Bachelor of Science (Hons.), Economics, 1994
It is not just hard science… there is a certain romantic quality about it.
So two economists walk into a bar - “and they walk out sommeliers,” laughs Mark DeWolf.
It’s not exactly the way it happened for Mark, but it is pretty close.
Mark graduated from King’s he says with “the ability to take a different approach and a different viewpoint on things.” So when his first job in Toronto with a corporate identity firm turned out to be “boring”, he took a different approach. Mark started to volunteer at one of the early craft breweries in that city. “I was actually a beer geek way before it was cool to like craft beer,” he says.
That got him hooked on the alcohol beverage industry, and when he returned to Halifax he started working in a restaurant.
“I decided if I was going to work in a restaurant I might as well be the best so I took the certified sommelier program. It was a very small class. Maybe nine of us here and about 175 across the country. I came out second in Canada so it gave me the opportunity to do some cool work after that.”
Indeed. Mark describes himself as an entrepreneur. He turned his sommelier training into wine related businesses. He originally conducted wine tours in Nova Scotia and then launched wine tours to Europe and other destinations. He held wine dinners and professional wine courses and he pitched the idea of a consumer magazine to the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC). He didn’t get the contract but he was hired as the editor of Occasions as the magazine became. And he continues doing that as Custom Media Manager – Food and Drink with the Halifax Chronicle Herald.
And on top of that Mark is the president of the Canadian Professional Sommeliers Association. He’s the first Atlantic Canadian to hold the position, a testament he says to the strength of the local organization.
It all fits with Mark’s view of the role of the sommelier today. It is about educating the public about the business and the mysteries of wine.
“It is not just hard science,” he says. “That’s what I tell my students. Who would want to taste and talk about wine in a purely scientific way? It’s also how it makes us feel. It is rooted in culture and history. There is a certain romantic quality about it. I am sure a lot of children have been born as a result of it!”
But while his job is teaching people about wine, writing about it and tasting it, it is also his obsession. In his basement, under the stairs in the coolest and darkest place in the house, sit racks and racks of wine. “Many hundreds of bottles,” he figures. Some expensive ones, including a selection of 2009 Cru Classé Bordeaux wines, (a gift from his wife Adelle Lyon, also an economist-turned-sommelier) but he also has bottles and bottles from different regions, different cultures. He finds it hard to pick a favourite.
“I love all my children,” he says. Then he laughs and adds, “and my kids too!”