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I agree to a point, but they can IMO also be useful if you want to talk to someone in the wine trade - for example to explain to a merchant or sommelier what sort of wine you want. Ideally the professional should be able to communicate without jargon, but I wouldn’t count on it. It helps to have a common vocabulary.

(Personally, I read the WSET Level 3 book, tasted widely, and took the exam, without doing the course. I know others say they gained a lot from attending lessons, but I am not a coursey sort of person. See how you feel after Level 1.)

The rest of @AnaGramWords’ advice is spot on. But in the same spirit, and in the words of the gambling advertisement, I’d add: when the fun stops, stop.


@scm7mr Your head nust be spinning already with the all the (good) advice you have received! AnaGramsWords’ advice is probably most pertinent if you are early in your journey and I would endorse them.

Re your: “Question from me is how do I go about getting more familiar with the plethora of different wines out there without bankrupting myself?”

It is important to develop confidence in your own personal assesment of a wine and not rely on the sometimes flowery fantasies of wine reviewers. You can do this by systematically writing down notes on all the wines you drink. Get a good notebook. Memories are fragile and deceptive. Writing it down will also force you to analyse the wine better. Personally, I also utilise a summary score of ‘Personal Enjoyment’ at the end of each note on a scale of 1-10 which I find useful later.

When I first started exploring wines more seriously over 35 yr ago my notes were fairly short & simple but over time they became more systematic - and I still make notes on virtually every wine I drink, even when at home. Incidentally, nothing has scored 10 yet in all these years… I hope to meet that magical wine one day!


More detailed advice I agree with and largely follow myself!

Except sometimes my notes are still very sketchy, as I take the view that a brief comment is better than none.

And while I too use a personal enjoyment score (1-10 in notes), I do in fact use my top score a few times most years. It doesn’t mean the wine is perfect - just that any improvement would not significantly improve my enjoyment.


Excellent advice! It may sound like a chore, but for us, sitting down for the ritual of tasting and writing our notes is still as exciting as when we started doing it systematically 4 years ago.

On top of the usual info about the bottle and the tasting notes themselves, we also always note the weather, mood and whether anything significant had happened on that day. I love reading our old notebooks, because it reminds me of the mindset we were in when tasting a particular wine. In short, taking regular notes had revolutionised my wine appreciation.


There is another set of posts on this, but I strongly advise not using a notebook. Unless you lose interest within a year (and you don’t sound as if you are about to), a paper list will be useless and you will need to transfer everything to a database, spreadsheet, or some other electronic form. This is particularly true if you want to be able to see patterns in what you like (list all the Gewurztraminers and see if you are one of the addicts or the unfortunates who don’t like it) or just find whether there is anything you liked last year from a particular supplier which could make up the next case you are ordering.


I think this is a personal preference. There is no right or wrong way to go about it.

I also have a spreadsheet to record all my wines - bought and drunk, but for me there is no substitute to the pleasure of recording the information first on paper. I love the little wine stains, the crumpled paper and the memories they evoke. Spreadsheets do not evoke quite the same memories, albeit they’re definitely excellent at showing patterns.

Horses for courses, of course :slight_smile:


The books that I have thought most helpful on our travels are:
1 John Radford’s The New Spain, a tad old now but really informative in a global but concise way
2 Jacqueline Friedrich’s The wines of France and her two volumes on the Loire
3 Clive Coates The wines of Bordeaux
4 Stephen Brooks The complete Bordeaux
5 recently out Jane Anson’s Inside Bordeaux
6 Williamson and Moore’s The wine behind the label
7 Johnson and Robinson’s Wine World Atlas
8 Hugh Johnson’s yearly hand book …but the list could be endless and fellow enthusiasts on this thread rightly,I think, emphasize personal experimentation . Having said that I have certain found the above great helps in find ways into areas that can seem extremely complicated.


The best book on Bordeaux that I’ve read is The Winemasters by the late Nicholas Faith. Although now very old, the history of the Bordelais dynasties is very illuminating.

I did the certificate and advanced certificate in the late 80s early 90s.
No books required.

Out of interest Steve, what was it that was so wrong with the Wine Folly book? I have a copy of it and whilst I haven’t picked it up in a fair while I seemed to think it was good at the time.
Stuff like serving temperatures, dryness of a particular type of wine etc are things that I’d probably glance at it for now.

It’s interesting that yourself plus 2 others (all significantly more knowledgeable than myself) have specifically DISrecommended it.

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Well, allow me to break the mould… although I agree that there are far far better and more accurate books out there - I am very happy to recommend it for someone starting their wine journey.

The plethora of grapes, styles and regions can be mind boggling to someone discovering the world of wine. Wine Folly, in my humble opinion, provides a nice shorthand for the above. The pictograms can also help, especially for people who are visual learners, and don’t want to drown in dense (and overwhelming) text.

It gives a nice (if simplistic, but so what?) overview of styles, grapes and regions; it invites curiosity that can then be satiated with more ‘professional’ books. I own a copy and still enjoy glancing at it from time to time. It was the book that made me realise I must take regular notes, and the rest - for me at least - is history! :smile:


Yeah that makes sense. It was my first wine book too I think and like you say, it was a great visual resource to help learn the basics.

Simple things like helping me understand that if I’m looking for a French red in the supermarket, I shouldn’t necessarily expect to see any mention of the grape or even anything more than the name of the château and region! It baffled me for ages! :joy:


I formed the opinion myself, but don’t have a list to hand of the issues I found. So I hope you don’t mind if I refer you to this article

I would however add that IMO the infographics are not that great either. Try actually using the food-matching ones to see what I mean.

Also, as you mentioned dryness… the dryness indications in the profiles for each “wine type”, are in some cases pointless or likely to be wrong. I quickly found these examples… Champagne is down as “bone dry”, which is possible (as is sweet), but very rare. Riesling commonly varies a lot from bone dry to very sweet, so I don’t see how it can simply be categorised as “off dry”. Yes, the text is more nuanced, but why even try to assign a single sweetness level to the grape variety?


Wow having just read that review I can see what you mean. It seem like the book is just a very poorly written amalgamation of half facts and blatant errors!

Oh well, I can at least credit it with “getting me into” wine education and eventually going on to buy many more, significantly better books!

Its very much design over content, have chatted to the author and she has fairly limited wine knowledge. Fun to look at but for beginners only I’d say.

Well, I wouldn’t underestimate that! :+1:

My book, by the way, was the first 2015 Edition (not the Magnum edition) - imperfect, for sure, with some errors, no doubt, but a fab introduction to a rather fantastic hobby. Hell, even the venerated Hugh Johnson keeps sticking Roter Veltliner in the ‘Red grapes’ section of his pocket book…

But that is correct. It’s a pink-skinned grape, like Pinot Gris, and used to make white wines.

Other wine books do contain errors, I agree, but I cannot think of any well-known one as bad as WF.


Doh! This was MY mistake. I know Roter Veltliner very well… Hugh Johnson keeps classifying it as a RED grape, even in the most recent edition of his pocket book (in fact, it was stuck in both red and white list this time). Edited the original post now.

Note to self: don’t post things beyond 10pm! :woman_facepalming:


Are they worth the cost? I have done my level 3 wset and thinking about doing 4 in the next couple of years whats the difference with the wine scholar courses

Level 4 is huge jump from 3. It takes at least a full year to do full time. It is expensive but if you pass the exams, which are tough, it is a very useful qualification. Total cist is about £6,000.

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