Back To School

I’m writing this from VT despite that it’s Saturday morning and I should be in Santa Rosa. I got incredibly sick early Thursday morning and was unable to fly. I’m still a bit off . . . weak and queasy . . . but hopeful this will pass . I’m incredibly bummed about all of the incredible experiences and learning opportunities I’m missing but I’m not here to moan. That said, here’s another travel tip: always get trip insurance. I do, and I don’t know when/why that started, and this time it came in very handy. If WBC11 is here in the States I’ll likely just use my ticket for that. If it’s international, I’ll probably head to wine country on my own for a little independent study. Anyway . . . let’s get to the good stuff!

A Big Decision: WSET Level 2 Here I Come

I’ve been thinking about starting some formal training or education in wine. I write about wine. And I drink a lot of wine. But I don’t know as much as I want. I don’t want to be a somm, though, so I’ve been looking at WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust). It combines a tremendous amount of knowledge with instruction in tasting (something I desperately need).

After months of research and asking lots of questions I’ve decided it’s time to jump in and start. I’ve been told, by instructors at two different schools, to skip Level 1. I didn’t know this was an option but after looking at the sample questions and specifications I think I could pass the exam.

I am registered for WSET Level 2 Award in Wine & Spirits at the International Wine Center. The version I’m taking in February is an intensive: classes on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and an exam Sunday evening after class. At the end, should I be successful, I’ll know:

  • How wine is made
  • What factors influence wine style
  • The key white and black grape varieties and their characteristics
  • The important wine-producing regions of the world in which these grapes are grown
  • The production of sparkling, sweet, and fortified wines
  • Label terminology
  • Food & wine pairing principals
  • The principal categories of spirits and liqueurs, and how they are made
  • How to describe wine using the WSET Level 2 Systematic Approach to Tasting Wine® (SAT)

There is a new section on my site where I’ll blog my adventures. I won’t share any sort of proprietary information but I will be sharing how I’m preparing (amount and method of studying) as well as my tasting notes.

Why Blog It?

I’ve told two people that I was doing this and said to both that my absolute aversion to failure (and especially PUBLIC failure) was the reason I wasn’t telling anyone else. And I wasn’t going to blog about it. But then I realized two things. First, part of what made me take the plunge was reading WSET blogs. Second, I like the idea of having the experience in one place. There’s also a bit of accountability that comes with it.

Next Steps

At this point I don’t have any materials. There’s a study kit that will come in the mail. In the meantime I plan on starting my tasting notes using the WSET Level 2 Systematic Approach To Tasting Wine, which you can download here. WSET also has an app that is beautifully organized and allows you to write and keep your tasting notes at your fingertips — it even starts by asking whether you’re tasting blind or not, saving you time. I’ll share my thoughts on that once I start using it. I usually use these tasting mats but will switch to the WSET app for awhile in order to get into the routine of tasting more systematically.

Resources

If you’re interested in deepening your knowledge of wine, Wine Folly has a nice breakdown of the different programs available.

This is a great, quick intro to WSET Level 2.

And of course, you should peruse the Wine & Spirit Education Trust website to see if there is a course that’s right for you.

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