39 Complete Sommelier Certification Program in London

Olive oil professionals and enthusiasts completed a hands-on sensory analysis program, mastering the nuances of production and quality evaluation to elevate their careers and launch new initiatives.
(Education Lab photo)
By Daniel Dawson
Feb. 8, 2024 15:40 UTC

Thirty-nine olive oil pro­fes­sion­als and enthu­si­asts com­pleted the five-day Olive Oil Times Education Lab Sommelier Certification Program in cen­tral London ear­lier this month.

Students from diverse geo­graphic and pro­fes­sional back­grounds gath­ered at Russell Square in the Bloomsbury dis­trict to learn more about olive oil. While many atten­dees sought to progress in an olive oil-related career, oth­ers aimed to learn more about a pas­sion­ate hobby.

I will use the knowl­edge I got from the course to improve the expe­ri­ence and inspire more peo­ple to use extra vir­gin olive oil.- Agelos Bougias, restau­rant man­ager from Crete

Over the week, par­tic­i­pants learned about qual­ity stan­dards, pro­duc­tion meth­ods, sen­sory analy­sis, defects and pos­i­tive attrib­utes, chem­istry, olive cul­ti­vars, health ben­e­fits, culi­nary appli­ca­tions and sus­tain­abil­ity, among many other top­ics.

Sabrina Rea, who flew from Toronto and works as an olive oil importer in Canada and the United States, attended the course to deepen her under­stand­ing and bet­ter serve her clients.

See Also:38 Complete Sommelier Certification Program in New York

This course pro­vided me with a solid foun­da­tion, refin­ing my exist­ing knowl­edge and offer­ing a struc­tured frame­work to eval­u­ate and select the finest olive oils,” she told Olive Oil Times.

I am deeply involved in the olive oil indus­try as an importer of extra vir­gin olive oil and related prod­ucts,” Rea added. My mis­sion revolves around ele­vat­ing the [usage] and appre­ci­a­tion of extra vir­gin olive oil in Canada and North America.”

Rea said she planned to explore dif­fer­ent olive cul­ti­vars, pro­duc­ing coun­tries and cul­ti­va­tion meth­ods to iden­tify new prod­ucts for her clients.

I envi­sion lever­ag­ing these learn­ings to refine our prod­uct selec­tion process, enhance cus­tomer edu­ca­tion ini­tia­tives and ulti­mately ele­vate the qual­ity of extra vir­gin olive oil offer­ings in our mar­kets,” she said.

Along with importers, many of the atten­dees in London were new or aspir­ing olive oil pro­duc­ers there to learn more about the process and prod­uct to improve their craft. Eleni Florou is work­ing to turn her family’s farm of 3,000 olive trees in Laconia, Greece, from a side busi­ness to a pro­fes­sional out­fit.


Eleni Florou among her olive groves (Photo: Eleni Florou)

We have been pro­duc­ing extra vir­gin olive oil, mainly from the Koroneiki vari­ety, since I can remem­ber,” she told Olive Oil Times. I must have been a tod­dler dur­ing my first har­vest.”

In the last few years, we have started bot­tling and dis­trib­ut­ing to fam­ily and friends,” Florou added. I am very keen on tak­ing over the busi­ness, rebrand­ing the prod­uct and mak­ing all the nec­es­sary improve­ments so it can stand out in terms of qual­ity. I intend to go through the process of our own olive oil-mak­ing tra­di­tion step by step from the orchard to the mill, com­par­ing notes with what we have been taught as good prac­tices.”

On the other side of the olive oil-pro­duc­ing world, Dave and Claudia Sadoff trav­eled from Sonoma County, California, as they were embark­ing on their jour­ney as olive oil pro­duc­ers at Nomad Groves.


Dave and Claudia Sadoff

We are new olive oil pro­duc­ers, tak­ing over the stew­ard­ship of a beau­ti­ful, estab­lished olive grove and keen to learn as much as we can about what makes an excep­tion­ally high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil,” the cou­ple told Olive Oil Times.

The som­me­lier course offered us the oppor­tu­nity to learn from and inter­act directly with world-class spe­cial­ists, to explore the attrib­utes and com­plex­ity of fine oils, and to guard against the mis­steps that can lead to defec­tive oil,” they added.

The Sadoffs pro­duce a lim­ited amount of a robust blend of Italian, Spanish, Greek, and French olive vari­eties and are expand­ing the grove.

We are now bet­ter equipped to avoid prob­lems that can pro­duce defec­tive oil, have a deeper appre­ci­a­tion for when we should seek expert guid­ance, and ought to be able to more accu­rately assess the qual­ity of our oil and the means by which we can refine its taste through curated blend­ing,” they said. Also, dur­ing the course, we met a num­ber of pre­sen­ters and class­mates with whom we hope to col­lab­o­rate in one way or another.”


Along with plant­ing more trees, the Sadoffs plan to start an olive tree nurs­ery. The prop­erty we acquired came with two large green­house struc­tures,” they added.

While plenty of atten­dees were focused on pro­duc­tion, oth­ers sought to learn more about extra vir­gin olive oil to serve as ambas­sadors to the culi­nary world.

Bill DeWitt, who owns a brew­ery and win­ery in Virginia, trekked from the Washington, D.C., area to learn how to high­light olive oils in his recently added kitchen.


Billl DeWitt and his wife Michelle in Portugal. (Photo: Bill DeWitt)

I have been a long-time wine enthu­si­ast, and as my wife, Michelle, and I trav­eled the world on the wine jour­ney, it became appar­ent that olive oil was also a big part of the meals we shared while wine tast­ing,” he told Olive Oil Times. So, I set out to learn as much as pos­si­ble about extra vir­gin olive oil as well.”

Our goal is to become stew­ards of good olive oil and fea­ture it within our menu,” he added. Also, we will have food, wine and olive oil events fea­tur­ing a cer­tain coun­try that fits the script, focus­ing on smaller pro­duc­tion groves.”

DeWitt was not the only attendee seek­ing to empha­size the organolep­tic qual­i­ties of extra vir­gin olive oil in hos­pi­tal­ity.

Zack Manganas and Agelos Bougias, who man­age a farm-to-table restau­rant and organic farm together, jour­neyed from Crete to bet­ter under­stand organic extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­tion and qual­ity to improve the syn­ergy of their busi­nesses.


Agelos Bougias and Zack Manganas promote the traditional Cretan diet in their olive farm and farm-to-table restaurant.

Manganas is respon­si­ble for the restau­rant, which spe­cial­izes in Cretan cui­sine. Bougias man­ages Peskesi Organic Farm, which offers guided olive oil tast­ings and food pair­ings.

We are pas­sion­ate about envi­ron­men­tally friendly ways of farm­ing, and our vision is to revive the authen­tic Cretan diet with so many health ben­e­fits,” Bougias told Olive Oil Times. I will use the knowl­edge I got from the course to improve the expe­ri­ence and inspire more peo­ple to use extra vir­gin olive oil.”

Extra vir­gin olive oil is the linch­pin of the Cretan diet. Manganas, who grew up in the fam­ily olive mill help­ing and tast­ing,” said he needed to know more.

Olive oil was, is and will always be in my life, as I am lit­er­ally sur­rounded by it,” he told Olive Oil Times. I feel the duty to do my best so peo­ple will know more about olive oil pro­duc­tion, and now I can, with higher effi­ciency, edu­cate peo­ple through the tast­ings.”

Olive oil is the main prod­uct that the island of Crete pro­duces, and we try to show­case the impor­tance and qual­ity of the prod­uct to every guest who pays us a visit,” Managas added.

While many atten­dees trav­eled inter­na­tion­ally to explore olive oil with lead­ing pro­fes­sion­als, one afi­cionado com­muted to the pro­gram each morn­ing on the Tube, the local name for London’s metro.

I have been absolutely pas­sion­ate about olive oil all my life,” Vesna Cramer told Olive Oil Times.

In 2014, Cramer had her olive oil moment when she vol­un­teered to har­vest olives from trees in Croatia that would have oth­er­wise gone unpicked. She bought ten hectares of land to plant 125 olive trees in Šibenik.

I am work­ing on my own fur­ther devel­op­ment linked to har­vest­ing, milling, select­ing and sell­ing on a small scale to friends and fam­ily,” she said.

I aim to focus more on tast­ing olive oil at every oppor­tu­nity and to work more on improv­ing my skills as a taster so I can help my friends and fam­ily choose good olive oils,” Cramer added. I also aim to work on set­ting up a few tast­ing group activ­i­ties here and in Croatia with my sum­mer guests.”

Enrollment is open for the upcom­ing olive oil som­me­lier cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gram in New York, which will run from May 20th to 24th.


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