Wine education with the WSET. Your questions answered.

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Most of you who have shown more than a passing interest in wine will have come across the educational organisation know as the WSET – Wine and Spirit Education Trust.  Established in 1969 in the UK they are now the market leaders in wine education globally. Last year their courses were run in 62 different countries, through 17 languages, to over 48,000 candidates. This success is thanks to the excellent course materials; constantly revised to keep up with the evolving world map of wine as well as solid systems in place to ensure that program providers and their tutors all deliver the courses effectively and to the level expected by the WSET.

In the past it was only members of the trade that took the WSET courses, nowadays they are popular with consumers and trade alike. The comprehensive study books, visual slides and high number of tasting samples tried throughout the course make it interesting and relatively easy to take in. We have spoken to so many people who are unsure of the next step to gain greater knowledge about wine for use in everyday life. The WSET courses give you foundations to build your knowledge onto, giving the wine lover the confidence to chose wines from a more diverse list, match the correct wine with dinner at their home and offer friends advice on buying and drinking habits.

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There are many levels to the WSET encompassing both Wines, Spirits and the Business of Wine. Each involves a short exam at the end, with a certificate gained if it is passed. Below are the courses we offer at Tindal Wine Merchants.

The Level 1 in wines is aimed to give basic product knowledge to people with very little knowledge of wine. The programme outline involves:

  • The main styles of wine
  • An introduction to tasting using the WSET systematic Approach to tasting wine – which is a template through which you can start to develop your tasting vocabulary.
  • The characteristics of the common grape varieties
  • Service of wine
  • Health, safety and legal issues
  • Pairing with food

Level 2 in Wines and Spirits has just been overhauled and the content altered to reflect feedback from the various programme providers around the World. *Despite being the number 1 wine education provider in the World the WSET is always working on improving the courses and study experience for the students. ** There is no need to take the Level 1 before attending this course. The programme outline involves:

  • How wine is made and other factors influencing the style
  • Key black and white grape varieties
  • Major producing regions of the world
  • Sparkling, sweet and fortified wines
  • Spirits and Liqueurs
  • Label terminology
  • Food and wine pairing
  • Level 2 Systematic Approach to Tasting wine

Level 3 in Wines and Spirits is open to students who hold the Level 2 in Wines and Spirits. The aim is to provide detailed analysis of the principal wines and spirits of the world. There are in-depth tastings throughout the course honing the skills needed to identify product styles and quality. Programme outline:

  • Production of wine (location, viticulture, vilification, maturation and bottling, labelling regulations)
  • All the major production countries main wines
  • Sparkling, fortified, Spirits and Liqueurs
  • Information and advice for customers and staff
  • In  this unit the tasting is assess in the final exam with two wines blind.

After the Level 3 you have the Diploma, a two year course which is aimed to prepare people for senior positions within the wines and spirits business.  This is run by the WSET UK school in Ireland in modules, designed to give flexibility to those who work.

So where does all this lead? For those of you hoping it will open doors in the wine world, perhaps it will, but realistically these certificates are more a cornerstone of necessity for those in the trade and as such offer no ‘quick route’ to getting your dream job in the wine industry.  Here’s a quick case study of Harriet’s (course tutor) rise up the WSET ladder:

It was 2005 when I started out these courses and completed the Diploma in 2008, I really enjoyed learning them and found the systematic retention of knowledge stood me in good stead for long term retention of the facts. I was living in the UK and has a small business selling wine to friends and small on trade establishments. The courses gave me the necessary knowledge to talk with confidence about the wines I sold, with the tasting practice giving me examples of benchmark styles to compare the stock I was selling against. 2008 saw me move to Ireland to join the family business (yes I’m one of the lucky ones). Our business recognises the importance of education and when I arrived my brother William was starting his Diploma, Matthew my cousin had just completed it and most of our sales team had the Diploma under their belt… I was glad to have this knowledge, just to be able to keep up with the rest of them in their numerous discussions about the merits of certain wines!! Move forward a number of years and 2011 saw me accepted to study the Master of Wine course, which is the ultimate in wine study. With a famously low pass rate and only just over 300 MWs globally it has slightly taken over my life. Currently waiting for results of four days worth of theory and tasting exams in June I’m hoping that one day I’ll achieve  the ultimate initials after my name! 

Perhaps the final point should highlight that the more you learn about wine, the more you realise that it’s impossible to learn it all, maybe this is why there are so many passionate people in the industry… there is an avenue or speciality for each and every enthusiast to follow within the myriad of styles and regions of the World.

To enquire about booking a place on our courses please email or call 01 866 5680. Dates and prices are below, as are some testimonials of past students.

  • WSET Level 1 – €200 – Available on request.
  • WSET Level 2 – €430 – Run over 3 Tuesdays – 11th, 18th and 25th November 2014 from 10 – 5 at The Westbury Hotel Dublin
  • WSET Level 3 – €700 – Run over 6 Tuesdays – 23rd, 30th September, 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th October 2014 from 10 – 5 at The Westbury Hotel Dublin

Very good course, enjoyable yet challenging. Well tutored by Harriet Tindal, who was both professional and personable. I look forward to doing the advanced! – Alan Doyle – Level 2

The Course was well structured and excellently presented. I found it both illuminating and challenging. The manner in which the course was presented and thought was of great assistance and I would have no hesitation in recommending this course to anyone with an interest in wine. – Damien Glancy – Level 2
The location and facilities were top class. The tutor was very helpful and ensured the atmosphere in the class was very relaxed and enjoyable. Her teaching style ensured that people were comfortable expressing their views on wine and weren’t afraid of “getting it wrong” – Brian Fagan – Level 3

Telegraph WSET 11 sep 10

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