Halfway through WSET Level 3

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“Wine has been a part of civilized life for some seven thousand years. It is the only beverage that feeds the body, soul and spirit of man and at the same time stimulates the mind…” – Robert Mondavi

I’ve committed to posting something here every week for the purpose of creating a habit of writing and exploring and thinking about wine. I also intended to share at least some of my experience studying for the Wine and Spirits Education Trust’s Level 3 Award in Wines (and whatever future wine courses I take). Even if no one’s interested, at least I would have a record of what I reviewed. I’m about halfway through the online class and I feel a little lost in it.  I know that I will complete and pass the course but I am a bit disappointed that I’m not enjoying the experience more.  

I completed the Level 2 course at Capital Wine School in Washington, DC during a three-day long intensive a few months ago.  We tasted over 50 wines together during the three days and the instructors were engaging and informative.  The course seemed like one that most people with a passion for wine and some previous studies could enjoy and probably do quite well in.  It was an interesting mix of people working in jobs somewhat related to wine and some who were just super interested in wine and maybe traveled to several of the regions we discussed.  I almost hoped for more time together to get to know more of my fellow classmates.  

Completing this course online, however, has definitely not kept me as interested.  The nature of studying alone has not really provided me with too many opportunities to share here. An online class is a new experience for me. I read the assignments, watch some videos, take some short quizzes, and send tasting notes to my tutor for comment. My classmates seem to be an international crowd and judging from how often the tutor requests participation, not very active in the online portion of the class. I’ll admit to also being a bit behind on the assignments even though I’m keeping up with the reading.    

The tasting part of the examination is what worries me the most. Cramming and memorizing facts is something I have a lot of experience in, but without an expert guiding me, I don’t always feel certain that my tasting notes hit the mark or are even in the right ballpark. Sometimes I can find another reliable source of tasting notes.  For example, the Pinotage I wrote about last week tasted so unlike what I expected that I searched online for a review.  I was lucky to find one from a major newspaper  and confirm some of my thoughts, but for most wines, there’s the producer’s description and maybe the opinion of some strangers on Vivino. They are definitely not always helpful or consistent.  There are moments when I wished I took the in-person class to have the advantage of tasting all the same wines with my fellow students, but the online tutor is helpful and even if she’s not tasting what I’m tasting, she knows what questions to ask to help us understand what we are drinking a bit better.

I will keep tasting and I find that my husband at least one good friend is willing to indulge me in tasting exercises, like an international Sauvignon Blanc comparison last week.  When learning about wine, I cannot just avoid my least favorite wines and hope they don’t make an appearance in the exam.  But I am definitely looking forward to completing the exam next month and  returning to drinking what I like and reading some of the more fun wine books that have been piling up on me.  

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