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Wine and Spirit Education Trust Classes
Terry Sullivan

If after an introductory class your thirst for knowledge about wine increases you can take additional classes. The Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) offers one possible course sequence. This London, England based organization was started in 1969. Its purpose is to provide wine and spirit education to both professionals and wine enthusiasts. WSET offers many courses throughout the world.
In some countries wine enthusiasts can take the WSET Foundation Certificate class. This class is not offered in the United States. An introduction to wines and wine tasting class offered at community colleges, wineries, restaurants, wine stores and online will cover much of the same material.
The Intermediate Certificate in Wines and Spirits is offered in the United States in major cities including Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, Denver, Houston, Napa, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. For a complete list of cities in the United States that offer WSET classes click on the WSET site. This course is appropriate for wine enthusiasts and one doesn’t need the prior course experience in order to take this course.
The Professional and Advanced Certificate courses are for professionals and consumers who want a more advanced education in wine and spirits.
Intermediate Certificate in Wines and Spirits
I decided to take this course. We met for five consecutive Tuesdays for over three hours each evening. A sixth class was set up to take the fifty-question multiple choice question exam. Exams were sent to London for scoring. Along with the course there were instructional materials including the text book Wine and Spirits Looking Behind the Label. The 93-page book is a crash course covering classic grape varieties, wines by region, other styles of wines, spirits and liqueurs, and factors that effect style, quality and price. A spiral bound book WSET Level 2 Certificate in Wines and Spirits is a workbook that contains outline information and WSET exam-like questions. It also contains thirty pages for writing tasting notes. The class tasted thirty-eight wines during the five sessions.
For each class, our instructor used Powerpoint to cover the material in the assigned chapters from the text. Participants in the course were given a packet of the Powerpoint slides (three slides per page). The instructor commented on the material on the slides, asked questions, and answered questions. At given times, wine was poured and the participants used a systematic approach to taste the wine. The class was encouraged to taste and spit. Most of the participants followed this procedure most of the time.
If you are interested in learning more about wine beyond an introduction, consider taking the WSET Level 2 Certificate Class. The majority of participants were wine enthusiasts. They were taking the course for a variety of reasons from wanting to learn more about wine to just getting out of the house.
The textbook for the class is a disappointment. It seems that the publishers wanted to create a text with less than 100 pages. A tremendous amount of information is presented in the text, however, there is a lack of explanation and development of this information. The text could easily be 200 – 300 pages with detailed explanations. An alternative may be to increase the cost of the course and give each participant a copy of the Oxford Companion to Wine. This is an in depth encyclopedia on wine. An instructor could then cross reference the course textbook with the Oxford Companion to Wine.
Although the Powerpoint presentations were helpful, some of the three slides per page handouts were not in the best format. Our instructor used great maps in his presentations, however we were only given a two-inch by three-inch version of the map. Perhaps all the maps could be placed in a packet and printed with one slide per page. Another option is to send the participants the original Powerpoint presentations.
Some may find the text rather insulting with the number of pages devoted to the United States. It seems that the authors were unaware of the results of the Judgment of Paris 1976 and again in 2006. Our instructor did expand upon the United States wine production during a class presentation.
Some of the centers that offer the WSET Intermediate Certificate class also offer the class as a study at home option. This is ideal for people who don’t live near a center. If you wish to take the exam you will have to go to the center to take it. If you consider this approach, I’d suggest that you take the WSET Advanced Certificate class instead, especially if you are taking the class for personal growth and not for career enhancement.
In the final analysis one must ask if you learned anything. I believe that you will learn a great deal of material in this class. It is one of those classes that much of the learning synthesizes after the class is completed. In recent weeks during discussions of Wine Trail Traveler articles, I’ve been asked, “Where did you learn that?” Most often my response is, “In my WSET class.”  Increasingly I am more aware of contradictory information when on a tour of a winery. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does I notice it. The learning outcomes of taking this class is analogous to a singer who knows that he sang the wrong note without being told. As a result of this class you will have a much better background in wine that will help you discuss and read about wine with a better understanding.


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Copyright: Terry and Kathy Sullivan 2006-2014