As part of my own personal ongoing wine education I enrolled myself in a wine course: the level 2 wine and spirits course created by the Wine Spirit and Education Trust, or WSET.
WEST is a British-based wine education organization and unlike Sommelier training there’s no service component with WSET. As much as I love wine I don’t plan on working the floor of a restaurant any time soon, so I was interested and excited to forgo that aspect of training and take a WSET course as opposed to a Somm course.
The level 2 course focuses on the major varieties, styles and regions of what they call premium wine and spirits. The course is very methodical and well-organized, which I very much appreciate. I’m finally sorting out wine-related things I always found confusing, like the appellation and labelling systems in France. I can now tell you a bit more about Bordeaux and Burgundy and am starting to understand the differences between opaque labelling terms like ‘cru’ and ‘villages’. Actually, just this week my teacher commented on how France seems to love creating confusing and opaque labels, mainly because they can! But that’s a whole other topic, one I promise to write about sometime soon.
Wine Learning is Thirsty Hard Work
Guys, this course is hard. The tastings especially are much more challenging than I thought they’d be. Who knew sipping wine would be so difficult! The readings are all straightforward and mercifully short (usually 2-3 pages) but the tastings – my God, the tastings! I’ve never been so challenged and turned around as the week we tasted 11 Pinot Noirs. It turns out tasting the same (or very similar) thing again and again can really confound your taste buds and make you second-guess your observations.
Luckily the last couple of weeks have had more variety which has given me the chance to re-affirm my confidence and remind myself that I do know at least some things about things when it comes to wine.
WSET focuses on the locations they (and the entire wine world, I guess) deem ‘premium’ regions – France and Italy (duh), Chile and Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, and California. There is some talk of Oregon and, of course, Germany gets its due especially when we talk about Riesling and Gewurztraminer. The sad thing is, while I have little trouble finding wines I enjoy there, Niagara doesn’t make the cut. No bother though, I’m happy to champion the region until it is does.
Challenges aside I’m really enjoying the course and the formalized training. I’m already finding myself with questions the course isn’t asking, either delving deeper into winemaking techniques or about the organization of the industry in general. Now I just need to carve out the money for level 3!
Have you ever taken a wine course?