Get to know Lydia Harrison MW
1. How did you get into the wine industry?
I went to a careers fair where Majestic Wine was one of the exhibitors. I got chatting to them about their trainee management programme and liked the sound of it. I enjoyed wine so I thought ‘why not’ and applied.
2. How did WSET help you on your journey to becoming an MW?
WSET was my initiation into formal wine education. I undertook the WSET Level 3 Award in Wines and then the Level 4 Diploma in Wines while working at Majestic and it provided me with the knowledge and confidence to develop in my career. At that point I didn’t consider the MW a possibility, but eventually, with some needed encouragement, I took the plunge and here I am! The Diploma gives you the breadth of knowledge and tasting experience that you then build on and evolve in the MW programme.
3. What is your favourite wine and why?
This is tough because I love all sorts and am always willing to try new things! If it was my last meal or I was stuck on a desert island, I would choose white Burgundy and red Bordeaux. If I was allowed bubbles to start and port to finish then they would be there too!
4. Why do you think it’s important for people to learn more about wine?
I think it’s important for people to continue learning full stop. Life is one continual lesson and I’m always looking to expand my knowledge and experiences. Learning about wine is one element of that, and for me it was for enjoyment and confidence. Other people will have different reasons, whether that’s to know what to choose on a wine list or to understand why they like certain styles. Whatever the reasons, hopefully it will bring them greater pleasure too.
5. What do you enjoy most about teaching at WSET School London?
The fact that each day is always different. There are always new students with different experiences, opinions and new questions that you’ve never thought about before. We have a global student base and I love that wine (and spirits and sake) unites people through a shared appreciation.
6. What are your favourite topics to teach?
I particularly enjoy topics where you can delve into production processes and demonstrate the impact they have on the end product in terms of quality and style, such as traditional method sparkling wines or the production of sherries and ports.
7. Do you have any advice for people wishing to enter the drinks industry?
Think about why you want to enter the industry, what transferrable skills you have and what interests you, this will then guide what area would suit you and where to focus your energy.
8. What are your top tip(s) for passing WSET exams?
I always say to students imagine you are explaining the answer to a friend that doesn’t know much about wine. If it’s not clear to them then you aren’t displaying your understanding sufficiently. This is the biggest challenge at the higher levels – students list facts or make statements without demonstrating the ‘why’. Also, do some practice questions before the exam – you don’t want your first attempt at writing a short answer to be in the exam!
9. In your opinion, what is the future of the wine industry?
An exciting and successful one hopefully! We are at such an interesting point with the current challenges of the pandemic, Brexit and environmental considerations, combined with huge advancements in technology and changes in consumption. Change is constant and rapid. From a production side, I would like to see the quality of wines continue to improve while sustainability becomes paramount. From the consumption side, I see diversity as key – from the styles of wine, to packaging formats, to the target consumer. I want to play my part in continuing to bring wine to a new audience in whatever shape they enjoy it, as that will be the future for the industry.
10. What is your dream job?
I wish I could sing like Amy Winehouse, but I can’t, so I’ll stick with wine! I love visiting wine regions, so if I could host exclusive tours of some of my favourite areas – with amazing meals, top wines, and some of the celebrities I’d love to meet – that would be a dream.
11. What is your proudest achievement?
Definitely passing the MW. When I received the email informing me I’d passed both the stage 2 exams first time around I couldn’t believe it and was incredibly emotional, relieved and ecstatic all at once. The celebrations continued for a good few weeks! Then attending the ceremony after passing stage 3 with my parents and fiancé was such a proud moment. All the hard work and sacrifice had paid off.