Last night I took my Advanced Sommelier exam from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET). It was a nearly three hour exam that included two blind tastings, 50 multiple choice questions, and 5 long answer sections. It covered parts of every winemaking region and style in the world. Now, with over 700 flash cards and weeks of studying later I can't say I passed with any amount of confidence. What I can say is that the program is fantastic.
What is The Wine and Spirits Education Trust?
WSET was founded in 1969 in in London, England to provide high quality education and training in wines and spirits. They have certified thousands of professionals and enthusiasts in their five levels of accreditation. The levels offered include Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, Diploma, and Honours Diploma. It's the path to the Master Sommelier program offered by The Court of Master Sommeliers, the ultimate level of wine accomplishment.
What is Covered?
The core of the program is the Systematic Approach to Tasting, a thorough tasting structure that assesses all wine and spirits on a level playing field in the categories of sight, scent, pallet, and quality/style assessment.
The courses also cover everything from the basics of serving etiquette, wine and spirit styles, all the way up to vine training technique, spirit assessment, and obscure appellations from the far corners of the wine world. Paired with their tasting approach, the programs have opened up a new world of enjoyment and confidence for me.
How Much Effort Does it Take?
If my 700+ flashcard set is any indication, the program takes a lot of focus beyond the intermediate level. With a bit of determination and good scheduling, however, anyone should be able to conquer even the highest levels with a mark to be proud of. The courses cover an ever expanding, near infinite amount of content, but it's structured in a way that promotes genuine understanding at a very base level.
Even after weeks of intense studying I can't be sure I passed, but what I can be sure of is that I'm proud of my effort and incredibly happy with the program. I would encourage anyone to check out their site and see if there's a program offered nearby. If you love wine you will not regret it.
Who Can I Ask About The Experience?
Both I and our Sales Manager Dawn have taken the courses. If you have any questions at all feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment below!
To review: Learning about wine + confidence in your skills = invitations to more parties and more wine in your life.