About three months ago, I wrote down some immediate thoughts following the WSET 2 exam, and while I have known my results for the past two months and posted them on other social media outlets, I failed to do so here.
I wanted it to feel official, so I patiently waited for my certificate to arrive. And then I waited a little longer. But today I have no excuse to keep waiting. It’s really official: I passed. And not only did I pass, I did so with “distinction.” For some icing on the cake, I did much better than I expected: a 96 percent (which means I only missed two questions).
I realize that this is considered an easy course, and many folks (especially those in the industry) don’t even bother with it before jumping into level 3, but as a girl with a passing interest that turned into a passion, I’m really quite proud. And excited for where this journey will take me!
It’s over. The six-week WSET Intermediate class I took at Capital Wine School concluded tonight with the promised 50-question-multiple-choice test. I was very prepared. I took my time going through the questions, and then I went through the entire exam a second time. Yet, I was still one of the first students to finish (I think I may have been the 4th or 5th one done). The practice tests were only slightly easier than the difficulty of the real thing. The trick with this course and exam: There’s a lot of information to know. Of the 50 questions, there were about a handful I wasn’t confident about. At least three I looked up when I got home, and I now know I got them wrong. But I’m not kicking myself. They were items that I didn’t focus on enough. Funny thing is, some of the items I fretted over were no where to be found on the exam. So be it.
So what now? Results come out in about two weeks, I think. I should feel relieved, but I’m sad. I thoroughly enjoyed each class. Studying wasn’t the boring, frustrating task it was in my high school and college days. I loved reading new chapters, and conquering the practice questions. I loved learning about grape varieties and parts of the world that hadn’t yet crossed my path. And I have a new joy seeing wine labels in a wine shop or while reading a wine list – it’s like I’ve finally cracked a code, or rather, the language of wine.
I knew one of my weaknesses going into this class was communicating effectively about the taste of a wine. And while I still have a way to go, I’m not disappointed that I didn’t conquer it. To really resolve that, it means tasting more wine and trying new foods so I can correctly identify flavors. That doesn’t seem like such a bad problem to have.
From the Wall Street Journal:
When they could be raising a glass with their friends during their free time, some wine enthusiasts are hitting the books alongside professional sommeliers in order to take a challenging test.
Look! I’m not the only wine fan out there taking wine classes with no idea whether I’ll actually parlay my career toward the wine industry or just keep it as a fun hobby. But unlike the tone of the story’s headline, I don’t intend on taking classes so I can be called a sommelier (besides, I’m also taking classes from a different organization), nor am I doing this for bragging rights. I’m guessing (or at least hoping) there are plenty more people like me than the ego-driven folks the Wall Street Journal assumes in its story. Fortunately, the writer interviews enough enthusiasts who don’t sound like they’re doing this just for the snobbery. And it’s encouraging that many of them found ways to put their new certificates to good use.
For me, these past 5 weeks (tonight’s my last official class until next week when we take the exam), have been an opportunity to widen my knowledge and find ways of becoming a better communicator. I’m desperate for more interesting and intellectual conversations with other wine enthusiasts and winemakers I meet. And the one thing I know from being a journalist: The more information you’re armed with, the better questions you can ask and the more interesting details you can learn.
WSJ has also produced a video to go with their story, which can be read here: Wine Enthusiasts Seek Sommelier Bragging Rights
Last night was my first time back in an official classroom as a student since I graduated college in the ‘90s. Earlier this year, I signed up for the WSET class with no expectations. It’s mostly for fun and for some intellectual stimulation, but I’m keeping an open mind, and eager to see if this leads anywhere.
The six-week class I’m taking at the Capital Wine School is all about preparing you for the exam. There’s an official study guide and workbook and I have a feeling there will be quite a bit of memorization in my near future. It’s also very focused on how to taste using the specific WSET method. I already know I need help in this area, and I was reminded of that with the very first wine we tasted (why did I pick up vanilla notes in a wine that never saw any oak? oy!).
I don’t want to use this space to rehash each class, but I think it would be fun to leave behind some tidbits I found noteworthy. That includes answers to random questions asked in class, or little factoids our instructor decides to share. So let’s get started:
- Food is the culprit for most negative interactions with wine.
- Italy is having one of its worst vintages since the 1950s because they’ve had too much rain this year. Their yields are about 15 percent less than where they should be.
- Stones in the soil can help with heat retention.
- Don’t confuse acidity with finish. Wait for the fruit and other flavors of the wine to appear after the sides of your tongue stops twitching from the acid.
- Just because you might taste the residual sugars in a wine, does not mean it’s a sweet wine.
- That feeling of warmth down your throat and into your chest when you drink a glass of wine is the alcohol. More warmth, the higher the alcohol content.
- Super Tuscan wines were created in the 1960s when winemakers didn’t want to adhere to the rules of the Italian DOC. Those winemakers soon discovered their wines were far superior, and continued to make them. It allowed them to charge more for their wine, even without the official protected of designation status.
Here are a few interesting stories that crossed my twitter feed this weekend:
* New York Women Make Marks as Masters of Wine: Lettie Teague writes about the three MWs living in New York City. She briefly makes mention to how difficult it is for women to be taken seriously in the wine world – but except for some anecdotes, I wish Teague dove into that topic further. Some interesting facts from the story: All three women are over 40 and had previously high-paying careers unrelated to wine (This gives me hope that I’m not jumping in too late). A scarier realization is that most have spent $40,000 to $80,000 (mostly on wine and travel) just to receive their diplomas (This may put this dream a little more out of reach).
* Drinking At 1,300 FT: A 9/11 Story About Wine and Wisdom: This story is from 2011, but if I read it back then, it would not have had nearly the same impact nor would I have felt a personal connection and understanding. Aside from the fact that this writer was paid to go learn about wine, making me incredibly jealous, it’s his “ending” that he finally discovers (and which I can relate to), which gives him the ability to write the story nearly 10 years later. As we approach another 9/11 anniversary, it’s a good read – but this year, for me, the date gets to take on another meaning: On that Thursday, I start WSET classes.