Job de Swart
It was a side job at Hanos that led Job de Swart on the path of wine. Initially a side path, but soon the fascination grew bigger and bigger.
In August 2018, Job became Master of Wine (MW), a very prestigious title that is only worn by two others in the Netherlands.
Can you give a snapshot of your current professional life?
Since 2007 I work as wine buyer and marketer for ‘Les Généreux’- an association of 40 independent fine wine shops in the Netherlands. The last few years I combine this job with the business development of ‘Grape Compass’: a software application that I co-founded with HydroLogic. This application helps vineyard managers to predict the likelihood of fungal diseases in vineyards so as to improve their prevention. In particular, the use of fungicides can be limited as a result. Besides this, I periodically teach, write articles and host presentations and wine tastings for professionals and enthusiasts.
Would you tell us a bit about your background and what sparked your interest in wine ?
As a late teenager, I worked every Saturday in the wine and spirits department of a HANOS wholesale store. It was my manager named Dimitry Coenen who got me interested in wine as part of a Burgundian way of life. A value that I still hold dear.
How did your WSET education help you with your career?
The WSET structural method to wine tasting is one of the biggest assets that I still use on a daily basis. WineWise’s Diploma Course education programme was instrumental for honing my tasting skills. In addition, I was able to meet a number of highly skilled, extremely knowledgeable and passionate Master of Wine teachers, including Frank Smulders, Michael Palij and Pepi Schuller. They fueled the ambition in me to start with the Master of Wine study.
What challenges did you face during your studies at WineWise?
As other Diploma students might also have experienced over the years, one of the hardest challenges was to get a grip on the theory part in Module 3 that covers white and red wines of the world. The huge amount of information that you have to process as a student was quite intimidating to me. In order to win some extra study time, I postponed taking the exam with an extra 6 months. This turned out to be a good decision; because I passed in my first attempt. Up to this day, I benefit from the valuable knowledge that I acquired during the Diploma Course.
Which wine book(s) would you recommend?
Over the years of studies, I have collected and read many wine books. There are only a few, however, that I consult on a frequent basis. Number one on the list is my desert island wine book: ‘The World Atlas of Wine’ by Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson. I am confident that many wine enthusiasts are familiar with this standard work. As a big fan of wine maps, I can also highly recommend ‘Inside Burgundy’ by Jasper Morris MW and ‘Inside Bordeaux’ by Jane Anson. Both provide benchmark quality information and are beautifully illustrated with admirable attention to detail.
Do you intend to study any further or participate in Keep Up sessions?
In my seven years as a Master of Wine student I have paid my fair share of study hours. But the ‘Keep Up’ sessions are an excellent way to light the fire to my wine passion, meet new people and always learn something new. To famously quote Oscar Wilde: ‘you can never be overdressed or overeducated’.
What was the last wine you drank?
My wine collection is quite eclectic yet I do have a few wine producers that I come back to frequently. One of them is Patrick Piuze. He is a talented micro-négociant in Chablis who makes wines with great purity, tension and a chalky minerality. As I write this, I am enjoying his Chablis Terroir de Chichée 2017. Piuze’s village wines offer remarkable value and frequently punch heavily above their weight.
What makes a wine great?
There exist many great wines in the world in terms of exquisite flavour expression, effortless balance, finesse and wonderful ‘drinkability’ among others. But what makes a wine truly great? In my book, a wine’s ‘greatness’ transcends its intrinsic attributes. Wine is essentially meant to give people pleasure, which to me is intimately linked to the social context in which it is consumed. To paraphrase this, the perfect wine does not exist yet there are many great wines that can perfectly fit a special circumstance for ultimate enjoyment.
What was your most impressive wine trip and why?
Over the years many wine trips have been an eye-opening experience, but the most memorable must have been during my stay in California while I studied at UC Davis in 2004. As a young student, I was overwhelmed by the openness and generosity of the people working in the Californian wine industry. A definite highlight was a spontaneous invitation to an informal barbecue with the famous Mondavi family after a visit to their iconic winery in Napa Valley’s Oakville. This was a defining moment in my life after which I decided to pursue a career in wine.
Which wine region to visit is on top of your bucket list?
Since my first sip of Gaia’s Wild Ferment Assyrtiko I have been a huge fan of the characterful Santorini wines with their pronounced herbal, smoky, salty mineral focus. Unfortunately, I have not been able to visit this special place with its old, ungrafted, bird nest-like vines on black volcanic soil yet. But I hope to do so before even more vineyard land is sold for house construction purposes on this beautiful Greek island.
Which fellow WSET graduate do you think we should interview and why?
It was in 2011 when I took part in the informal Diploma Course graduation ceremony in Den Rooy (Meerle, Belgium) with a small group of other graduates. One of them was the talented Aristide Spies, who later on became a Master Sommelier. I am very interested to know what the WineWise education has taught him in his successful sommelier career.