A PENARTH business owner is celebrating after achieving a highly sought after and rare sherry qualification.

Owen Morgan, co-founder of Cowbridge and Penarth-based tapas restaurants, Bar 44, has become the only person in Wales, and part of a small group of individuals in the UK, to receive the Official Certified Sherry Educators qualification.

The Sherry Educator course is a three day intensive programme held in Jerez, Southern Spain by The Consejo Regulador D.O Jerez – the regulatory body of the Jerez Sherry region.

It is an extremely desired course with only 20 participants from around the world being selected every year.

The aim of the course is to provide participants with specialised Sherry knowledge in order for them to use this advanced knowledge to teach others.

After being accepted onto the course, Owen attended theoretical and practical Sherry seminars and tastings, before sitting an examination which included a blind Sherry tasting, of which Owen scored 100%.

As part of his qualification, Owen is now required to host seminars and tasting sessions for people across the country in order to educate people and share his knowledge.

Often considered a popular drink for a more elderly market, Sherry has recently become extremely popular with a younger clientele with people being exposed to an array of dry and lighter styles of sherry being paired with any cuisine. Marks & Spencer also reported a 33% increase in its Sherry sales over the last year with most customers being under the age of 45.

Sherry lists are now prevalent in most top bars and restaurants, and are becoming increasingly popular to use within cocktail lists.

Owen said: “I’m delighted to have achieved the Sherry Educator qualification. The course was intense and the examination was difficult, especially the blind tastings, but I am thrilled to have passed.

“I have always been very interested in Sherry due to the fact that it is such a versatile wine. It’s for this reason that I am not surprised that supermarkets have seen a rise in their Sherry sales. Sherry is a type of wine which can actually be paired with any type of food, because there are so many different styles. Naturally we have an extensive and regularly changing list at our restaurants.”

He added: “We’re also seeing a much younger market ordering a dry sherry today which demonstrates how the drink’s appeal is rapidly growing. Being qualified to educate in Sherry could not come at a more exciting time as the image of the drink is clearly changing, and Sherry bars are popping up all over the UK.”

In 2014, Owen will be hosting ‘The Sherry Sessions’ in Bar 44’s Cowbridge and Penarth restaurants.

He added: “Attendees will gain an understanding of many different styles of Sherry. Each Sherry style discussed will also be paired with a traditional tapas ingredient, and then a more contemporary Bar 44 tapas dish, to demonstrate the versatility of the drink. It would be ideal for groups of like-minded friends for an afternoon or evening out experiencing great food and drink.”

Bar 44 has also been announced as the runner up for the Best Spanish Wine list for independent restaurants in the prestigious UK wide Harpers’ Wine awards.

Bar 44 in Cowbridge was established in 2002 due to the Morgan brothers love for fresh Spanish food, having holidayed there as a family. The success of the Cowbridge restaurant led the brothers to open their second restaurant in Penarth in 2012. Most recently, the brothers launched a mobile tapas kitchen in order to target the growing street food culture.

The restaurants have also received UK-wide recognition from the Observer Food Monthly Awards 2013 and Bar 44 in Cowbridge has recently been included in The Sunday Times Food List Cheap Eats Guide, which profiles 130 restaurants in the UK that provide value for money food.