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WSET Level 3 - Top Tips (Part 1)

Bravo! You've successfully passed the Level 2 exam and you have decided to embark onto the often dreaded WSET Level 3 class. Well, fear not because here is the first part of a series of straightforward Top Tips to help you along the way from a WSET Diploma holder and Certified Educator (me!).

TIP #1: Take the time, build a plan early and stick to it.

Boring bookworm’s advice? Sure. Effective advice? Always.

If you’re not lucky enough to be retired with kids long gone from home or unlucky enough to be in between two jobs, you’re probably fairly busy. But YOU NEED TO TAKE THE TIME TO STUDY.

The WSET recommends 80 hours of studying outside of the classes. So, even if you’re a quick learner and in the industry, build yourself a plan to cover the 59 sections and 255 pages of the book.

I used to spend 2-3 hours leading to each Saturday class. The class then helped ‘fixing’ what I had learned during the week and I could ask questions on what I hadn’t understood. Whichever way you prefer to revise, book the time, build a study plan and stick to it.

And if the date is not set in stone for you, set a date and stick to it! If you push back once, you will never finish it.

TIP #2: Go back to being a 4-year old!

What is the question that's most likely to come of a 4-year-old’s mouth again and again and again? I give it to you: ‘WHY?’

Well, if you want to succeed at this exam and then progress to the Diploma, go back to these lively, bright and curious days and ask yourself and others the question: WHY?

Why are they not planting Syrah in Bordeaux? Why are they not making Bordeaux blends in Germany or in the UK? Why do they not use new oak when making whites in Alsace? Why is Viognier sometimes blended with Shiraz, especially in Australia? Why is a red wine red? Why would you mature a Cabernet Sauvignon in oak? Why are sweet wines sweet? Why do they use high density plantings and bush vines when cultivating Gamay? Why do we put wine in the fridge? Why do some whiskies smell like TCP disinfectants? Why are most spirits bottled at 40% abv? Why are Burgundy appellations so complicated? Why does Pinot Grigio have such high acidity with so little and neutral flavours? Why is Sherry called Sherry? Why do most Italian wines have high acidity? Why do most red Riojas taste of vanilla? Why is there less little vintage variation in Chile vs. Bordeaux?

These are all silly questions because things are like they are and that’s the magic and mystery of wine, right? Wrong. A lot –if not all- the fun I have had -and I hope you will have- in understanding wine has come from this question. Be curious, challenge your knowledge and others’ and don’t accept ‘Because that’s how it is’ as an answer. Just like a four-year old would.

When it comes to practising your tasting, this inner four-year old can be of use too. Do you know what wild raspberries smell like? Gooseberries? Jasmin? White blossom? Cloves? Cardamome? Tar? Chamomile?

One of the first thing I did after tasting a NZ Sauvignon blanc in one of my early Level 3 class was to buy myself a tin of Gooseberries to understand how they smelled and tasted. Again, be curious, practice your nose and build yourself a bank of aromas you recognise and can put a name on to.

Last but not least, when you have that Eureka moment, don’t forget, just like a four-year old would, to go and tell everyone! Share your findings, wines you have tried, notes you have found, tips you have read {wink wink}.


To be continued...




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