I’m now past the halfway point of my WSET 3 classes, and I’ve started to notice something as I explain with enthusiasm what I’m doing and how it’s going.
People’s eyes tend to glaze over. I can see them start to nod and smile, not really knowing or understanding why I’m talking so animatedly.
This leads me to wonder…
What is the point of WSET level 3?
(or any wine course, for that matter)
I mean, really. I’m not a winemaker. I don’t work in wine at all! So why would I spend my precious time and money on something like this? What is WSET trying to teach me, and what is the point of learning it all?
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few weeks thinking about this, trying to figure it out, and keep coming back to the same thing again and again – the wine.
It’s not about challenging myself (not primarily, anyway), it’s not about furthering my career (not yet, anyway), it’s not about proving to others how much I know about something (though I do get a kick out of sharing the things I’ve learned).
It’s about the wine.
Wine is many things – a piece of living art, a farming product, a consumable to enjoy. But the thing that keeps me coming back and learning more is this: wine is a puzzle.
Everything affects the wine. Everything! The climate and weather of a given place, the soil the vines grow in, the way the vines are kept and trained to grow, what is and isn’t allowed to come in contact with the grapes while one the vine, when and how the grapes are picked, how they’re processed, how long they sit before fermenting, how (and how long) they’re fermented, what the wine sits in after it’s fermented (and for how long)… you get the idea.
And, believe it or not, if your palate is good enough you can start to recognize these choices when you’re tasting a wine. I know, it sounds ridiculous, but it’s true!
With practice and knowledge you can begin to taste and make educated guesses at all the different decisions that went into making a wine – this is what WSET level 3 is all about.
It’s like lifting the hood on a glass of wine. Here’s what I mean:
- Taste some vanilla, nutmeg, or coconut? It could be a sign of new American oak.
- Taste savoury meat, bacon, or iron? Could be brettanomyces, a bacteria that shows up in some wines.
- Taste butter, cream, or yogurt? Could be a sign of malolactic fermentation, one of the common treatments applied to fuller-bodied white wines.
When it comes down to it, I am a big ‘why’ person. I love delving into all sorts of puzzles and learning why something is the way it is, and how it became that way. This course begins to help answer those questions.
What about you, do you think of wine in a similar way?