Friday, 10 January 2014

Wine and Spirit Education Trust

When I first started this blog, I was doing a lot of learning. I wanted to find out about all things wine-related. I wrote a piece about sources of information and wine qualifications. In that piece, I listed a little bit of info regarding the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, abbreviated to WSET (much easier). Briefly, they do a series of internationally recognised qualifications, levels 1, 2 and 3 (often referred to as beginner, intermediate and advanced) along with a wine diploma (including an honours project, levels 4 and 5). These increase in cost along with time commitment as you go up the scale! They can all be studied on a part-time basis, or in some cases as an 'intensive' course. As expected with the increasing levels, the more time it takes, as the amount of knowledge one learns goes up. As far as I'm aware, this mainly involves more grape varieties, more world regions, and more specificity. There is also more on viticulture and vinification.

Taking my own advice, I decided to enroll at level 2. I was told that level 1 is for real beginners and designed mainly at those new to the service industry. I plumped for an intensive course as it would mean getting it all done quicker (not for everyone), and meant less faffing about taking holidays from the day job. The course ran Friday through Monday, which included 3 days of learning (Fri, Sat & Mon) with Sunday left for home study and revision. Each day covered different grape varieties and wine-producing regions of the world (linking the two). At level 2, only the main ones are covered, but it's fairly extensive and both old and new world are represented well. This ties in really well with what is taught about tasting the wines themselves. Regional climates (and local terroirs) are linked to the wine's aromas and flavours. Different styles of wine are covered, for example; dry wines, sweet wines and fortified wines. Sparkling wines are covered well too. Wine production methods are also covered to a certain extent at this stage, but not too thoroughly. Spirits and their production are also in there, which was refreshing for me, and helped to fill a lot of the gaps in my knowledge of that subject. There is a good level of information regarding the legalities of drinking alcohol, as well as it's affect on one's health.

All the resources one would need were supplied, including an excellent book, study guide, a tasting cue-card, and practice exam questions. 6 glasses are also included for use during the course, and for you to take home afterwards. By far the most important part, the wines for tasting, were also all included. As I recall, there were over 40 wines to taste during the course, and some spirits also. These were tasted at the appropriate time for the section being taught, to support the theory. As a region or style came up, that wine was tasted and discussed alongside. I was particularly impressed with the tutors' knowledge and their selection of wines. For the majority, they were good representations and well matched to the theory.

At the end of the course then, Monday afternoon, there was the exam. After all, this is a recognised qualification, and the certificate must be earned. For level 2 it was a single paper of 50 multiple-choice questions. For most of the questions, the aim was to find the correct answer out of 4 possibilities. Some though, wanted the correct set of applicable answers out of a larger range. You get the idea, and fortunately there was no negative marking, so guessing was definitely worth it! I'm going to blow my own trumpet a little now, mainly because I'm very proud of my achievement, having worked hard for it. I achieved a pass with distinction, getting 98%, with only one wrong answer. Yay me, check out my certificate! I don't know why I'm so proud of a little test like this, but I really am. I'm an academic type, with several degrees, but this was a different type of learning, on a relatively new subject. Maybe that's it, or maybe it's just that I really like wines and I really wanted it!?

Enough philosophy, I shall finish now, and sign off by thoroughly recommending any/all of the WSET courses. They're really great fun and it's possible to learn as much about wine as you want to. I asked one particular question and the tutor discussed it with me as we looked-up the answer in Jancis Robinson's Oxford Companion to Wine textbook. I've done one course, and I shall be doing another (once I've saved up). On to level 3, and let's see where it takes me!

Check out the WSET website for more information. To study a WSET course, look out for the Wine School franchise, or any other accredited wine educator. I studied with Chris Green at the Manchester Wine School.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on your qualification Max. Enjoying your Blog! Jamie