We finally made it happen! We registered and took the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 1 class. We’ve been drinking and enjoying wine for years, and finally wanted to get some formal education around wine. We’ve picked up a lot by simply visiting the Okanagan for years, and now by living here. It was exciting to grow our wine knowledge outside of just British Columbia.
WSET was founded in the UK in 1969 and seems to be a very respectable standard. There are many levels and qualifications, and there are separate courses for spirits. The Level 1 wine course is one day, a full day. When we signed up, we got a study guide and were instructed to read it a few times before the actual class. There is plenty of documentation, such as specifications and expected learning outcomes so you are really prepared for the day as well as the exam.
When I booked this course, one of my key concerns was safety protocols. It was probably my only complaint about the whole experience because I had emailed in advance to ask what they were doing but never received a response. I was pleased to receive an email letting us know what were the protocols and expectations. When we arrived on the day, they took our temperatures upon entry and made us sign a waiver. I felt pretty safe because we were all spaced quite far apart and everyone was wearing masks.
Our course instructor was local, Mike Lee, the winery sommelier from Quail’s Gate. He did a great job taking us through the content and tastings. We had assigned seating, which probably worked out best for us and our friend, so we didn’t spend all our time making comments and socializing. It would have been about wine, but it would have been such a disservice to us and everyone if I’m being honest.
Each station had a wine tasting mat, a book of course material, our ISO tasting glasses, and a black and gold Fine Vintage Ltd branded carrying bag. Safety protocols meant we got to wear our masks when not tasting, we had individual spit cups, and we only really talked to the person beside us when doing tasting notes.
We got to try 14 wines from all over the world. It was really interesting to take such a systematic approach to wine tasting. In level 1, we go into the basics of appearance, smell, and taste. I learned that I have always been a fan of Burgundy wines, which are Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. Justin’s biggest takeaways were about the effect of food on wine.
The WSET Level 1 exam is written at the end of the day, and won’t know our results for 8-10 weeks. It was 30 questions, and you need 70% to pass the exam. Upon successful completion of WSET Level 1, you receive a pin and certificate.
We’ve begun studying for WSET Level 2 and it looks like we’re going into much more detail on geographical indications (GIs). It looks like there’s a lot to learn about the regions, like PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) production. There will also be more detail on the tasting approach. We’re excited!
The WSET Level 1 class was so enjoyable, we decided to enroll in WSET Level 2 in 2021. I expect our wine blog posts to evolve quite a bit from this education. I already cringe a bit with the way I’ve written about some of our winery visits and specifically wine tastings. A little too unstructured, but now we know better.