The WSET Diploma Certificate (Level 4) is one of the most recognized and valuable credentials in the wine world. This challenging two-year program offers people who already have strong wine knowledge, the opportunity to go to an elite level. The program will be significantly revised in 2019 but if you are thinking about Diploma, now is the time to start (https://www.grapeexperience.com/wset-diploma-san-francisco/). Here’s why:
- Diploma isn’t a static course, but a dynamic set of focused “units” that are constantly updated to reflect today’s trends and issues facing the wine and spirits industry.The changes that go into effect in August 2019 are just a more comprehensive continuation of updates that happen every year to reflect new underlying forces shaping the wine market.
- Diploma candidates learn through personal exploration – not through a set textbook. To do well in Diploma students need to follow their own curiosity, explore producer and regional web sites and venture out into the field – be it a winery, distillery or retail business visit. This learning method, with WSET giving students an outline of what they need to know, is what makes Diploma so relevant and fun, and it will continue to be a guiding principal of Diploma for years to come.
- The current Diploma program offers candidates a chance to explore the spirits industry alongside wine. In the program that will take effect summer 2019, spirits will be eliminated. If you want the Diploma in Wine and Spirits you must start this summer. Conversely, if you want to start this summer but don’t want to take the spirits unit that is a definite option.
- Grape Experience has been delivering the current Diploma program for over 12 years – the longest running US provider west of the Mississippi and recognized with an Educator of the Year award. We understand what it takes to succeed in today’s Diploma program and we offer individualized personal coaching backed by hundreds of successful candidates who achieved their Diploma studying with Grape Experience.
- Candidates who start Diploma now will be in no way disadvantaged when the revised Diploma in Wine program comes into effect. Anything you pass before August 2019 will be credited towards the new Diploma and there will be no additional requirements added – Diploma has 6 units you need to pass today and there will remain 6 in the future.
WSET Diploma is an exceptional learning opportunity that allows you to interact with people from all over the wine world. It is a chance to develop superior analytical skills while also making contacts and developing friendships that will last a lifetime. The knowledge, confidence and personal growth that Diploma offers is invaluable.
Take advantage of starting the program this August. You can find out more at https://www.grapeexperience.com/wset-diploma-san-francisco/or feel free to contact me, Adam Chase at firstname.lastname@example.org by calling 415-309-0761. I would really enjoy discussing the opportunity that lies ahead for you!
I hear from many people with interest in Grape Experience WSET courses who are unsure where to start or if they want to make the commitment. Those who do take the plunge always feel great about it. If you are thinking you would like to explore WSET Wine, Sake or Spirits education there is no time better than now!
How to Decide Where to Begin:
WSET courses are broken out by “Levels,” and these terms can be confusing. Each level has a specific end goal or learning outcome regardless if it is for Wine, Sake or Spirits. For Wine and Spirits most people have enough knowledge already to skip right to Level 2. Sake is lesser known and Level 1 may make the most sense.
Level 1: Define and Understand
Level 1 focuses on true beginner knowledge. We answer questions such as:
- What is wine or sake?
- What basic styles does it come in – dry, sweet, sparkling, red, white and rosé?
- What is the best way to serve it – temperature, glassware, food pairings
I often say for the wine courses that if you know that Chardonnay is a white grape that makes white wine that should be served chilled, and that Cabernet Sauvignon is usually a red wine, then it might make more sense to start at Level 2.
For Sake, however, Level 1 can be an easy way to start exploring a beverage category that is growing each day. We offer Level 1 Sake a few times each year with the next courses starting this winter https://www.grapeexperience.com/sake-class/
Level 2: Identify and Describe
Level 2 is where most WSET wine and spirit candidates start. Courses under Level 2 are also fine as beginner classes but they go into more depth then Level 1. The goal here is for a student to be able to look at any major wine or spirit bottle and describe what is expected inside without having to taste it – that doesn’t mean that we don’t taste in Level 2 classes – we absolutely do and a great component of Level 2 is to build strong foundational tasting skills.
Students who take Level 2 often tell me that their confidence has skyrocketed when it comes to choosing or talking about wines and spirits. I think Level 2 provides a smoother, perhaps less risky entry into the WSET system of courses, even for people with already strong wine knowledge. Our next set of Level 2 courses starts this February: https://www.grapeexperience.com/beginner-wine-courses/
Level 3: Explain
Level 3 is significantly more challenging than Level 2 and demands more study and participation time from the participant. Still, the depth of knowledge and tasting ability that comes from a Level 3 course is totally worth the effort. Level 3 courses do not have prerequisites.
The basic goal of Level 3 courses is for the participant to be able to explain the reasons why a wine or sake looks, tastes, and costs the way/amount it does. This Level deeply delves into natural and human forces that impact production and quality. Tasting plays an equal role to the theory here and students will certainly learn to blindly identify through sight, smell and taste how a wine or sake is made and its ultimate quality Level.
Level 4 Diploma: Analyze
Currently WSET only offers a Level 4 course in Wine and Spirits. This is a two-year program that requires participants first pass the Level 3 Wine course. The goal here is to learn to analyze the natural and human production factors, market trends and new technologies/approaches that are shaping today’s wine and spirit markets.
Participants build skills through first-hand, as well as book investigation into the major global wine and spirits production centers and companies. The course is incredibly challenging but well worth it!
So, there is no time like the present! Check out all of the WSET courses we offer and take the plunge!
One of the most common things I hear from people interested in the WSET program is “I want to take Level 2 but I can’t because I haven’t taken Level 1 yet.”
Let me set the record straight: you do not have to take Level 1 to take Level 2. In fact, for most people who have some basic wine knowledge I strongly recommend starting with Level 2.
Level 2 is the perfect entry into formal wine study and, as a course, builds a complete foundation for future learning or a confident, successful wine career. People enter Level 2 with various degrees of knowledge. Some people may know very little beyond grape names and wine brands – their foundation has a few key “brick” out, but needs to be more formally built. Other people may know quite a lot about a specific wine or wine region – Napa or Bordeaux for example – but have limited knowledge about other producing areas such Australia, Chile or Germany. For this person Level 2 fills in the holes and creates a solid wine knowledge structure.
Confidence is the key word to describe the outcome of a successful Level 2 candidate. The course focuses on creating a strong understanding of the major wine grapes and how they show themselves in regions across the globe. Level 2 provides a survey of wine styles and levels of quality. After Level 2, a student can look at any major wine label and identify how that wine should taste, its level of quality and relative price point. They can speak about, purchase and make recommendations on wine with confidence.
Level 2 also showcases how to taste like a professional. It introduces WSET’s famous Systematic Approach to Tasting, which creates an even playing field to compare and contrast all wines. During the 8 segments of the Level 2 course over 45 wines are tasted.
Level 2 delivers students enough knowledge to make them savvy wine consumers or assured wine professionals, but not so much as to overwhelm them. Grape Experience Level 2 classes are interactive and designed to be fun. People work together to figure out how to speak about a wine and creatively convey its attributes. There are no wrong answers or dumb questions. Instead, the class is a safe place to formulate new ideas, build better understanding and to network with other people.
The Level 2 course culminates with a one-hour, 50-question multiple choice exam. The exam tests knowledge learned in a fun, almost game-like way. I like to say it is sort of like playing “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” except you can’t phone a friend or ask the audience. What you can do is usually eliminate two of the four answer options.
So who is Level 2 really for? The answer is just about everyone. If you are thinking of taking a formal wine course or starting the WSET program than Level 2 is for you. If you are working in wine but want to enhance your knowledge to be better at your job or grow in your career, Level 2 is the place to start. If you are thinking about starting a career in wine or want to work in regions outside of the US than Level 2 is what you need to begin that process!
Grape Experience has several options available to join a Level 2 course. All can be found at https://www.grapeexperience.com/wine-and-spirit-school/beginner-wine-courses/
More and more bars, pubs and restaurants are focusing on their cocktail lists with the result that a customer has a huge range of options from which to choose. I like the trend of many smaller restaurants specializing in one particular type of spirit – Bourbon, Scotch, Rum and Tequila. It allows us to try different brands without committing to an entire bottle.
Some of my favorite recent cocktails have been at San Francisco’s Range and Hard Water, and at Boston’s Ribelle and Number 9 Park. The cocktail lists at these restaurants are creative and really show the great palate and skill of each bar’s mixologist.
At Range “The Remedy” is a great way to start an evening. This layered, spicy cocktail is based on Diplomatico Rum; Venezuelan rum that is often made in pot stills and aged in oak to induce more rich flavors. The rum is enhanced by combining it with ginger, sugar, lime, and, to give it a bit of a kick, chili. The key to this drink’s success is that it combines a refreshing component with a bit of heat on the finish. The result is a sensation of flavors that evolve on palate and makes you actually think about what you are tasting. Well done!
Hard Water focuses on Bourbon and offers flights for customers so that you can actually try several styles of this American whiskey in one sitting. As for cocktails, I’d recommend starting with “The Presbyterian.” This is a mix of 101 Wild Turkey Bourbon with ginger, lemon and soda. It is light, crisp and at the same time has real depth from the Bourbon and ginger mix. Adding the lemon here surprisingly gives this cocktail an extra bit of dimension that sets it apart from just being a simple mixed drink.
At Ribelle in Brookline, Massachusetts Hustle & Cuss is a cocktail that combines Amontillado Sherry, Browns Bourbon, a shot of espresso – called Ristretto – and honey shrub syrup. This may sound like a list of things that you might never combine, but it really works and shows incredible craft and daring. The Amontillado has a nutty slightly citrus flavor that is and enhanced by the dried fruit caramel notes of the Browns. The ristertto adds depth and richness, while the honey shrub keeps everything from becoming bitter. Definitely this is a drink to try!
Number 9 Park is one of Boston’s top restaurants. Wine director Cat Silirie is one of the best in the business and the list is fantastic. But the cocktail list here, managed by Bar Director Ted Kilpatrick, is what I love. There are actually two lists: one that is at the bar, the other that you need to ask for.
Every cocktail at No 9 Park shows creativity and craft, but the one that will stop you cold is “La Vie du Canard.” This is a drink made with Foie Gras and Bourbon. Yes, you read correctly, Foie Gras. It may not sound appetizing and certainly there is real debate about using this duck liver, given the way the birds are treated, but surprisingly it really works here. The drink is rich, but the addition of the Italian aperitif, Cocchi Americano and bitters such as Cynar make it lively and slightly spicy. This is a drink you sip slowly and think about long after the glass is empty.