Palate Practice

tasting with intention

Debriefing WSET Level 3

My WSET 3 exam was last week, and let me tell you – it was hard. I mean, I was ready for it to be hard, but it was hard.

Now that I’m on the other side of all that studying and have had about a week to digest what the heck happened, let me tell you how it all went down.


They looked so fresh and innocent back in the beginning…

I tasted two wines blind, one red and one white. Luckily the task didn’t include trying to correctly guess what the wines were, I just needed to concentrate on describing the wines in WSET’s own special way and trying to match as closely as possible to the tasting notes of my teacher and the assessor. I think I did pretty well on that, even if I still couldn’t identify the red after tasting it at least three times in class. So annoying, but not worth agonizing over I guess.

The second part of the test was 50 multiple choice questions that ran the gamut from different styles and regions to wine and appellation laws to winemaking knowledge to regional specifics. Despite the wide range of available topics I think I did pretty well and wasn’t floored by any of the things they were asking me.

The third and final part of the test was four short answer questions, each broken into smaller parts and worth 25 points each. This is where the test went from slightly challenging to ‘holy crap, you’re asking me about that??’

These are the topics I remember them asking about:

The Loire

  • Here are some dry wines from the Loire, tell me what they smell like, what grape they are, and what choices winemakers usually make when creating them.
  • Name a dry and a sweet Chenin Blanc.
  • Why do dry Chenin Blancs sometimes taste overly green and tart, and how can winemakers mask these undesirable flavours.
  • (There was another part of this question but I’ve since forgotten it)


  • (Oh Italy, you are the bane of my wine learning existence!)
  • What grape is Chianti Classico made from.
  • What the heck does ‘reserva’ mean on a label.
  • What is DOGC all about/what does it signify on a label.
  • What are some other DOCs/DOGCs in Tuscany that use the same grape as Chianti.
  • I am happy that I somehow made it through these questions mostly unscathed.


  • What does a Torrontes smell like (Seriously! That was a whole question!).
  • You have the choice of buying Torrontes grapes from two places, which would you choose and why.
  • What kind of weather risk is Argentina particularly susceptible to, and how do vineyards curb this threat.
  • What are pergola systems all about/why are they commonly used in Argentina.
  • What kind of choices would winemakers make when creating a Torrontes, and what effect would these choices have on the wine.

Sparklings, Fortfieds, etc.

  • (This was a bit of a catch-all question of ‘everything beyond still wine we think you should know’)
  • Here’s a label (Dom Perignon 2004), name five reasons why this wine would sell at a premium price.
  • How do you open a bottle of sparkling wine.
  • Here’s another label (some kind of Manzanilla sherry), what’s the deal with this wine.
  • What does a Muscat-de-Beaumes-de-Venice smell like and how does the way it’s made contribute to these smells.
Bill Murray Scrooged

Me, on emerging from the exam room.

Still with me? Barely? Yeah, I was barely with it by the time I ran that gamut. I still can’t believe the depth and breadth of information the test asked us about. Weirdly enough I feel like I did the best on the Argentina/Torrontes question, which was the region I studied the least of the things that showed up on the test. Go figure.

One thing is for sure though – I will feel SO proud if and when I hear that I passed… in 8 to 10 weeks’ time (yes, I really have to wait that long).


Have you taken WSET level 3? How did you do?


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  1. Darren Hamilton

    April 24, 2017 at 10:55 pm

    Thanks for the review Meg. I start my Cert 3 course next week. Good heads up. The Cert 2 wasn’t that easy either!

    Good Luck!!


    • megshannon

      April 24, 2017 at 11:00 pm

      I thought the same thing about level 2, and now looking back on it seems like such simple stuff! Good luck with level 3, and enjoy it 🙂

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