Thursday, March 15, 2007

Surviving the WSET Exam

The exam is over. Done at last. It’s difficult right now to tell whether I’m experiencing pure relief at the thought I can actually sleep later than 6:00 am this Saturday morning without becoming overwhelmed by stabbing pangs of guilt or whether there is a vague sense of let down – have run on adrenaline and drive for so many weeks, it’s hard to let go.

I’m fairly sure I’ve passed, I hope I passed with distinction or at least with merit. But for now, it is all in the hands of some anonymous examiner in London who, hopefully, will love my answers to the essay questions. If only I knew where and to whom to send that good bottle of Riesling… no, no, just kidding. There is an eight-week wait for the results – a long, long wait.

Have the 35 weeks plus hours and hours of study been worthwhile in retrospect? The program certainly focused my previously scattered learning methods. The advanced level covers just about every wine region in the world. It was a constant reminder of just how little I really knew about wine – and how much more there will always be to know.

For me, the most valuable tool was the WSET Systematic Approach to Tasting, an approach which practically and literally forces you into a more disciplined and thorough tasting technique.

I’ve met some nice people over the course of the three levels. It really helps to hear the comments and opinions other people have about the wines in front of you, the things one person may miss entirely. That was invaluable. Thank you to all my classmates from the last three levels for the time and notes shared.

What’s next? On to the Diploma Level in a week or two – just so much more to learn. Two years and many more wines to come. I will let you know how it progresses and would love to hear from anyone else taking the Diploma Level WSET – maybe an opportunity to compare notes and share knowledge?

For now, the books and notes in the living room, kitchen, and study have all been organized and put away – at least for a few days. Susan, I know I said I was going to take some time off – oh well, what can I say?
Diploma Guide:
Advanced Level Guide:

Susan’s note:

Actually, I’d have been astonished if you took an entire month off. I’m impressed it only took 24 hours before the call of a wine book proved utterly irresistible.

Yes, folks, Frank decided to do some “light reading” the night after he wrote the final, and what did he choose? You got it – a wine book.

However, I must also tell you of his remarkable restraint on Tuesday, when only one hour after turning in his examination paper, we ran into a casual acquaintance at the local pub. (Yes, of course we were celebrating!) “So what’s the difference between a Cab and a Shiraz?” she asked innocently.

Frank’s eyes widened only slightly, probably not enough that she’d actually notice. I didn’t hear the entire explanation – I had to turn away so as not to offend because I lack the self-control Frank has, and my eyes went very wide, very quickly. She’s a nice enough gal, but her timing was, shall we say, a bit awkward. Still, Frank handled it with aplomb – as always.

Soon now it will be time to embark on another round of studies. But this time, you can be sure I’ll be reminding Frank more frequently about his last instructor’s advice: you need to drink more red wine!

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