If you have questions or are confused about the different types of wine education and wine titles, search no further. In this blog I will explain the Wine and Spirit Educational Trust (WSET) path of education and hopefully answer your questions. In a previous blog I discussed the Sommelier education path. Both are valuable course of study but differ slightly in their focus, delivery, and tasting model.
The Wine and Spirit Education Trust was established in London, England in 1969.The Trust was set up with the financial support of a Vintner and is still registered as a charity organization today. It was established to promote, provide and develop high quality education in wines, spirits and other types of alcoholic liquors for people that worked in this field (sellers, hospitality).
Today the WSET is recognized to be the world’s leading provider of wine and spirit education. They have over 500+ approved providers world-wide and in 2012 they reported to be in fifty-eight countries in sixteen different languages.
What is the structure of the program?
The program is broken down into 5 levels:
Level 1 – “Confidence for front line staff”
a. Award in Wines – 1 day course that provides basic wine knowledge as well food and wine matching.
b. Award in Wine Service – 1 day course that shows participants the proper ways to serve wine. This course is really aimed at people that are looking to develop some professional skills for working in a restaurant.
c. Award in Spirits – 1 day course that provides basic knowledge of different types of spirits available and how to correctly serve them.
Level 2 – “Looking behind the label”
a. Award in Wines and Spirits – Students study the major grape varieties and where they are grown. They also learn how to taste wine professionally using the WSET Systematic Approach to Tasting.
b. Award in Spirits – Here the students learn about Distilling process and explore the world of spirits and liqueurs.
Level 3 – “Exploring the world of wines and spirits”
a. Award in Wines and Spirits – This a more comprehensive course that explores a wider range of wines and spirits. In order to complete this course the participants must identify two wines that are brown bagged using the WSET Systematic Approach to Tasting.
b. International Higher Certificate in Wines and Spirits – This qualification is only available through International WSET providers.
Level 4 – “Creating the trade professional”
a. Diploma in Wines and Spirits – The Diploma builds on the level 3 certificate and anyone that is looking to do the Diploma must complete level 3 requirements. The Diploma is a specialist qualification where detailed knowledge is combined with commercial factors and a thorough system for the professional evaluation of wines and spirits. After completing this course students can apply for a Masters of wine, which will be explored in the next blog.
Level 5 – “Identifying opportunities for the industry”
a. Honours Diploma – This is an individual research project that enables students to develop skills in research, evaluation and analysis in a wine and spirit related subject.
What is the difference between getting ones Sommelier training or WSET training?
The International Sommelier Guild (ISG) courses were created by a private individual in Ontario who developed a series of courses and exams and then certified students as "sommeliers". The ISG courses are primarily offered just in North America, and are not well known internationally. The ISG is not recognized by the Court of Master Sommeliers in London, England.
The WSET is an independent accredited educational institute based in London that has offered the WSET courses for forty years in thirty nine countries. The courses are recognized by The Institute of Masters of Wine who oversee the syllabus. The WSET courses are well known throughout the world and are considered the gold standard in wine education.
What types of careers are available, if I obtain a WSET qualification?
Completing your level three certificate will give you the same accreditation as ISG that we had discussed in a previous blog, so some students will take their knowledge back to a fine dining restaurant. Others will explore the areas of wine education for a winery, wine specialist for wine retail store, buyers for a wine retail store, sales representatives for an agency, brand managers for a specific brand, wine writers and even entrepreneurs starting a business in the wine industry. The Diploma in Wine and Spirits education will give you more opportunity to consult with organizations and wineries because you will have more depth knowledge of the industry both as consumer and commercial side.