For 47 years, the WSET has been teaching (and professionally accrediting) people about wine, spirits and sake. No stranger to any of these delicious things ourselves, we decided to take our first WSET qualification in wine. If you’ve been considering something similar yourself, here’s what to expect…
What Is It?
The WSET Level 1 Award in Wines
A one day, somewhat intensive introduction to the world of wine. It won’t turn you into an MW, but it’ll give you enough of a grounding to taste, pair and talk authoritatively about the most common and most popular wines.
The one day course takes place between about 0930 to 1730 (approximately) – with your exam at the end of it. As for the exam, there’s nothing here that you probably won’t have seen before. Turns out that we’re still filling in multiple choice circles in pencil…
Where Is It?
International Wine & Spirit Centre
39-45 Bermondsey Street
London SE1 3XF
And at locations all over the UK.
How Much Does It Cost?
A little over £150, depending on when you choose to take it (plus £25 if you have to retake your exam)
Wine industry folks: this is probably a non negotiable.
Hospitality industry folks: level 1 is likely a very useful supplement to your knowledge, considering most places serve wine – and serve wine and food at the same time.
Passionate wine drinkers: if you’re the kind of person that loves wine enough to spend hundreds or thousands on drinking it, why not invest some money in helping you better understand / appreciate this wonderful and endlessly varied drink?
“Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.” – Benjamin Franklin
A 0930 start – exacerbated as usual by Souther Rail. The class is made up of about 20 folks – slightly more males than females. Your teacher is the engaging and easygoing Lydia. You don’t need to do any pre preparation, or bring anything asides from some ID.
Though WSET’s courses take place all over the UK, this one takes place at their HQ near London Bridge. They occupy 5 floors, with Level 1 taking place on the 5th floor.
In terms of content, it all starts ‘at the beginning’ – making no assumptions asides from the fact that you probably know too much alcohol is bad for you. They ask that you don’t eat any hot food in the lecture as, like any tasting session, the aromas of the food can mess up the tasting
Asides from the standard lecture and question format, there are some videos. One, a ‘Pacmanesque’ video that explains how yeast works in fermentation makes my sleep deprived brain sad (the yeast dies at the end). There are a few others on the correct way to serve red and sparkling wines – these turn out to be snippets from a more detailed and extensive service course.
Like most other places, you get a notebook with exercises to fill, and with information to supplement the lecture.
As you’d expect, all this theoretical stuff is balanced out with a few tastings throughout the day. One is a range of different wines, increasing in density from pinot grigio to sauternes. These are then paired with a variety of foods that emphasise different flavour combinations – the acidity of a lemon, fattiness of cheddar cheese, etc.
Another involves acid diluted in water – teaching you how to taste acidity (hint: it’s pretty easy).
As you can imagine, no photos allowed. What can I say? It’s an exam that covers everything you’ve just learnt. Don’t sweat it…
Would I recommend it? I suppose so. The course is very well run and I did learn some things. The biggest test will be to see how the qualification affects my career me in the years to come.
Having heard from a wine savvy friend about how difficult level 3 was (she failed on her first go), I went for level 1. In retrospect, I feel that I could have gone for level 2, as although level 1 had a few challenging moments, it was on the main part stuff I’ve covered in my…self education / highly enthusiastic drinking over the years.
To be honest, the hardest parts for me were remembering some of the grape varieties that go into various French appellations. I’m not a big fan of French wine, so I had to learn and remember all of that stuff from scratch.
And yes, I still learned a fair extremely useful things. These included how to quickly and easily test a wine for acidity, and some very handy/speedy rules of thumb for pairing with food. I’ve started using them immediately!
Telephone: 020 7089 3841