Pass the WSET 3. That’s the challenge I set myself last July. After 6 months juggling between my real job and my training course, I can tell you all about my experience and, I hope, convince you to do the same.
What is the WSET?
The Wine and Spirit Education Trust is an English diploma destined for professionals in the wine and spirits industry, or for anyone who is really interested by this sector. You read that right, – really interested – for the WSET requires a certain level of commitment and personal work. With the WSET, our legendary chauvinism has no place: the international approach of this diploma means that we learn about wines from the whole world.
Sneeky selfie during the class… Constance tasting the Vin de Constance 😉
Why did I want to take the WSET?
Generally, when someone starts working at iDealwine, they are already wine buffs. That was the case for me. And like any wine enthusiast, as soon as I set foot in the wine world, there was no going back. I hope to never, ever stop learning more about the wine in my glass. And most of all, I would like to pass on everything I learn. I hope to prove to all the readers of this blog, as well as my family and friends, how magical and noble a product wine is. And to find the right words, there’s nothing quite so useful as a recognized training course. This thirst to learn more, and to one day teach, is what led me to take the WSET Level 3.
The WSET has 5 levels. The first, which I passed a few years ago during my studies, allows you to gain basic knowledge of wine styles, storing and serving wine. In short, the ideal course for beginners.
I didn’t do the WSET 2 which widens your general knowledge regarding wines and spirits and gives you some basics of tasting. I decided to go straight to the level 3, which in the end took up a lot of my time! This level demands complete knowledge of the world’s wines and precise and rigorous tasting methods.
How is the training for the WSET 3 organised?
After signing up last July, I received a parcel with three manuals in the post. One of them, the biggest one, was to become my bible. This new companion of mine followed me everywhere, and I would read it at the weekend, during the week, during a break, on the train, before going to work and before sleeping.
Mastering the different, varied viticultural techniques, the stages of vinification for white wines, red wines, rosés, sherries, ports and sparkling wines, muscats… In short, everything. I memorized the main international grape varieties, the lesser-known indigenous varieties, world maps, different appellations (AVA in American, wards and districts in South Africa, Italian DOC and DOCG, Spanish DOCa, German pradikatwein and qualitatswein).
It is recommended that you do 85 hours of personal work as well as weekly classes. I was evidently not feeling very confident and so worked 100 times more! My training had one advantage: the classes took place over the course of ten consecutive Tuesday evenings, from 7pm to 11pm. Each week, we would study a particular theme for two hours before tasting around ten wines. Usually, WSET training centres offer the same amount of tuition time spread over the course of five days or two consecutive weekends.
A class focusing on Italian wines
The WSET is known for the demanding nature of the tasting part of the course, which is divided into very precise criteria. The aim? To analyse the robe (intensity and colour), the nose (its intensity, the characteristics of its aromas, its stage of evolution), the mouth (its level of sweetness, acidity, tannins and alcohol, its flavours, its length), and the quality (would the wine improve with age, or is it too old? Is it good, excellent, or mediocre?).
At the end of these months of tuition, during which we visited the ‘Winerie Parisienne’ to bring our chapter on vinification methods to life, we took the exam on 18th December.
As usual, I met the other candidates on Tuesday evening and we started with a 30-minute tasting exam. Everyone had their exam paper and two glasses of wine to taste blind before them. One red and one white. To be honest, the exam conditions were rather difficult, with lots of noise outside the room making it hard to concentrate. Fortunately, I think I did well in the written test, which is composed of a multiple-choice questionnaire and a few open questions.
Our teacher told us to taste a red and white wine – nothing spectacular – before the test, to awake the taste buds
To conclude: now the die is cast. There is nothing left but to wait for the results to arrive in the next two-three months. It’s hard to wait after having studied so intensely on a daily basis but while waiting, I’m just focusing on the positives. To any of you who are thinking about taking the leap, I say go for it. Yes, it demands rigor and a lot of commitment, but it really is worth it. And I bet that, like me, all those hours of revising won’t put you off your passion, but quite the opposite! Who’s next? 😊