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Wine to five: Shane Jones, wine and sake educator

Inside a professional’s everyday life, Decanter speaks to wine and sake educator, Shane Jones.

Born in the Turks and Caicos Islands, Shane Jones is a freelance wine and sake educator based in London. He completed his WSET diploma in Wines and Spirits in 2014, winning the Moët & Chandon Sparkling Wine Prize.

A graduate of the Sake & Shochu Academy in Japan, he is also a Certified Sake Sommelier (SSA). Currently in Stage 1 of the MW programme, his study is being supported by Decanter. Jones teaches at various institutions in the UK, as well as in France and Germany.

What’s the best thing about your job?

It brings me immeasurable happiness. After a day or an evening of teaching I feel as though I haven’t been at work, and I consider myself rather lucky that my journey has brought me to this specialist area. Sharing my knowledge with others is an absolute delight and I’m constantly challenged to deliver what can sometimes be highly technical detail to students with varying learning abilities. Did I say how rewarding this is? It is! We’re all challenged and all the better for it.

And the worst?

When students try their hardest, yet cave under exam pressure by failing to make a passing grade. My advice to them is to just try again. I believe there is always a rainbow at the end of the tunnel.

What’s the most common misconception about your job?

I’m often greeted with looks of bewilderment when I explain that I teach full time. It is far from one of the more mainstream careers in the industry, but I honestly believe it is the most fun and satisfying. We do need more of us to ensure there’s a cadre of educators delivering exceptional teaching for all who want to learn.

What was your greatest moment?

In 2015, when I collected my WSET Diploma in Wines and Spirits at the graduation ceremony. It was an investment I made in myself and I was proud to have succeeded. The moment became even sweeter when I also scooped the Moët & Chandon Prize.

And your greatest mistake?

I really don’t think I’ve made any. Not yet, at least. I sometimes wonder, though, why I didn’t pursue education much earlier in my career. Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

How’s your work/life balance?

I often teach evenings during the week as well as some weekend days. This does limit one’s ability to be sociable. Over time, I’ve managed to find a balance that works for me, which sometimes means having to turn down work. It was quite a challenge in the early days, but now it is very good indeed.

Which wine do you recommend most often to friends?

I’ve long been a lover of Pinot Noir and, in particular, Spätburgunder from the Ahr valley in Germany. The best of these are certainly more affordable than their Burgundian cousins and yet have the same capacity to evolve into the most beautiful and complex examples of the grape variety. The purity of the fruit just sets my heart racing… I’m rather partial to bottles from Jean Stodden.

Why should we all be drinking sake?

It’s just as delicious and complex as wine! I’d encourage anyone who has never tried it to give it a go – there’s nothing to lose. Do seek advice from a retailer and try to taste many different interpretations before dismissing it. Like wine, there are some styles that suit one’s personal taste more than others. Personally, I like the variety that’s on offer, and there are some great stories behind a lot of bottles.

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