It’s time for some trumpet-blowing on my part, because last week I received word that I passed the last of the exams for my WSET Diploma in Wine and Spirits. This means that I can add the post-nominal DipWSET to my business card and auto-signature. Like my existing CStat (Chartered Statistician) acccreditation, almost no-one I meet will know what it stands for, but I quite like that, as the inevitable question makes for a good discussion. Now there will be two questions and two possible topics for discussion.

I started studying wine through WSET (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) at Level 2 in April 2013, even though, a long time ago, when my university studies came to an end, I promised myself never to sit another examination. In fact, I had already broken my own promise before becoming fascinated by wine, when, out of curiosity, I once sat the Mensa entrance test, but at least that required no swotting. Wine is different, and as I worked up through Levels 2, 3 and finally 4 (the Diploma), I was back in the business of having to remember a great many disconnected facts, a task at which I have never been very good. So I made up lots of acronyms and abbreviations as memory aids; for example, the four main cities going up the Loire valley spell out NATO: Nantes, Angers, Tours and Orleans.

After Level 2 I was told by more than one wine expert that Level 3 was a ‘big step up’ and Level 4 less so. In retrospect I would agree with the first statement but the second is only half right. The Diploma is a huge step up from Level 3 in terms of the breadth of the syllabus – for example, 32 countries are included vs. 15 at Level 3, and in much more detail, with separate papers on sparkling wine, on fortified wine and on spirits. There is also a big difference in commitment required and the time it takes (normally two years compared to 3-6 months). In a sense, though, it is more of the same; the essay style, tasting format and powers of reasoning required for Level 3 need only modest further elaboration for the Diploma.

Nonetheless, it is a huge relief to have finished. I continue to receive immense satisfaction and enjoyment from tasting and learning about new wines, but I don’t feel the need to commit every appellation’s regulations to memory; I  can just look them up as I need them. So I have no intention of attempting the Master of Wine syllabus; in any case, my factual and sensory memories are not up to it, and I have no wish to spend a lot of time, money and effort just to be reminded of that. I shall spend the time saved tasting and drinking instead and have started as I mean to carry on. Salut!

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