International Wine Center

International Wine Center

350 7th Ave #1201 New York New York USA


Located in the Garment District, the International Wine Center (IWC) was founded in 1982. International Wine Center (IWC) is a wine school licensed by the New York State Education Department for the purpose of providing professional training for individuals who hold or aspire to careers in the field of wine and spirits.

History of Manhattan’s Wine School

Originally, the school tried to develop an independent curriculum. It became “a training ground for numerous members of the wine trade” according to the New York Times (July 6, 1988) The school’s wine programming was never fully developed and was dismantled.

In 1994, IWC became the first organization in the U.S. to adopt the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) certifications. The original certificate offered was the “Higher Certificate in Wines and Spirits; Diploma in Wines and Spirits” By 2003, IWC became the U.S. Headquarters of WSET, and also the largest: More than 300 individuals have achieved the WSET Diploma in Wines & Spirits through the IWC.

Mary Ewing-Mulligan, Master of Wine

The International Wine Center’s president, Mary Ewing-Mulligan MW, is the first woman in the U.S. to become a Master of Wine. Mary began her career at the Italian Trade Commission, educating consumers about Italy’s wines, and then worked in the private sector, holding a senior position at PepsiCo Wines & Spirit, before focusing on wine education. She joined the International Wine Center (IWC) in New York in 1984. Her brother (Neil Ewing) runs WSET programming in Philadelphia.

In the 1980s wine education encompassed imparting straightforward information (which was less accessible before the internet) and enabling experience. Many students were already wine enthusiasts and came to classes with some wine knowledge that they had acquired through reading or through peer learning in wine-tasting clubs and they were interested in tasting opportunities.

The concept of learning about wine to promote one’s career was non-existent, apart from university programs in viticulture and enology. Aspirational learning was limited to the desire to taste finer, more elite wines. That motivation changed with the emergence of post-nominals, particularly The Certified Wine Educator credential (CWE) of the Society of Wine Educators, which gave individuals an opportunity to prove what they know. But WSET, from 1994 in New York, was the first to provide a structure of learning and that was a dramatic change.

Mary Ewing-Mulligan MW

Mary Ewing-Mulligan is also the co-author of the best-selling “Wine for Dummies” book.

The Founder

The wine school was founded by Albert L. Hotchkin Jr, a business consultant-turned-restaurateur. The school was located at 144 West 55th Street, on the second floor above Mr. Hotchin’s popular Tastings Wine Bar and Restaurant. The restaurant closed in 1998 and the school moved to West 29th St. It was under his leadership that IWC becomes a site for wine industry events. It was the site of some of the first professional wine tastings in NYC.

Mr. Hotchkin passed away in 2003.

Wine Education Today

The school’s storied history and its famous wine director are important considerations. The school as it exists today is less exciting than it was in earlier times. The teaching staff is not as well-seasoned nor dynamic as they once were. The classroom is a small affair, with fold-out plastic tables and fluorescent lighting. Classes are centered around power point presentations and an instructor, at times, reading from a manual.

International Wine Center
International Wine Center

Despite the lackluster programming, the IWC is the center of the Wine & Spirits Education programming in the United States. For that reason alone, this wine school is worthwhile attending.

Competition with Fine Vintage LTD

Over the past few years, the International Wine Center has been facing stiff completion against another WSET Affiliate, Fine Vintage LTD. For over 30 years, the IWC had a monopoly on WSET credentials in New York City. This made a lot of sense: IWC was the pioneering school to bring this type of wine accreditation to the United States.

However, as the quality of their programs faltered over the past decade, it seems that WSET America decided to introduce come competition into the field. While the importance of the IWC cannot be understated, it is very clear that anyone seeking a quality WSET education in New York, should welcome this newfound competition.

International Wine Center