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Q&A: Why wine education must go beyond tasting in today’s beverage world

Program Director for the CIA Wine & Beverage Summit Maryam Ahmed talks about what’s new at this year’s event and how interest within wine and beverage education is shifting to include unconventional career tracks and more.

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Wine education at the CIA Wine & Beverage Summit


Next month, wine and beverage professionals will gather at The Culinary Institute of America’s Wine & Beverage Summit in Napa, Calif., May 5-7, 2024. We talked to Program Director Maryam Ahmed about why education around business skills and leadership tools are a focus this year and what drink trends she finds the most fascinating right now.

As the landscape for wine professionals shifts – as noted by this year’s CIA Wine & Beverage Summit’s theme “Business Savvy for the Wine and Beverage Professional” – how is wine education changing with it? What are some notable innovations you’ve noticed and where are the biggest opportunities? 

Educational organizations like the CIA, CMS, and WSET are not strangers to the shifting landscape of a career in the wine industry. As the industry changes, the education offered by organizations needs to evolve to meet the needs of those they teach. We will see more organizations pushing beyond excellence in tasting in order to equip professionals with business skills, mentorship and leadership tools. But the education space should not be evolved only by those that have the most tenure or power in the industry. It’s important to bring in more perspectives, especially those that represent where we are headed, which is a more diverse consumer market than ever before based on 2024 census data. At the Summit, the opportunity to influence and innovate wine education will involve a collaborative think tank with all of our attendees which follows our opening panel, The State of Wine Education.

Are there specific areas within wine education that you are seeing more interest in, such as leadership, new unconventional career tracks, the no-alcohol/mocktail space, etc.? 

Yes to all of this. There is also more interest in the language used to describe and sell wine, entrepreneurship and media.

What trend in the wine and beverage sector do you find most fascinating right now?  

I am closely following data about millennial and Gen Z drinking habits. As a consultant, my job is to find the opportunities and I think a lot of brands are worried about authentically connecting with these generations. But there are resources, like the report Millennials and Gen Z:  A Comprehensive Study of Alcohol and Non-Alcohol Beverage Purchase and Consumption Behavior, a joint venture between the Business of Drinks podcast and Research & Marketing Strategies. I don’t want to shy away from the challenge and I’m fascinated to watch trends unfold based on behavior and how the wine industry chooses to meet the moment.

What do you hope those who attend the CIA Wine & Beverage Summit this year will walk away with? 

Our aim is to provide connections and tools that will help our attendees move into the next position or elevate their career to the next level. As an industry, we can’t just provide opportunities for education, we are also responsible for creating pathways for elevating people and to support rewarding and sustainable careers in the beverage world.

Learn more about the CIA Wine & Beverage Summit and register.

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