I’m doing the ‘Day Release’ option which is 9 full days each semester at WSET in London and includes tutored tastings and theory. Is that what you mean, like how it’s structured?
Yes that is interesting though ‘day release’ sounds more like you committed crimes against wine
Chapeau for enrolling though!
Mr Laura is starting either in Feb or May I think too - and I think @Rosie is starting it in the next month or so ! So you can all support each other through it! - maybe we should start a topic here for you all to compare notes/stress levels?! I personally couldn’t bear to do it - hats off to the lot of you.
L2 is a good start. I started there then moved into L3. And that’s where I stopped as an enthusiast. I did learn a lot more from talking to winemakers and visiting wineries all over the planet though. That was priceless.
I did level 1 at the West London wine school last year (scored 90% in the exam) and I’ve just completed level 2 there as well an I’m just waiting for my exam results.
Did the 50 question mock quiz in the back of the course material and managed to get 46 of them right, so hoping for a distinction.
I’m considering going up to level 3, but will have to look at the time commitment required, although it’s something i’d Probably be interested in.
Our wine educator was a guy called Quentin Sadler. He was brilliant and his maps of vineyard location are really something else. He has his own website and travels frequently to vineyards across the world.
Well, I have just heard, somewhat to my surprise, that I got a distinction in my level 2. Didn’t expect to fail but did think I’d got more answers wrong than this, so that’s nice news. Anyone who has problems with conscience is very welcome to join in a vicarious celebration this evening with a glass or three of whatever seems appropriate! You can blame me!
This was with Surrey Wine School which operates as a part of Sussex WS. The most interesting aspect for me was trying to assemble a rather eclectic mixture of wine knowledge in a much more systematic and coherent way.
The news was followed by a question about interest in Level 3 and I’d very much appreciate some thoughts on this. Aside from the time, money, etc involved, it seems to me that L3 requires a fairly decent palate and I’m far from confident that mine is good enough. On top of this I think I would suffer some sort of “palate freeze” under exam conditions.
Time is not a significant issue, money slightly more so, but if I have little or no chance because my palate (or nose perhaps) is not good enough, would it make a lot more sense just to spend my money on nice wine?
I’ve said it before - but I wouldn’t worry about your palate or the tasting part. You will of course, because everyone does. But try not to.
I was worried. I did two wines a day as practice for two weeks prior to the exam but I don’t think you need to. I’d just try and get into the swing of things a good week or so by tasting and writing up as much as you can.
Honestly, its the theory you need to worry about.
I suspect you are being rather hard on yourself. With a good teacher and with proper preparation - and the right samples used as calibration - which a good school would provide the tasting should not be a huge issue.
That having been said I regard my tasting abilities as average at best and I came unstuck in a tasting exam (but that was for the MW, a somewhat more difficult challenge). Level 3 tasting is about application and training not natural ability. Long answer but the short one is - just do it!
Congratulations Andy! That’s a cracking result. Very well done, you deserve that celebratory glass or 3!
I did the level 3 course late last year - I didn’t do level 2, but the friend I did the course with completed level 2 a couple of months earlier (with @Inbar!). She commented that the step-up from level 2 to 3 was significant. The tasting card is very different - you go from describing flavours as being ‘red fruit’ to having to try and identify the fruit, and there are a range of secondary and tertiary flavours to incorporate as well. The multiple choice is, as you would expect, a bit more involved and challenging but mainly due to the much greater range of regions and wines that are covered in the text book. But the toughest part of the exam is the short written answers section. I believe the pass rates for level 3 are around 80% for the tasting section and the multiple choice, but much closer to 50% for the short written answers. This is where you will really need to have covered the text book thoroughly.
Our instructor described the difference as level 2 being about what you can taste, what the wine is, what grape is etc - level 3 is about why and how, what factors may be at play that influence the style of the wine. I think that’s a pretty good analogy.
As @JulianFox and @Oldandintheway said, the tasting part seems more daunting than it actually is. I had a bit of a cold on the day, and when I guessed what the wines were I got it completely wrong (not that you actually get any points for that), but still did enough to get a merit in that section. During the course you’re really trying to calibrate your palate to the instructor, and there’s very much a structure to putting your tasting note together. As long as you stick to that structure and take your time I’m sure you’ll be absolutely fine!
I loved doing level 3, by the way. Learned loads. The intense cramming that happened in the week before the exam was like a flashback to my teens (I left all the hard study until the last minute then as well), and was a bit stressful, but I came out of it with a merit and a much better appreciation of what’s in the glass. I am sure you won’t regret taking the course!
I second what’s been said already @Andy999 the tasting part of the exam is not as difficult as you may think . It’s teally just about describing what is on your glass and not guessing what it actually is . The hard part is the theory as @Bargainbob has said . There is lots to cover . Congratulations again on your excellent L2 result .
In fact the guessing exactly what it is has been de-emphasised recently in terms of marks so even less so in importance.
Absolutely - otherwise the candidate is more likely to try and guess what the wine is and then retro-fit their tasting note to go with the characteristics they’d expect to find in that wine, rather than actually considering what’s in the glass.
That’s exactly why we did it!
Thanks to all for the advice and suggestions. I don’t have to rush to decide anyway but will of course continue to apply myself to plenty of tasting practice just in case!
Like you, I thoroughly enjoyed L2, and have now enrolled on L3, starting in May.
Me and the other half take structured notes virtually with every bottle we open - and I find this the best sort of practice (for me, at least). To prepare for L3, my husband decide he’d pick one of our weekly bottles himself, and let me taste it blind and take notes. I’m hoping this will help me improve my tasting skills and tasting notes further- that’s the plan, at least.
From what everyone says, though, sounds like it’s the theory bit that will require more time and effort.
Go for it!
I did my L3 in Dec and would echo what others would say: the short answer questions are killer so study the book inside and out and figure out your learning style quickly. I’d recommend drawing maps and lots of flash cards. WSET states that one of the four short answer sets is focused on sparkling and port so learn those two chapters by heart. Their slim little supplementary study guide is your bible - it clearly states the learning objectives for each region so it needs to be as well thumbed as the actual book! The blind tasting is actually the least daunting as the systematic approach really does help guide you. You don’t have to identify the wine - just make an assessment at the end on quality. Make sure you calibrate to your instructors palate (e.g. are there specific aromas or flavours they always pick up on such as herbal, dill etc? Acidity levels?) as they will taste and write the tasting notes for the wines in your exam. WSET will ask the school to set a premium red XX and simple white XX for example or some such sample. These will be ‘stylistically’ typical wines such as Rioja, Chablis, Chardonnay - you won’t get a left field wine like Torrontes. More people pass the tasting than the written. Your school should be doing some timed mock tastings to help you get over exam freeze - well worth asking how they prep students. L3 is hard but you get so so much out of it. I signed up thinking my palate was rubbish and left with loads of confidence, and an appreciation of how much more learning lies ahead. Good luck!!
Fantastic advice I’m certainly going to use this approach for level 3 in march! Thank you!
I suppose it still doesn’t stop you, but you just don’t write your guess down now.
For me now, some wines mainly taste of what they are. That’s particularly so for Riesling for example, where they are clearly Riesling, but i often struggle to find more than two external references (usually petrol and lime). But if you need a 3rd one for some arbitrary reason, no one will raise an eyebrow if you add apple. Everyone tastes different fruits anyway - just look at critics’ TNs.
It’s less about where you are now and more about calibrating your palate with the guidance of your tutor over time — it’s a skill that they teach you.
I did my L3 shortly after L2 and loved it — I’d echo what is said above about the theory, but if the course is well spread out (mine was every other Saturday over 11 weeks) it’s definitely doable!
If you do go for it, best of luck!