Over the past few years, phillywine.com is no longer the only local vendor for WSET courses. They have been joined by the Napa firm Fine Vintage LTD which has a growing following for its dynamic programs. Interestingly, Neal is the brother of Mary Ewing-Mulligan, the director of New York’s International Wine Center. He also teaches wine classes at several local colleges, including Temple University, Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College, and Drexel University.
Founded in 1998 by Neal Ewing, Phillywine.com is the oldest wine school in Philadelphia and one of the oldest in the country. If the name “Ewing” sounds familiar, it’s because his sister is Mary Ewing-Mulligan, the founder of the International Wine Center and the co-author of Wine for Dummies.
The school is a long-standing WSET franchise and offers nearly all of Britain’s Wine & Spirit Education Trust certifications. As an affiliate of one of the most well-known wine agencies, Phillywine is an option for people looking to get into the restaurant industry or simply looking for bragging rights. However, as most wine certifications are the same, this may or may not matter to the student.
The school does not have a permanent location. It has had many bases of operations over the years, including several restaurants, the (now defunct) Culinary School of the Art Institute, and a home goods store.
Phillywine.com used to offer walk-around wine tastings and other public events at various restaurants in the city. However, those offerings were phased out several years ago.
The school earned accolades in its first years, but very little has been written about it since 1999. There is surprisingly little public information available for a school that has existed for two decades. The school’s Yelp page is empty; there is no business address (only a P.O. Box). The locations of upcoming WSET programs are listed as behind held at an unknown “Philadelphia location,” which does not encourage confidence.
As of 2022, it has a new generic WSET website and rebranding. This has been happening to many WSET franchises, especially ones suffering after the pandemic. The original owner, Neal Ewing, has also been scrubbed from the website.
In our survey, Phillywine students were not kind in their reviews. Much of the criticism is leveled at the dry and uninspiring way the WSET programs are taught at this school. Most point to lackluster power-point presentations and lectures that are simple recitals from the reading materials.
While running dull classes is a big negative for any wine school, our surveys of previous WSET students highlighted a graver issue with Phillywine. Students complained that Mr. Ewing was prone to slanderous remarks towards his peers in the wine trade. Our rating of Phillywine is solely based on the content of the programs. We did not think to include a rating for poor behavior. If we did, Phillywine would have earned an even lower grade than it already does.
UPDATE: According to several insiders, Mr. Ewing has largely retired from teaching and given over the day-to-day duties to several of his instructors.
In good conscience, we cannot recommend Phillywine. We suggest going to New York for WSET classes. Also, there are a handful of better wine schools in Philadelphia. We suggest you talk a look at our suggestions before making a decision. If you are looking for a good school that offers Wine & Spirit Education Trust programs, we recommend Fine Vintage LTD, a far superior WSET school.
Management is inept, classes are worse. Skip it.
I met the owner (Neil) a few year ago. A very disagreeable man who seems to relish in talking badly about others.
I love WSET programs, but this must be the worst run program.