Almost a decade ago I was introduced to wine, in the cellar of the Royal Opera House in London. I was shown the difference between a Sauv Blanc and a Cab Sauv, the difference between dry and sweet and taught that not all wines are made equal. I had the opportunity to taste some of the best wines I’ve ever experienced, and I was given a fast track introduction to the industry by simply being around, and talking about wine all day. This fueled my desire to learn more, and I jumped at the chance to take on the WSET level 2 course. For those that are unsure, the WSET is an educational body providing structured learning in wine and spirits, and considered a must have for anyone embarking on a career in the wine industry. They provide different levels up to a diploma, which is the pre-requisite for anyone brave enough to take on the Master of Wine exams. I passed my course with merit, which only reinforced my already high self confidence in the aptitude I was showing in learning about wine very quickly. The natural progression of this was to move onto my WSET level 3 advanced certification, which I jumped at. I took the course, thinking I could wing it with the knowledge I had already acquired and was given a massive reality check when a question about German wines came up in the final exam. I knew then that I was in trouble. Having not taken the course seriously I failed miserably.
Fast forward 8 years. A little older and a bit wiser, I have put myself back on to the WSET level 3 course, at my own expense. The course is not cheap and comes in at around €700, but this signifies an investment in myself and my future. However a little bit of that over confident young man was still in there thinking he’d fly through this course. That was until I showed up for our first classroom session. Last time I attempted the certificate it was a 1 week intensive course of classroom lectures. Having learnt my lesson I have booked onto a course that runs a classroom session once a week for 11 weeks before the final exam, to allow for more study time. As we were talked through our syllabus and what is expected of us it dawned on me how much study will be involved in this course. That arrogant guy from 8 years ago began to sink back and I realised how much time I would need to dedicate to this.
When I started this blog, I wanted to share what I knew about wine with others, because I believed that I already had the knowledge in me. I have come to realise that I am not as knowledgable as I first thought. I was never good at studying. In fact, I never studied. Even in school I would bunk off and go and hang out with my pals, rather than get my head into the books. Now though, I have immersed myself in the world of wine and my getting immense enjoyment from learning about something I have a great fascination with. What the course has given me mostly is a structure to my education, and has stopped me rushing off on tangents and learning a little of this and a little of that and has forced me to sit down and research subjects properly.
But it’s not only the structure provided that has encouraged me to study, it’s the fear! The fear of falling behind. The fear of failure. The shock of failing my exam the last time still sits in the back of my mind, and is driving me to do more than ‘just enough’. The recommended study time is 5-6 hours a week, but I am putting in at least 10+ hours in an effort to come out of this course with a merit or, dare I say it, a distinction. However all the study means that I have wine constantly on my mind. A few mornings ago I woke up from a dream mumbling.”Riesling, Riesling”, even though the course has not yet arrived in Germany.
I am determined to do better this time. My ambition is to go on and do my WSET Diploma and prove to myself what I’ve been saying all these years; that I am knowledgeable about wine. And then who knows, maybe even have a crack at the Master of Wine exam. But that is just a pipe dream, for the moment. I still have a long way to go and lot more to experience before I reach those dizzying heights, but I am enjoying the journey so far.