Thursday, May 27, 2010

Taking the Advanced Course at the WSET

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

For my birthday, Leah gave me a course at the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. After looking at the courses, it seemed best for me to take the advanced class, as the Intermediate class looked like the Viticulture and Vinification course I already took at the American Sommelier Association. Eventually I think this will lead to my enrollment in the Diploma course at the WSET, but they will not admit me to that course until after I have taken their Advanced class, so here I am.

Tuesday was the first class, and the most immediate difference between the ASA and the WSET was the approach to tasting wine. The WSET takes an extremely analytic approach to every aspect of wine tasting, whereas the ASA was slightly less structured. However, I also need to keep in mind that the ASA course I took might have been at a lower level than this WSET course.

For every wine put in front of us, we are expected to analyze and determine the following characteristics:
Appearance - Clarity, Intensity, Color, Other Observations
Nose - Condition, Intensity, Development, Aroma
Palate - Sweetness, Acidity, Tannin Level, Alcohol Level, Body, Mousse (bubbles), Flavor Intensity, Flavour Characteristics, Length

Note that the flavor and the aroma come at the END of each analytic phase. After we are done analyzing the wine we are required to draw conclusions: Quality, Price, Readiness for Drinking. No where are we asked if we like or dislike the wine. I understand why, but I also think this might be a flaw. I feel I am capable of tasting a wine, determining that the wine is good, and also understanding that I do not like it.

The class itself was very interesting to me as well. The people are heavily skewed towards wine industry professionals, mostly thanks to 12 representatives from a beer, wine, and spirits distributing company. The rest of the class is made up of wine enthusiasts and industry wannabes, with a healthy peppering of finance or former finance professionals.

This journey is going to be a good one. I will keep you informed here from time to time about how the class is going.

Have you taken any wine classes? Are you interested in taking more professional wine classes (that is, classes hosted by a professional rather than Joe coming over with 12 bottles and opening them all)? What do you think about these classes?

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