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Q&A with Janet Dorozynski of Global Affairs Canada

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Ever wondered how 'new' wine regions garner global attention and become the next big thing? We talk to Janet Dorozynski DipWSET to find out how she’s working to make sure the whole world knows about Canadian wine, what advice she'd offer exporters and how WSET qualifications helped her turn a passion for drinks into a career at the forefront of the industry. 

What does the role of Trade Commissioner entail?

In general, promoting international trade, export and investment opportunities to help companies and organizations succeed globally. As my day job, I work for the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service at Global Affairs Canada in Ottawa, which can consist of providing companies with information on how to export or establish their company abroad, advising on which export markets might be suited for their products, as well as working with our embassies and consulates to deliver wine education and export promotion activities in markets of interest to the Canadian industry. 

I also oversee a program called the Canadian Wine Initiative, which assists our embassies and consulates around the world to showcase a wide variety of wines from across Canada, raising global awareness of the quality of Canada’s wines, and provide exposure in new markets since its launch in 2004.

During your 13 year tenure with Global Affairs Canada, what are the most interesting trends that you have seen emerge around the world?

It has been fascinating to see the growth of the Canadian wine industry over the years, both in terms of the number of wineries and range of product offerings we now have almost 700 grape and fruit wineries, along with cider and mead producers.

In terms of global trends, it is exciting to see the growing interest in cool climate and lower alcohol wines, as well as in those aged in stainless steel or concrete with little to no new oak, along with the rise in popularity of rose and sparkling wines. These are the kinds of wines that initially sparked my interest in wine when I first began seriously tasting and studying wine in the 1990s and towards which I still gravitate today.

Examine how your current skill set is transferable to jobs in wine. They call it the wine business for a reason and it involves more than just swirling, sipping and sabrage.

What advice would you give producers who are looking to develop stronger export models?

The global wine market is extremely crowded and competitive so you need to know who and what you are up against. A few key points would be:

  • Know what you do well and focus on it.
  • Leading with your best doesn't always mean the highest priced or reserve wines, but good quality at a fair price.
  • Do your research on which target markets, distributors and influencers you want to pursue, commit to a few, and then follow up and be persistent.
  • Know how to pitch to your audience – trade and consumers need different messaging and materials.

Your career began in public affairs and academia; what would you say was the hardest part of the transition into the wine industry, and what advice would you offer others considering a change?

I worked off and on in the Canadian public sector, as well as teaching business and politics, while doing my PhD at Concordia University in Montreal.  Just before finishing my doctorate, I decided I wanted to turn my growing interest in wine into a career.

I had already completed WSET’s Certificate and Advanced Certificate (as they were then called, now the Level 2 Award in Wines and Spirits and Level 3 Award in Wines) and been to South Africa several times to visit friends and was smitten with the country and their wines. And so I approached Wines of South Africa in Stellenbosch about doing an internship, where I was fortunate to work with wineries and key industry players and got a start in the industry. This provided the foundation to explore other opportunities in writing, teaching, judging, market development and exports, and ultimately to where I am today.

For anyone contemplating a career change, I think It is also important to have internationally recognized wine credentials, with WSET qualifications being right up there if you’re interested in the business of wine.  If you want to be taken seriously by wineries and producers you need to understand not only their business, but also just how complex and multi-faceted the industry is.

You completed the WSET Diploma in Wines and Spirits in 2004, what inspired you to take the course?

I moved to Brussels when I was writing my dissertation to complete my PhD. It was there that I started to take more than a casual interest in all things wine (and beer and spirits!); tasting, reading and taking courses with a local sommelier.

I remember reading Jancis Robinson’s biography in the late 90s in which she made reference to taking the WSET Diploma in to order to be taken seriously in the wine tradeI enrolled in the Diploma after returning from South Africa and settling in Ottawa.

Janet tasting at a winery

What’s the best part of your job?

Hands down, I would have to say that it is working with the many passionate people and personalities in the wine industry in Canada and around the world.

I love that I get to learn something new about the business of wine, and wine in general, every single day.

What’s your favourite little-known fact about Canadian wine?

Although many might be familiar with Canadian Icewine, which we do very well, I don’t think a lot of wine drinkers – outside or in Canada – are fully aware that we also make top notch sparkling wines.

Production has increased remarkably over the past two decades and we now have over 70 producers in British Columbia; almost 60 in Ontario and over half of all Nova Scotia wineries are making sparkling wine, many focused on traditional method. It’s still early days but some might even say that the future is fizzy...