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Wine to 5: Wendy Gedney, wine tour guide and educator

Inside a professional's everyday life, Decanter speaks to Wendy Gedney, wine tour guide and educator.

Wendy Gedney runs wine tour company Vin en Vacances, offering expert guided tours around Languedoc-Roussillon. A wine educator and an expert on the wines of the region, Wendy lives in the Minervois. She passed her WSET diploma in 2006, and opened a wine school. In 2009, she started her wine tour company, and has also published a book on the region: The Wines of the Languedoc-Roussillon.

How did you end up here?

I was over 50 when I went into wine, after my husband’s death in 2000. At the time I only drank Sancerre, but I inherited John’s 200-bottle cellar, most of which turned out to be great Burgundy. So I started to learn about them. I became a wine teacher at Birmingham College of Food and then started my own wine school. The teaching experience has helped me with the wine tours. The Languedoc felt like the right fit, and there was no one running tours there at the time. It’s an exciting region, undergoing big changes.

What’s the best thing about your job?

I love creating tours for people – using my contacts and putting together an incredible visit for people. I also love running tastings and talking about Languedoc wines. I enjoy presenting and I do it in my own style, which isn’t academic, but entertaining, very approachable and full of information.

And the worst?

Sometimes it’s difficult because the work is very seasonal. But equally it’s nice to have a rest sometimes! And I suppose dealing with awkward people is difficult. Luckily most wine lovers are nice. I can count on one hand, in the 12 years of doing this job, the people I wouldn’t want to meet again.

What’s the most common misconception about your job?

People underestimate the level of expertise you need to run a successful wine tour – a lot of people think we’re just drivers. You have to be many things at once: a wine expert, first and foremost, but also a people person. You need great knowledge of the area, too – not just its history and terroir, but how to get from A to B. And you must be able to drive, talk, entertain and answer questions all at the same time.

What was your greatest moment?

I left school when I was 15 and never expected to do anything academic, so the greatest moment of my career was getting my WSET diploma. It was a turning point for me, as it gave me the qualifications to go and get work, and the belief in myself that I could do it. Before I started, I didn’t even know how to write an essay.

And your greatest mistake?

Not making a profit in a previous business. With the wine tour company, I realised from the start that I shouldn’t do anything that wasn’t profitable. You have to have a cushion, and you have to be careful not to be a busy fool.

Any advice for anyone who likes the idea of a job like yours?

Always be sure of your knowledge – that is what will take you through. Don’t wing it. If you have told someone you’re the expert, you have to be the expert. You also need to understand business, finance and people. A talent for something, on its own, isn’t enough.

Which wine do you recommend most often to friends?

I adore Clos du Gravillas, L’Inattendu, Minervois Blanc (2019, £24.50 Eton Vintners). When I arrived here in 2009, I didn’t understand that the region could make such incredible white wines. Outside Languedoc, it would have to be a white Burgundy.

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