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Q&A with Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan MW

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A Master of Wine with as much expertise in spirits, Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan MW has trained thousands of industry professionals and is now encouraging education amongst enthusiasts through her books and courses. She shares how formal qualifications got her from total novice to a “go to” media expert and international wine and spirits judge.

What made you take the leap into the world of wine, coming from a career in corporate banking?

I didn’t grow up on wine at the dinner table, only special occasions, and knew nothing about it at all. If my family ever spent more than $8 for a bottle of wine at the holidays, it was way too special to even open! 

The change came when I was 26, living in London whilst working for Citigroup as an automotive analyst. It was a business lunch that changed my life forever. At this business lunch they provided an herb-crusted salmon and a Sancerre. The pairing blew me away and I realized for the first time that I needed to know more. 

Through education and engagement in both areas, I have also made new business acquaintances, new study partners, new job opportunities and new lifelong friendships.


After becoming a Master of Wine, what spurred you to expand your expertise into spirits and cocktails and complete the WSET Level 2 Award in Spirits?

At the time I was working for Remy Cointreau USA and I needed a more solid foundation in spirits, which the WSET Level 2 Award in Spirits definitely gave me. It is a fabulous course. I became the National Director of Wine and Spirits Education and trained thousands of industry professionals across 22 States. The company was the number one credentialed national importer in the USA in 2007.

Do you find that having a strong understanding of both wine and spirits categories is an advantage, both professionally and personally?

Absolutely. Having an understanding of both categories gave me a firm knowledge base from which to begin my journey for the Master of Wine title. The spirits courses also allowed me the knowledge and experience to become an international spirits judge for Paul Pacult at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge.

Through education and engagement in both areas, I have also made new business acquaintances, new study partners, new job opportunities and new lifelong friendships.

Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan MW (right) with Mary Gorman-McAdams MW and Jean K. Reilly MW

How does your series with The Great Courses support people looking to develop their wine and spirits knowledge?

In 2018, I will be offering some new courses specifically designed to help wine students in their journey to complement their WSET, MS and MW studies. For example, I have a course on how to study smarter and not harder. These lessons are key! We sometimes make studying harder than it needs to be and studying wine (and spirits) should be fun and a joy, not feel like a chore or a bore.  I want to help people get the most out of their education.

What advice would you give to someone looking to develop their wine and spirits education?

I recommend getting credentials from the WSET (over SWE or other individual country or region programs) given its rigor,  breadth and depth of student body (and instructors), and extremely useful study materials. Secondly, I recommend using the momentum after completing one level and jumping straight into the next level. Additionally, tasting groups and study groups are often key to disseminating cost as well as learning from others, especially in this day and age of sharing files thousands of miles apart. Lastly, I recommend creating notes and study tools in a way or with a method that are easily accessible and transportable for easy study, while keeping in mind they can be a launch pad for the next level above that.

To learn more about Jennifer’s new courses follow her on Twitter @JediWineMaster | Facebook /OneMinuteWineMaster |