Student in the picture Miriam Van Damme en 
Marie Nuytemans

Miriam Van Damme (left) and Marie Nuytemans (right) are the owners of the trendy and cozy wine and tapas bar Unwined in Mechelen, Belgium.

They both had a flourishing career in the media world but decided to to turn their world upside down and chose for a new profession. Not for a moment, they regret their choice.

They both have their Level 3 certificate.

Can you give a snapshot of your current professional life?

Marie: I worked for 11 years in the media, but along the way I realized that I wanted to do something completely different. Now I am co-owner of Unwined and shortly we will open Barzé. A bar where you can have all kind of fish platters served of course with our wines.

Miriam: just like Marie I worked in the media. However, my passion is wine. So, when I was offered a job in a small wine bar in Mechelen I didn’t hesitate. Soon I became co-owner. But I realized that I wanted to grow in this wine story and I started looking for a new location with more potential and opportunities. Shortly after, I was looking for a sommelier and Marie joined me.

How did you become interested in wine?

Marie: I was raised in a family were food and wine were important. When I was like fourteen my dad encouraged me to take a sip of the wines he served. Those wines were the typical classical Bordeaux wines. I was triggered and when I was twenty-five I started following all kinds of evening classes.
Shortly after I did my level 3 at WineWise and became sommelier at Unwined.

Miriam: Unlike Marie I don’t come from a family were wine was part of our daily live. I just knew I wanted to do something with wine.

How did your education (at WineWise or true distance learning) helped you with your career?

Marie: I became much more self-confident. When clients ask me questions about the wines we serve, I feel it’s easy to answer. Above all, we want to be a wine bar were people feel they are being helped by professionals, who know what they are talking about.

Miriam: I completely agree. Even if clients ask for a wine we don’t serve it, is now easy to help them. We can refer to other wines and illustrate them without hesitation.

What challenges did you face during your studies (at WineWise or true distance learning)?

Marie: I was still working full-time in the media, so in the run-up to the exam, I certainly needed to take some days of to study.

Miriam: You have to study! It was quite challenging to combine this with work. I often studied at the wine bar, encouraged by Marie and the staff.

Do you intend to study any further or participate in keep up sessions?

Miriam: We both are interested in level 4 but at this moment we don’t have the time.

Marie: Keep up session on the other hand are certainly an option.

Which wine book(s) would you recommend?

Miriam: Cork Dork by Bianca Boster, although this is not a book you use during your studies. It is just fun reading.
Towards our clients it is fine to work with the material of Wine Folly by Madeline Puckette.

Marie: I used The Oxford Companian to wine while studying.

What was the last wine you drank?

Miriam: A champagne from Ruinart, together with Marie during lunch.

Marie: Last night I had a natural wine, a very fruity grenache. It was a present and since we don’t serve natural wines I was quite curious.

What makes a wine great?

Miriam: Of course, a wine needs to be good but even more important for me is the social aspect of drinking wine. One of the most beautiful things about wine, is that it brings people together. How you feel, who you drink it with and where.

Marie: I can truly enjoy a wine that is perfectly balanced. For me this means refreshing acidity, fresh fruit flavors and a long finish.

What was your most impressive wine trip and why?

Miriam: We once went to Tuscany together visiting Antinori which was quite impressive.

But I think one of the most beautiful wine landscapes is to be found at Lanzarote. I already went there several times. Enjoying the landscape while sipping a wine, is instant happiness to me.

Marie: I visited Attila Gere in Hungary and it was fantastic to see this old producer pouring wine for me straight from the barrel. He didn’t speak English, but it was great to feel and share his passion for wine.

One of my first wine trips was to Champagne with friends and we just rang the door of Mathieu Gosztyla. A Polish lady who barely spoke English or French was so kind to let us in. It was the first time I saw how champagne was made. I still buy this champagne.

Which wine region to visit is on top of your bucket list?

Miriam: Where to start, we want to see everything! Next year we will go to Chile and Argentina.

Which graduate do you think we should interview and why?

Marie: I don’t have a specific name in mind. It would be great to see what others do in their daily life with the certificate or diploma.

More information can be found on their website:

Girl Power! Barbora Peterikova & Louise Doucet

Girl Power! Being Alive and Present at WSET Awards Graduation Ceremony.

London April 11, 2022 – WSET Awards and Graduation Ceremony

Ian Harris, CEO from WSET, Barbora Peterikova, Louise Doucet with Charlie and Sybille Troubleyn from WineWise

WSET held its first hybrid Graduation ceremony to celebrate the achievements of Level 4 Diploma in Wines graduates from the 2020/2021 academic year.

Barbora Peterikova & Louise Doucet, two WineWise DipWSET graduates who stretched their brain capacity and taste buds to the max, were awarded with a special price.

Barbora received the ‘Steven Spurrier Académie du Vin Award’. She is the very first person to receive this award in memory of Steven who died in 2021. Barbora will receive a special selection of wines

Louise won the Moët & Chandon Prize. She is looking forward to this study trip to Champagne, where she will be a guest of Maison Moët & Chandon.

WineWise caught up with Barbora and Louise and asked them what sparked their interest in wine, what inspired them to start the WSET journey, and which wine-related goals they still want to achieve…

Would you tell us a bit about your background and what sparked your interest in wine?

Barbora: My parents had a bar; I grew up in a hospitality environment. The choice was actually very easy for me, but it took a while before wine was involved. It all started in Copenhagen when I got the chance to work in an Italian restaurant. My manager introduced me to the diversity of Italian wine and it wasn’t long before I fell in love.

Louise: My grandmother was a winemaker in Touraine-Mesland and I grew up in a family where get together times often resonate with the delicate sound of a bottle getting uncorked. As a young adult, I developed an unstoppable need to understand what was in my glass.

What would be your advices to any students starting their journey and wanting to be successful in their wine studies?

Barbora: Be curious, don’t be shy to ask many questions. Wine is extremely complex. For me it was important to make inner peace with the fact that I won’t be able to understand everything, but that is also the beauty of working with wine.

Louise: Go for it ! It always seems impossible until it is done.

What wine related goals are you still working to achieve? What’s next?

Barbora: There will always be more to learn and I hope I won’t ever allow myself to stop. The next challenge is ‘Master of Wine’.

Louise: I have just started a thesis on ‘Why and How the Wine Industry is embracing the Sustainability shift?’ I am analysing the drivers for the sector to integrate Sustainability as one of its key strategic component for durability and for value creation, and deep diving on how the integration of Environmental, Social and Governance elements is and could be occurring.

What is an unusual pairing that really works?

Barbora: Lime sorbet and manzanilla sherry

Louise: Bitterballen (yes I am very serious about my Dutch expatriation) and Anjou Blanc.

What’s the strangest word/s you’ve used to describe the smell or taste of wine?

Barbora: Nebbiolo – big, well build masculine guy in ballerina shoes.

Louise: liberating –  I was referring to acidity (not sure it brought me any mark though…)

What do you drink when no one’s watching?

Barbora: Lambrusco. There is way too much of bad Lambrusco. But drinking a good example is incredibly satisfying. Try Angol d’Amig or Radice!

Louise: Ahah, being a DipWSET does not have to make you posh about wine. I completely assume any wine I like even if it’s a cheap, simple but well made one. They all have a story to tell.

Do you have a favorite wine/music pairing you want to share with us?

Barbora: ‘I Got a Woman’ – song by Ray Charles and ‘Champagne’. I think this song was on the playlist of every single restaurant I have worked, and I still love it.

Louise: a glass of ‘Ellermann-Spiegel Spätburgunder’ (red from Pfalz) while listening to ‘Melody Gardot’

Is there one person in the industry you really admire and/or has been a role model for you? (+why)

Barbora: Ronan Sayburn MS. His dedication to the wine industry is admirable. I love his enthusiasm, his genuine curiosity, and the fact that he remains very humble and approachable.

Louise: Pascaline Lepeltier. An humble, generous, absolute passionate, perfectionist and super highly knowledgeable woman still continuing -with the hardest desire and total simplicity- her wine journey. And Jancis Robinson who managed to carry on her MW path while being pregnant. I passed the D3 unit during my second trimester and it was quite intense!

P.S. WineWise is very proud of all its DipWSET graduates. But we like to put our students who achieved that extra bit in the spotlight. Beside Barbora Peterikova & Louise Doucet, also other WineWise students have won awards in the past: Peter Arijs – Royal Tokaji Prize, Stijn Verleyen – Royal Tokaji Prize & Lendl Mijnhijmer – The Maggie McNie Tasting Trophy. Well done!