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Newcastle Wine School receives top industry award for 25 franchise business

Posted on: Thursday, 23 June 2016 10:21 am

A Newcastle-based business owner has scooped the wine industry's top award for education in recognition of the national success of his rapidly-expanding franchise network. Chris Powell, founder of, the UK's leading independent wine education network, has been presented with the Riedel WSET (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) Educator of the Year Award for the outstanding performance of his company, which consists of 25 franchised wine schools from Glasgow to the south coast of England.

The award marks 16 years since Mr Powell set up the original Wine School in Newcastle to provide independent and relaxed wine tasting sessions, professional wine courses and private wine tasting for corporate entertainment.

The original concept proved so successful he decided to replicate the business model across other cities and enlisted the support of the Newcastle-based PR agency Uniquethinking to do so. With a growing customer list, currently more than 60,000 strong, Local Wine School is the fastest-growing network of wine schools anywhere in the world.

Originally helped by The Franchise Company to develop its franchise model, The Newcastle Wine School has grown hugely over the last few years. Each franchise is run by WSET-qualified businesspeople with a passion for sharing their love of wine, and, through links with local suppliers, have developed their own identities and community connections. The original Newcastle Wine School still operates from Blackfriars Restaurant and offers a wide variety of courses and tastings.

Mr Powell said: "I'm thrilled that has received this recognition from the wine industry, especially as we were in competition with some of the biggest names in wine education from across the globe for this title. "Since opening the original wine school in Newcastle there has been an explosion of interest in learning about wine. We now run fun and professional wine courses from Edinburgh to Brighton, and the public's thirst for wine knowledge shows no sign of diminishing. We will continue to open further franchises in a number of key UK locations with the continued support of Uniquethinking - and have already appointed a business development manager in Canada to help us in the search for aspiring wine school owners in each major city."

Sam Hook, managing director of Uniquethinking, said: "We've been delighted to work with Chris from the very early stages of, and to see his business flourish over the years, during which time we've liaised with each of his franchisees and a wide range of media contacts right across the UK. "Well done to Chris for winning such a prestigious award, which is the perfect way to mark the impressive milestone of reaching 25 wine schools."

WSET's chief executive Ian Harris said the judging panel had been unanimous in its decision. "This is a testament not only to Chris Powell's vision to create the Local Wine School network, but he has also achieved a superlative pass rate since starting as an Approved Provider of WSET Programmes," he said.

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