It’s a rare honor for an oenophile to be certified a master sommelier. It’s even less common to become a master of wine through the international Wine & Spirit Education Trust. Kevin Cleary, chef-owner of Burlington’s L’Amante, is well on his way to achieving that goal.
Unlike sommelier certification, which involves familiarity with the intricacies of wine service, becoming a master of wine means knowing all about viticulture, vinification and the wine business. Over the last two years, Cleary has studied from home and traveled eight times to New York to be tested with essays, case studies and demanding blind tastings. “If you want to learn about wine, it’s not for the casual learner,” he says.
Earlier this month, Cleary and his wife, Kathi, headed to the Wine & Spirit Education Trust’s home base in London to pick up his diploma. It makes Cleary’s achievements official but doesn’t declare him a master of wine yet: He still has a two-year course of study to complete before he joins the 288 current worldwide masters.
Why go through the grueling process? For one thing, Cleary wanted the cred to offer wine education here at home. He has applied to the Wine & Spirit Education Trust to become a local approved program provider and hopes, by May, to offer foundation courses in wine and spirits at L’Amante. He’d also like to teach higher-level classes so Vermonters hoping to become masters of wine don’t have to study alone like he did.
Cleary will put his skills to use at L’Amante’s series of regional wine dinners, which starts this week with a $35 menu of specialties from Abruzzo. The weekly menus will continue through March 3. Wine is extra, but when it comes to pairings, diners can expect to be in masterful hands.