There is nothing better than realizing your passionate about something and going full force to learn all that you can! For me, this passion is wine.
A little over a year ago I decided to embark on this wine blogging journey, with no exact education plan in place. I knew that I loved wine and wanted to learn more about it, but I honestly wasn’t sure about pursuing formal classes. As I started blogging more and more, my passion grew and grew! I did some research on wine classes, and that’s when I came across WSET Global. In this post I will go over what WSET is, whether you should take it online or in-person, the structure of the course, and my study tips for passing!
For those interested in pursuing wine education, there are two main programs that you can take; CMS or WSET. CMS is Court of Master Sommeliers which focuses more on the service of the wine industry. This would be for people that are interested in working in a restaurant or somewhere in the hospitality industry as a sommelier. WSET Global focuses more on communications, suited best for wine educators or those in sales. I chose the WSET track because I communicate and educate my audience about wine through blogging!
WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) provides classes and qualifications to those who work in the industry or for those who have a passion for wine, spirits, and sake. The WSET qualifications are recognized all over the globe as a standard in wine and spirit knowledge.
There are 4 Levels to WSET:
As you progress through each level, they become more challenging and more expensive. However, they also provide you with tons of knowledge and highly recognized qualifications! I just completed my WSET level 2 Award in Wines course in February, passing with distinction.
The Level 1 exam consisted of 30 multiple choice questions and was fairly straight forward. This course is not necessary if you already work in the industry and have a great foundation of wine knowledge.
Now, let’s dive into the details of WSET Level 2 course!
When it comes to wine education, I would always recommend taking a class in person when you can. Tasting wines in a group can have a huge impact on your learning. I took level 1 online, but I knew that I wanted to take level 2 in person since there is much more tasting involved. For level 2, there is the option to take this course online. I do think that for people with full time jobs that work 9-5 the online version would be much more manageable and easier to plan your study time around.
I took WSET Level 2 at the Virginia Wine Academy in Richmond, VA. My class was six weeks long, with one, 3 hour class every Wednesday night. The main benefit of taking this class in person is that you are able to taste wines you learn about each week. We were able to compare the same varietal wines from different regions and truly see and taste the difference. This made learning and remembering each wine much easier. On average we probably tasted about 4-8 wines a week!
I personally enjoy recieving my education in person. Being much more of a visual learner, it is helpful to me being present in a classroom! I was able to ask questions and really make sure I was understanding all of the material.
In the beginning of WSET Level 2, you are provided with a specification. This document gives you all of the information you need to know in order to pass successfully.
The most important part of this packet is the Learning Outcomes. Throughout the course, you will want to check these off and make sure you know each one. This information is exactly what you will be tested on! WSET Global did a great job with the textbook and workbook for this course. I found the textbook easy to read and the information was very straight forward! The workbook was also super easy to fill out with maps of each wine region.
The exam for WSET level 2 consists of 50 multiple choice questions. You have one hour to complete the exam. In this level there is no blind tasting. Level 3 is the first course in which blind tasting takes place. Below is the grading scale for the exam:
85% and above = Pass with distinction
70% – 84% = Pass with merit
55% – 69% = Pass
45% – 54% = Fail
After the exam you should receive your results in about two weeks. The exam is shipped to the U.K. to be graded, and then they send you your certificate and pin after that!
For WSET level 2, start studying the first week. I made flashcards for each section. Making flashcards can be tedious, but it is the best way to retain all of the specific info you need to know!
When studying grape varietals, I would typically do about 3 to 4 flashcards for each grape variety. EXAMPLE: The flashcard would say ‘Merlot Characteristics’ on one side, and on the other side it would have the flavors & aromas, winemaking techniques, climate, and aging potential for the grape. The other cards would be specific to the region.
In level 2, it is very important to know each wine growing region and the climate. You must have a good grasp on where each grape varietal is grown, and how it differs in regions around the world. I had a lot of information on my notecards! This amount of writing might be too much for some people, but even the process of writing them out really helped me retain a lot of important facts. You do what works for you!
For visual learners, I would definitely recommend printing out extra maps and labelling each region with varietals grown there.
There are many different wine schools all over the nation! As mentioned before, I took mine locally through VA Wine Academy, but you can also take them online through any other schools. Some across the nation include Napa Valley Wine Academy, Capital Wine School in Washington D.C., International Wine School in NYC. Most of these locations and others will provide in person and online classes.
If you are interested in pursuing wine education but want to get a better basic understanding first, check out some of my Wine for Beginner blog posts!