We all have that one friend, the one who will frown upon the wine you bring to dinner or insist on the “2014 Chateauneuf du Pape” because “it was such a good year”. While one of the best ways to learn about wine is to simply try more wine, understanding why you enjoy a particular wine, why it tastes better with a certain meal and the characteristics behind wine is something that needs to be taught. We’ve just completed a short course which will do just that.
The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) is a global organisation that provides formal education from the amateur to professional levels. From Level 1 all the way up to Diploma in preparation for a Master Sommelier, WSET has a pathway for you to follow. We attended the Level 1 course so the following is based on our experience.
The course itself will set you back around the $300 mark. WSET Level 1 in Wine is a one full day course with an exam at the end. The cost of the course includes all the wines you’ll sample throughout the day, the food you’ll learn to pair with it and an expert teacher.
My closest venue to complete the course was the Sydney Wine Academy. Arriving on the day felt like the first day of school all over again. The classroom however had a complete professional bar area loaded with wines and spirits and a large table setting for the 15 students ready to go. Many of the students that do attend are working in fine dining restaurants looking to understand customer requests around wine and to provide advice on what wine goes with the smoked salmon.
The day goes through a few key areas that are really well explained, detailed and presenting in an open environment, no one holds back on the simple questions and it feels very comfortable. Sure there is the one or two pretend wine snobs but they too will become quiet once they realise their place. The key topics on the day include:
- The main types and styles of wine
- Common wine grapes and their characteristics
- How to store and serve wine
- The principles of food and wine pairing
- How to describe wine using the WSET Level 1 Systematic Approach to Tasting Wine
Some of the topics may sound rather basic but truth be told, you’ll learn something in every section. What you know about wine may be challenged and there may be some surprises along the way.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the day included three whites and three red wines sitting in front of me with a plate of various food items. We tried each item with each wine. This allowed us to experience the difference wine makes on food. Cheese with Chardonnay or Shiraz or Chablis or Champagne or Cabernet Sauvignon, they’re all very different experiences and will help you learn the importance of food and wine pairing.
The WSET Level 1 course ended with an exam. 30 multiple choice questions and a pass mark of 70%. It is challenging and the biggest advice we can give is to read ALL the course materials prior to attending the full day course. We are yet to receive our results but we’re praying to pass, how else could we have the confidence to select our Best Drop Award?
This Christmas or for an upcoming birthday, consider this for your closest wine friend, at least they’ll be able to help you pick wine at your next dinner! Get started here.