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WSET Level 2 - Advice sought please


#1

Hi Folks

I’m going to enrol in the WSET at my local wine educator, The Yorkshire Wine School.

I’m looking at the level 2 as the level 3 looks a bit of a jump including blind tastings as part of the examination! Has anybody sat level 2 or 3 courses and is there any advice you can give?

Thanks! :slight_smile:


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#2

Hiya!

I’ve done both (for my sins) and you’re quite right that it’s quite a jump from level 2 to 3! I’d say just enjoy level 2, learn, taste and read the material and you’ll feel so much more knowledgeable in no time, and most likely breeze through the exam.

For Level 3 you’ll need to set aside a good evening or so a week to get all the assigned weekly reading done and take some notes to help you revise that section before the exam! I definitely underestimated just how much work there was and how much more technical the information is, and it’s also basically impossible to memorise everything so if you get an unlucky set of essay questions in the exam then there’s nothing much you can do (except retake it, of course!) That said it’s still completely and utterly achievable and a wonderful wealth of knowledge to have. I highly recommend it.

Oh, and the blind tasting is rarely as scary as you think! Not that you shouldn’t do plenty of practice tastings just to make sure… :wink:


#3

Thanks Laura - I thought level 2 would be a good start as it introduces the systematic approach to wine in terms of appreciation and discussion and would give that work method for level 3 as i’m probably full of bad habits. I gave a lot of thought to what sort of extra-curricular learning and thought French and German would be useful but I guess if the reason you’re going to France or Germany is wine, then get that subject nailed down! I think if you do study outside of work you want to be interested in the topic and I couldn’t think of something I’d rather read about more than wine!

And yes, you can’t be too careful with these things haha. I just have to make sure i don’t cherry-pick the wines I like and cover all bases!


#4

I have done both level 2 (distinction) and level 3 (merit), I believe that level 3 has recently changed to make the gap between level 3 and the diploma slightly less. I would definitely recommend level 2 to anyone who wants to know more about wine, I started from no knowledge when I started at The Wine Society and I found both levels enjoyable. The blind tasting should be fine as its all methodical in terms of the tasting approach, basically just write what you taste and smell, at level 2 its slightly more basic in terms of the tasting notes.

If you already enjoy wine the you should know some of the regions already, main region I found hard is Italy (as everyone seems to) as there are so many regions, sub regions and most of their grapes are unique to the country. The part I found most fascinating is the effect that wine has on food as well as trying a warm climate vs cool climate version of the same grape.

Another really useful practical skill you will learn is around bottle labels, once you know the quality hierarchy within certain regions you can then at a glance know where the wine is from and how good it should be or pick up on terms like “Vieilles Vignes” meaning old vines (which will give added concentration).

The downside to passing the WSET exams is that everyone things you are an MW and you always get lumbered with choosing wine at the restaurant (which is both fun and daunting).

Main thing I enjoyed about WSET is that you find odd wines that you might not have come across before or you can work out in your head what sort of wines you enjoy and what to look out for.


#5

I’ve just completed the Level 2 and I’d say that doing that before Level 3 gives you a really good groundwork of knowledge. Also there is a LOT of information to take on in Level 2 especially if it’s the first structured wine knowledge learning you’re going into, it was for me. One thing I would say is to not underestimate the fact that it’s a multiple choice exam, even though the answers are there it can throw some tricky questions! At the same time like @laura said you’ll quickly build up your knowledge and I think most importantly if you enjoy wine and are invested in the experience you’ll be fine I really enjoyed the whole learning process (and the tasting :clinking_glasses::wine_glass:!) and am really looking forward to moving on to Level 3 :slight_smile:


#6

Aw thank you so much, so much good info there! Yes, my biggest fear is blind tasting a selection of 10 Aussie shiraz served at gas mark 5 with extra jam and custard! I’m planning on using the girlfriend as a study buddy to help with the terminology.

The Yorkshire Wine School is actually based at an exceptional restaurant with tasting plates and they serve wine by the 50ml sample so you can explore a bit more, so making a wine recommendation is a bit like throwing a big fistful of darts at a board - You can’t get that wrong, surely!

@Catherine I think you’re going to be my spirit guide once I start level 3! I have read and read and read wine (and home + WS tastings) for years now but as you mention, not in a formal way that’s suitable for a professional or more ‘sophisticated’ use. I did sneak on the MW website (just to see)…now THAT looks daunting!


#7

As far as I know there isn’t a blind tasting as part of the exam at level 2, there is one at level 3 - although its been a while since I have taken the exam! The exam is 50 multiple choice questions which I didn’t find too tricky but it does depend on if they focus on a subject you aren’t comfortable with, usually 2 answers which are definitely wrong with the other 2 being close.

For me I didn’t really take the WSET levels to get any sort of qualification it was more about learning about wine more and enjoying the learning experience. For me I would see it as:

WSET level 2 - good grounding for all the main regions, quick a bump if you know nothing about wine - set aside a bit of time to understand any more complex bits but most are fairly common sense
WSET level 3 - builds on the grounding of level 2, more indepth and specific for regions (such as knowing the Beaujolais crus rather than just Beaujolias), other wine styles etc - set aside a good amount of time to learn this as it is quite complex
WSET diploma - not got to this level yet but it takes 2 years to get through with many different individual modules you have to pass on their own - very in depth and would include individual sub regions, history, viticulture etc - pretty much full on learning
MW - A lifetime of work

For me I think I might stop at level 3 as it give a great basis to wine, gives me enough knowledge to further my own wine journey and I can apply what I have learnt to other situations, especially useful when looking at the next wine to buy or to match food with wine. I think at diploma level it gets far more serious, I have some of the books from the course from someone else who is in the process of taking it, to be its very interesting but unless in the wine trade or wanting to become a buyer it is at a level that is above just day to day knowledge.

Looking at the WSET site it shows the levels in terms of study time:

Level 2 - 28 hours of study including 16 hours of tutored learning
Level 3 - 84 hours of study including 30 hours of tutored learning
Diploma - 600 hours of study including 118 hours of tutored learning


#8

The diploma sounds pretty deep - Such a shame I have to work to afford wine otherwise it would wonderful to think about studying vino full time! Thanks so much for the advice! So in summary…

  • Read a lot
  • Taste a lot
  • Don’t underestimate the cunning of a wine examiner

#9

I just got my results for level 2 and passed with a good mark, I found it quite straightforward, but I did have a reasonable prior knowledge. Basically if you read the book a couple of times, you should easily pick up enough to pass I’d say. But the interesting part for me was the classroom wine tastings, which teach you to make a start on evaluating wines, which is useful.

You could try this quiz which is based on some of the questions in level 2, it’ll give you a good idea of where you are and what you need to work on.


#10

Fantastic: a quiz!! I got 80%…only failing the predominant location of vineyards and confusing spatlese as german riesling vs late harvest. Yes, i think the tasting will be the most valuable experience :slight_smile:


#11

At the risk of offending- why are you enrolling? I seriously considered entering for the level 3, until I realised that the money that it would cost could buy me:

A years membership to Jancis Robinson .com,
Second hand copies of a wine atlas, a book on wine grapes, and a few bits and pieces on spirits and fortified wines.
A decent set of tasting glasses.
Tickets to tasting events.
A decent starting point to build a cellar of wine.

If you need it for work then go for it, but £450 for level two can get you more return for your money. (In my humble opinion)


#12

It was a long time ago, but I skipped level 2 and went straight to three then the diploma, it was in the good old days when Oddbins were backed by Pernod/Ricard and funded all staff wine exams. As the world of wine grows the amount to learn grows.

No matter what you know there is always something new to discover in wine, it never gets boring! If you have to fund your own studies then obviously be strategic in what you pay for.


#13

I’m a great believer in structure and by attaching yourself to a structure with those that are more aware and have trodden paths which you have not then your whole direction and philosophy can be guided. Assuming i have another 50 (hopefully 60) years of tasting to go i believe that being tutored and assessed at this stage will magnify itself many times over. You also get the 75-80 wine samples included in this fee so it still has aspect. I think it’s a good buy :slight_smile:


#14

@Nowt_in_my_glass
Go for it! I’d second most of the advice on here . Do the level 2 before embarking on the level 3 as there is definitely a substantial jump up. You can now do a Level 3 purely in wine and not cover the spirits if you so wish. This option is becoming more popular with WSET introducing a level 3 award (at some point) in spirits alone.
As Laura said, it gives you the formal systematic structure of breaking down a wine in level 2 and advancing it through level 3. The only downside to this approach to tasting is not being able to be more flamboyant with your descriptions. This tends to be frowned upon which is both frustrating and limiting to how you wish to describe what you are actually tasting as opposed to picking from a list of prescribed descriptors.
That aside, good luck with the level two and enjoy it which I’m sure you will :ok_hand:


#15

100%, no WSET quals :raised_hands:


#16

Well done, but honestly this test does not do justice to WSET level 2.


#17

For starters, I’m sure there’s more than 5 or so questions!


#18

still well done for 100%


#19

@NickFoster I wish someone would pay for my DipWSET …:joy::joy::joy:


#20

@Leah I can happily announce I have enrolled on WSET2 beginning early November! I did think that the comprehensive nature of it would mean I would need to really go in at this stage to learn a bit more about the ‘systematic’ approach as my own wine tasting notes would look more at home in a Mighty Boosh script.

Also, I am doing it purely for fun and my own stimulation so to speak, so it would be a bit silly to miss out on this. I saw a rough overview of the varietals that you taste and thought hmmm could I reeeeeeally tell those two apart in a blind tasting…?! (E.g. A punchy gamay vs. light pinot)

I’m definitely going to do level 3…I think level 4 may be a bit more wine trade relevant for buyers. At that stage the wine school near me run weekly courses in different regions and do week night tastings with cheese too, so a level 4 and diploma would pay for about a year and a half of said short courses + the absolutely sensational WS tastings!