WSET Diary

This Sunday, Patrik our Supply Chain Associate & one of our newest recruits, completed WSET Level 1. WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) provides an internationally recognized qualification within wine, from enthusiastic amateurs & to those who work at the top of the trade. WSET is divided into 4 levels with progressively more in depth learnings to be had at each stage.

 

As he progresses through the course, Patrik is going to share his experiences in the form of a WSET diary. We hope this will encourage more people to follow suit – no time like the present!

 

 

Arriving at the East London Wine School at 1030am I am greeted by other enthusiastic WSET candidates. After some tea & coffee, we all gathered around a large oval table ready for learning in earnest to commence!

 

First we looked at a wine list from a restaurant nearby & asked to comment: it was a good way of assessing respective levels of knowledge & put the day ahead into context with something we were all more used to squinting over. We then moved into a more theoretical discussion of wine: how is it made? What are the different types of wine? Here we started to consider the styles of wine & how that relates to the process & area they are made. Using the menu as a reference, we were able to give examples of varying levels of sweetness red, white & rosé. This provided a useful introduction to addressing some well-used words within the industry: body, oak, tannin & acidity.

 

Grapes were handed out & we all sampled both the flesh & skin. This was invaluable in putting things like acidity & tannin into perspective, as well as preparing our tastebuds for wine proper! Moving on to climates, we considered the effects of cool & hot climates on the grapes, & therefore end product. Next came a run-through of predominant grape varieties: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc & Riesling for white; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir & Syrah/Shiraz for red. Breaking down the properties of each individual grape was really interesting: it’s always good to get a grip on the base ingredients of a product.

 

We then considered some common wines that all of us had heard of, or definitely seen on menus at least, & what grapes were in them. This led is to the wine-making process – I had no idea that that rosé & champagne were made from red wine grapes! Or indeed how long wine could be matured before bottling. After a quick recap we moved to the exciting part: tasting! First there was a theoretical run through of how to taste: what to look for, the order in which to do it & characteristics to pull out / refer to.

 

We tasted 4 wines: a New Zealand Pinot Noir, Barossa Valley Shiraz, Italian Pinot Grigio & New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  Using all the information we had learnt beforehand it felt brilliant to be able to distinguish & name different aspects of the wine. We did this as a group & shared our thoughts, making notes for each wine.

 

Wines lined up ready to taste

After a welcome break for lunch, we moved onto the more external aspects of wine: how to store, prepare & serve. I found the storage parameters particularly interesting as it’s something we have to discuss with our customers day-in, day-out so it was good to fully understand just how important factors like temperature, light & humidity are for both condition & provenance. We then looked at different glassware, what it was designed for & why, alongside how to prepare them & indeed properly open a bottle of wine. Although this could have felt more service-orientated, it was really useful information, & great to learn how & why these things are so important, rather than just assuming it was an over-formality attached to the wine world.

 

Keeping those glasses in mind, we ran through typical measurements & how many glasses / bottle. It’s amazing how there are only 3 large glasses in a bottle, also slightly dangerous, perhaps! This led us into methods of preservation: how to keep wine fresh once opened & what wine that’s had too much contact with air smells like. This felt like an obvious point to discuss social responsibility – safe drinking guidelines from units to blood alcohol concentration. Whilst some of it felt quite severe, it is significant consideration from beginner to export & I’m glad it was included.

 

Now came time for the final tasting: an introduction to food & wine pairing. I was really excited for this part as my family run a Hungarian restaurant. We ran through different flavours in food that change / effect our tastebuds – salt, acid & sugar. We then tasted the last 4 wines: a Maipo valley Chardonnay, a sweet Muscat from Australia & 2 French reds, a Beaujolais, & Bordeaux Medoc. After a brief discussion & a few notes we then re-tasted each one after different foods, from savoury to sweet. The difference was really amazing: particularly when it came to tasting the Muscat after chocolate! With each wine we were encouraged to consider condition, sweetness, body & flavour, alongside any more personal observations. This was a great way to consolidate everything we had learnt during the day, making it all the more tangible.

 

Wine + Food + notes! Nearly ready to go

Learning & tasting over, there was time for a quick recap before our mock-examination which consisted of 30 multiple choice questions. Once the whole group had completed them, we went through everything together, discussing any difference of opinion & really making sure everyone was ready for the final exam. We then had 45 minutes for the real deal, which was plenty of time, all of us finishing within half an hour.

 

Now it’s just the wait for the results: our papers are sent off for checking by official WSET examiners. With a pass mark of 21/30 & such a thorough teaching style, I feel confident & would love to progress to the next level: I look forward to putting my newfound knowledge into practice!

 

 

The Author

Helen Richards

Helen Richards

Hely's love of wine was born from a young age, spending summers exploring the vineyards of France. After studying Modern Languages at Oxford, she worked in publishing and branding before joining the JF Tobias team to help build our blog / written content. She loves wine, writing, yoga and adventure in equal measure and strives to balance all four, although not necessarily all at the same time!

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