28 September, 2020

“M&S is really set apart from other retailers and I’m proud to be a part of that.”

It was a fantastic local wine merchant at University that originally sparked Elizabeth’s interest in wine, and not just in a typical student sense! Her passion for the product, process and industry as a whole was what led her to take a job as an assistant in her local so she could learn more - not what you may expect from a graduate in Mathematical Physics.

Having now worked in the wine industry for 16 years, Elizabeth’s career has seen her work in-store at Oddbins through to business development at the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and now to her role as a Master of Wine here at M&S where she develops delicious, high quality wines that our customers love at great value prices.

“I joined M&S as it is a company that has always stood for quality. I also liked the dedication to its Plan A philosophy (I wrote my research paper for the master of wine on establishing a sustainability scheme for the UK wine production industry),” she says.

But achieving the Master of Wine title was no mean feat, particularly when you consider there are only 396 people who can proudly claim this title in the whole world!

“It is a tough qualification because it has such a low pass rate so you have to be persistent”, explains Elizabeth. “It takes a minimum of 3 years to pass, but usually only a couple of people each year pass that quickly. I’ve been studying for 4 and a half years, but I know a lot of people that study for 5-7 years to attain the qualification. It’s a very intense process”.

“Marks and Spencer were really good at supporting me for the main course, attending study days and also additional study leave for exams. I also had help from colleagues when applying and also helping me prepare for tasting exams,” she explains.

Doesn’t sound like drinking all day does it? A common misconception Elizabeth has come across when explaining her role to those outside the industry.

“I’m definitely not drinking all the time! In fact, I spend more of my time using spreadsheets! Even when you do taste you have to spit everything out. When you are tasting up to 100 wines a day you cannot drink!”

Elizabeth will more than often be found writing product information for our wines to be used by our marketing, PR and online teams, or compiling details for our press tasting and competition entries (we win more medals each year that any other retailer for our online range).

It is the variety of her role that she really loves - meeting suppliers, doing tastings and creating delicious new products for M&S.

“Currently, we are working on lots of new products so we are briefing labels and working on label design to ensure we are ready to launch everything on time. Luckily there is also usually some kind of tasting each day – whether that’s for checking new vintages or benchmarking to ensure we are top for quality or tasting new products. We’ve also just launched our new monthly wine club newsletter which has excitingly coincided with lots of new lines we are launching this Autumn. This has allowed us to highlight new and interesting wines to our customers.”

“With two in-house winemakers who travel the world creating exclusive blends and really focusing on quality and a fantastic product development and technical team who scrutinize all the products we sell - M&S is really set apart from other retailers and I’m proud to be a part of that.”

Interested in a career in our Foods team? Take a look here.

Inside M&S