General FAQs

+ Why study with Grape Experience?

We know you have a number of options in pursuing the study of wine, but we believe that our flexible scheduling, highest-level course offerings, top faculty, and recognized leadership make us stand out. We’re proud to offer courses in the San Francisco Bay Area, Greater Boston region, and online, with varying schedules and formats (including weekend and evening programs) to meet the needs of working professionals. Grape Experience is also one of a small handful of WSET providers that offers the Level 4 Diploma program in the US, one of the highest levels of wine certification available worldwide. In fact, we’re the only school that offers it in Northern California. We also work with top faculty members who have decades of experience working in the industry, and many also have backgrounds in education from before they discovered their passions for wine—they’re not only industry leaders, but also exceptional teachers. Finally, if that doesn’t convince you, in 2012, we received the industry’s top honor, the Wine Educator of the Year award from WSET.

+ How can wine education help me?

There are many professional and personal reasons to study wine, whether you work in the industry or not. For those looking for an advanced career in wine and spirit production, sales, marketing, or hospitality, having a WSET wine certification can offer an incredible boost on your resume, helping your application rise to the top or move more quickly up the ladder in your current position. Additionally, many find that the increased knowledge, vocabulary, and confidence they receive help them in the short run by being able to build stronger relationships with clients, and increase sales or tips. Even for those not working directly in the industry, having a sophisticated understanding of wine can help them build a relaxed rapport while entertaining clients or potential partners. Finally, for those who appreciate wines, a formal education can lead to a lifetime of better enjoying the things you love.

+ Where should I begin?

For most students who have even the most basic knowledge of wine—for example, you know the basic grape types, or even can articulate your favorite varieties—we actually recommend starting with our Level 2 course. Level 1 is really intended for those with almost no knowledge on the subject, whereas Level 2 offers a bit more depth into a range of subjects. That’s also why we offer Level 2 more frequently.

+ What makes your classes different from the ones at my wine shop or adult learning program?

Classes at Grape Experience are all part of the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) global curriculum, which has a decades-long legacy of educating professionals and the public about wines and spirits. Classes like ours that employ the WSET approach are likely to offer much more in-depth exploration of topics like grape varieties, winemaking regions, the business of wine, and most notably, how to systematically taste it. And, of course, the WSET certification carries a strong degree of prestige internationally. For many, a one-off course at your local shop can help spark a passion for wine, but ours can help you acquire the kind of experience that can only be achieved through sustained engagement.

Registration & Course FAQs

+ When should I register?

We encourage you to register as early as possible for classes to guarantee your seat. For most classroom courses, you may register any time before the class begins. For online classes, you must register 10 business days before the start date.

+ Can I get a refund?

For most classroom courses, no refunds will be given once a course begins. For online and diploma courses, no refunds will be given under any circumstances.

+ Should I arrange to go home with a designated driver?

Our curriculum is designed to promote responsible drinking at every level, and we design our tastings accordingly. Of course, if you feel you are unable to drive, we will gladly arrange transportation for you.

+ Is there a difference between in-person and online courses?

The only difference between in-person and online courses is the scheduling—in each case, students will cover the same material and earn the same credential. Some students prefer the traditional classroom setting, while others greatly appreciate the flexibility of scheduling and working from home. We recommend thinking about what’s best for your learning style as well as your schedule. Please note that most of our online courses do include at least one in-person meeting in either San Francisco or Boston.

+ Are you able to make special accommodations for students?

Yes, all of our classes are taught in ADA-accessible facilities. If you require additional accommodations, please do not hesitate to contact us, and we will do our best to make special arrangements.

+ Do you offer packages for out-of-town study?

We regularly have students travel from all over North America (and the world) to take our courses, especially our unique Level 4 Diploma. We do not offer specific packages for those traveling from out of town, but are happy to share recommendations for travel and accommodations with you.

Diploma FAQs

+ Do I need to have my official pass for Level 3 to start Diploma?

Yes, WSET will not let you enroll in Diploma until you have officially received your pass grade for the Level 3 Course. If there is an in-person Diploma Unit 1 and 2 course offered you may be able to attend those classes if you have taken the Level 3 exam and are awaiting your exam grade. You may not sign up for the online program, however, until you have officially passed Level 3.

+ Can I start with a Unit other than Unit 1 and 2?

No, the WSET mandates that you must first sit the Unit 2 exam before doing any other Diploma Unit exam or paper—including Unit 1. That may sound odd, as you would think that you should start with Unit 1, but the Diploma units are not done in order. Units 1 and 2 are sold together, but Unit 2 must come first.

+ What happens if I don’t pass Unit 2?

You can still proceed to other units as long as you have taken the Unit 2 exam. If you do not pass it we can arrange for a retake, but you do not have to wait until that retake before moving on to other units.

+ What happens if I can’t make an exam date?

Exam dates are set globally by the WSET headquarters, not by the provider. They cannot be rescheduled. The only exception is for the Unit 2 exam, which the provider does set. Exam registrations are due 8 weeks prior to the exam date. If you are within that 8-week timeline—say 7 weeks—you cannot enroll in an exam or get out of taking it. The only exceptions are for documented medical or legal excuses. If you miss an exam it goes down as a “non-attend,” which is the same as a fail. You will need to pay for the exam when it is next offered, which may not be for a year. Exam dates are published well in advance so students must consider them carefully and make other life plans around these dates.

+ Are the Unit 1 exam and the Unit 1 paper connected?

No, these are two separate assessments, each counting for 50% of your Unit 1 grade. They are based on different topics and have unique due dates. They do not have to be completed together. Some people do their Unit 1 exam early in their Diploma studies and wait until all other Units are completed to tackle the Unit 1 paper.

+ Is it possible to finish Diploma in one year?

No. The basic reason is that it would be impossible to get all the Unit exams completed in a year, given the way they are scheduled. More practically, the Diploma is a very comprehensive and difficult course and takes at least 18 months to complete.

+ How long do I have to complete all Diploma Units?

When you enroll in Diploma it is for a term of three years. You are able to get an extension beyond that time if needed.

+ What reading materials come with the tuition and what do I need to get on my own?

For each Unit, the WSET publishes a Study Guide outlining what you need to know for that Unit. You will need minimally to purchase on your own copies of The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson and Understanding Wine Technology by David Bird. We also provide a list of other books and web sites that are recommended.

+ Can I take some Units Online and others in the in-person traditional course format?

Yes, you may switch formats between units.

+ Can I switch providers for individual units?

The basic answer is no. The WSET expects you to complete Diploma with the provider you originally enroll with. If that provider is not offering a unit or unit exam that you need it is possible to take it with another provider. If you move to another provider’s area you may also switch to that provider.

+ When do traditional in-person classes meet?

The in person courses meet on select weekends from 9AM-5PM throughout the year. This scheduling allows for people who live a distance from the class location to attend.