A Newcastle-based business owner has scooped the wine industry’s top award for education in recognition of the national success of his rapidly-expanding franchise network.
Chris Powell, founder of localwineschool.com – the UK’s leading independent wine education network – has been presented with ‘Riedel WSET (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) Educator of the Year Award’ for the outstanding performance of his company, which consists of 25 franchised wine schools from Glasgow to the south coast of England.
The award marks 16 years since Chris set up the original Wine School in Newcastle to provide independent, relaxed and fun wine tasting sessions, professional WSET wine courses and private wine tasting for corporate entertainment.
The original concept proved to be so successful that Chris decided to replicate the business model across other city locations, and enlisted the support of Newcastle-based PR agency Uniquethinking to help launch a series of wine school franchises across England and Scotland.
Uniquethinking has since worked in partnership with localwineschool.com to successfully launch 25 unit franchises. With a growing customer list, currently more than 60,000 strong, Local Wine School is the fastest-growing network of wine schools anywhere in the world.
Each franchise is run by local, WSET qualified business people with a passion for sharing their love of wine with others, and there is a strong focus on forming links with local suppliers so that each school develops its own identity and community connections. The original Newcastle Wine School still operates from Blackfriars Restaurant and offers a wide variety of popular courses and tastings.
Sam Hook, managing director of Uniquethinking, said: “We’ve been delighted to work with Chris from the very early stages of localwineschool.com, and to see his business flourish over the years, during which time we’ve liaised with each of his franchisees and a wide range of media contacts right across the UK. Well done to Chris for winning such a prestigious award, which is the perfect way to mark the impressive milestone of reaching 25 wine schools.”
Chris said: “I’m thrilled that localwineschool.com has received this recognition from the wine industry, especially as we were in competition with some of the biggest names in wine education from across the globe for this title.
“Since opening the original wine school in Newcastle there has been an explosion of interest in learning about wine. We now run fun and professional wine courses from Edinburgh to Brighton, and the public’s thirst for wine knowledge shows no sign of diminishing.
“We will continue to open further localwineschool.com franchises in a number of key UK locations with the continued support of Uniquethinking – and have already appointed a business development manager in Canada to help us in the search for aspiring wine school owners in each major city.”
The judges of the Educator of the Year Award included two Masters of Wine – Richard Bampfield MW – wine consultant, and Laura Jewell MW – head of Wine Australia in the UK, as well as Matt Knight from sponsors Riedel, and Drinks International’s editor, Christian Davis.
WSET’s chief executive Ian Harris said: “The judging panel were unanimous in their decision. This is a testament not only to Chris Powell’s vision to create the Local Wine School network, but he has also achieved a superlative pass rate since starting as an Approved Provider of WSET Programmes.”
Matt Knight, UK Business Manager at Riedel UK, said: “Chris demonstrated his passion for education at all stages of a customer’s journey into the world of wine. He thoroughly deserves to be this year’s winner and all at Riedel wish Chris and the Local Wine School network continued success.”