning Accounts (ILA) for low-earners. These grants of up to 200 from Learn Direct Scotland aim to encourage participation in adult learning by contributing to the cost of training programmes (contact Jo Williamson for more details).

As consumer knowledge increases, it can only benefit the smaller independent merchants. David Slorach, managing director of Italian wine specialist Cento per Cento in Aberdeenshire, is a champion of smaller producers and concentrates on wines made from indigenous Italian grape varieties. He finds that there is only a very basic level of knowledge of Italian wines among Scottish consumers, and admits that it is a struggle to educate consumers about the less well-known regions and varieties.

Slorach hopes that the recent appointment of an Edinburgh-based representative from Slow Food - an Italy-based organisation that promotes diversity and artisanal (as opposed to industrial) food production - will help raise the profile of Italian wines from indigenous varieties and develop a wider interest in the slow' approach to food and wine. But whether Slow Food's advance north is successful or not, the Scottish wine industry certainly doesn't seem to have any plans to slow down in its bid to convert more Scots to the pleasures of wine drinking.