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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Mission Accomplished

Mission Accomplished

Did you miss me?  Probably not.  I know many of my family members and friends have over the passed several months.  

I have been off studying for both the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) level 2 and Level 3 exams.  I took them both back to back (within a month of each other) through the American Wine School, which teaches classes in many cities throughout the US.  If you are in the midwest and looking to take the WSET exam, I would suggest that you look them up.  They have a great approach to the exam prep, and distribute several mnemonic devices, and other hints for passing the exam.  I found the test prep course to be invaluable for helping me feel confident and prepared to take the test.

The Level 2 test has 50 questions and is straight forward.  I already received results.  I passed as seen by the pin above and did so with distinction (pat, pat, pat on the back). 

The level 3 test ironically has 3 parts.  The first part is multiple choice.  This is 50 questions on wine regions, wine making, vineyard practices, soil types, wine types, spirits, and other fun facts about wine and spirits.  It is a lot of information to cover, but otherwise is not very difficult to handle.  The second section is a short essay section.  This is the most challenging part of the exam as not only do you need to know the topics, but you also need to have knowledge of what the test administrators and graders are looking for.  Questions are broad, like describe a wine from XYZ and its style...GO!  You could spend a week answering a question like that, but in this case they are looking for certain things, and you get points for each item you mention in your answer.  The prep class was great for explaining what the WSET is likely looking for with each type of question.  Finally, there is a blind tasting.  The blind tasting covers one red wine, and one white wine.  You have to write an appropriate tasting note and guess the wine along with the age-ability and price.  The wines chosen were straight forward, and naming the wine only counts for a small portion of the points.  Most of the points are given for a proper tasting note. 

Overall, I felt the test was more than fair, and was actually enjoyable to take.  The only drawback is that there is a lot of writing, and at the end I felt like my hand was going to fall off.  I even brought a wrist brace knowing that I sometimes have difficulty when asked to do a lot of writing.  It did not matter much.  I mean, hen was the last time you wrote, like actually wrote that much with a pencil and paper?  For me, it was likely grade school.  Those muscles were not used to that kind of writing.  OUCH!!!

WSET logo is the sole property of the WSET
I will say, that the WSET is unique in many ways.  They are not teaching you to only work in a fine dining establishment as a Sommelier.  Nor are they teaching you to be a wine educator.  Both of those philosophies are heavy in some of the other accrediting bodies of wine, and while you can do either with the WSET accreditation, there is much more that one can do with this certification.  Really, if you are in or desire to learn about any part of the wine business, the WSET has something for you.

The WSET is different than other accrediting bodies in wine, in that they basically teach you wine from vine to glass.  Perhaps this is why I leaned their way after much research and contemplation.  I know I am interested in wine, but where I want to focus my interest changes for me still day to day.  As many of you know, I make wine at home, which is fascinating and humbling.  I grow grapes in my yard, Vertical Shoot Positioning (VSP), Cane pruned Hybrid vines that grow well in Chicago.  I also have interest in a wine store concept of sorts down the road  (More to come on that later).  Finally, I have always entertained a job in wine distribution at some point in my life either direct from the wineries, or through a distributor.  This is why I believe the WSET is a perfect option for me.  I continue to challenge my brain and learn a broad cross section of the wine business, while keeping future options opened.

I am glad to be done, and looking forward to finding how I did on the Level 3 test.  I feel good about passing, but they also do one additional step and give people a chance to pass with distinction.  I set a personal goal for myself to gain distinction with both exams.  I am hopeful but cautiously so, particularly due to the essay.  It is a lot of information, and one needs to gain a score of 85% or higher to get that added to their certificate.  Again, I am hopeful.

I should mention that there is one more step in the WSET called Diploma.  It is 6 grueling tests that take place over the course of 2-3 years.  Topics are vast and broad and include independent research, Wine technology, wines of the world, Spirits, Sparkling and Fortified wines, and others.  I would love to sit that exam at some point, but for now, I am content with the level 3 certification.

When I finished the exam, I went home, and packed for Napa, CA.  I will share that experience with you all when we chat next.  Until then, take care.

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