I did Level 3 in 2019 and quite enjoyed it. The course gives you a good basis for understanding winemaking techniques and a brief introduction to the usual suspects of the winemaking countries.
With regard to the future courses you refer to the next logical step after level 3 is the WSET Diploma. WSET in the UK is only qualification authorising body. I think there is also something called “The wine scholars Guild” about which I know very little. I think it focuses on particular countries and you can become a wine scholar of that country, but I may be wrong on that. WSET is really by far and away the most well known.
If you decide to take on the Diploma my advice is that it is a huge step up from Level 3. It is 18 months of full time study, 5 theory exams, three tasting papers and a 3,000 word essay. You can do it online. I did some online and some classroom courses. I will give you the following tips about the Diploma. It consists of 6 modules, and you must have done the D1 exam (viticulture and wine production) before you can do the others. D2 (the wine business) is a very simple introduction to concepts such as supply and demand, marketing, sales etc. If you have spent any time in business you will find it very easy.
D3 is the biggest module and is still wines of the world. 16 countries, a 450 page ebook, lots and lots of tasting to do. two theory papers and a 12 wine tasting paper. You have to answer 5 out of 7 theory questions, for each question you have 40 minutes to answer it.
D4 and D5 are sparkling and fortified wines. Sparkling wine tasting exam is very tough. Fortified is slightly easier and styles are very recognisable.
D6 is a 3000 word essay on a given topic.
It is very prescriptive. WSET give you ebooks which contain all the information you need to score highly in the exam. So you can do well even if you do not read around the subject.
Passing the exams is all about technique and so avoid slavish re-reading of the books. Keep doing test questions from some of the past papers. WSET do give you mock exam and quizzes which are very useful. You need to plan answers. The exam is very intense, you need to plan your answer very carefully. The speed at which you can write legibly is critical.
Read the exam guidance notes carefully. WSET exam reports time and again say main reasons for failure are a) not answering the question as asked and b) not enough detail. Exam questions are all written, there is no multiple choice. The questions are not there to trick you! Questions sometimes have separate elements and are weighted so that is a very clear indication of how much to write for each part or whole question. Again examiners report that candidates, for example, write one side for a 40% weighting and 3 sides for 15% weighting. That means failure!
So the most important tip is gear all your learning around past questions and polishing your exam technique.
If you decide to do the Diploma my advice would be to do D3, D4 and D5 in the classroom and not online. You get lots of wines to taste and you learn the WSET SAT system at Diploma level much more thoroughly.
For extra help sign up to a website called “Tipple Talk” run by Katrina Smith. She does Zoom blind tastings, mock exam questions both theory and tasting. She is outstanding. Without her help I probably would have failed!
Some specific tips about D3.
D3 is a huge module. Candidates tend to almost panic at the huge amount of material. The module is split into 16 countries. Strangely how they are dealt with varies considerably. But the key point is that if you understand the basics of physical geography, the effect of large volumes of water on land temperatures (and hence which grape varieties do well and where) you will grasp the course very quickly. Ditto the effect of altitude.
If you also grasp the importance of regulation in the old world and how each of the major countries measure quality in their regulation the course instantly becomes very manageable.
I will dig around and look up my revision notes which I can send you if you would like?
Many Diploma students club together and form local tasting groups for extra practice. I did not join one because nobody in Norfolk was doing the Diploma when I was! But Katrina Smith is by far your best bet.
All in all the Diploma is all about book learning and exam technique plus the SAT tasting system. I had read about specific regions so I had a depth of knowledge in some areas but huge gaps in others. The Diploma gives you an all round good introduction to all the major regions.
As I said I will dig out my revision materials and happily send you them if you want… I may have a chart for grapes lurking somewhere, I have have a look.
More generally, each time I buy a wine or see a wine that I may be interested in, I read the producers website, hoping that they will set out a specification for the wine, talk about their winemaking techniques, and viticulture. At the moment I am searching around tasting wines made from grapes grown at very high altitude comparing the same varieties grown at low altitude and in a different climate. Not always a perfect like for like comparison but it does help me with a structured theme.
Best of luck