A Little Bit of Knowledge Goes a Long Way
I’d been banging on about trying to get a bit more involved in wine for a while. I love the thought of doing all these different things but sometimes it’s just easier to…well…not to, I guess. This was definitely the case with the wine. Stuck in my comfort zone of one region and 4 grapes, that was me done for the time being.
Luckily for me, I’ve somehow managed to find a missus who’s great at delivering the odd right boot to the bum to get me going (I’m talking metaphorically here, none of that master/slave dominatrix stuff!). So come Christmas last year she’d had enough of listening to me talk about it and signed me up for WSET level 2. WSET, if I’m right, is the major wine school in the UK. They have levels of qualification I’d guess you’d call it. So level 1 (for complete beginners) to level 4 (diploma) and then if you’re really nuts, you can try for your master of wine qualification after that.
So the textbook turns up in the post pretty soon afterwards. I had no idea what to expect, but I’ll be honest, I was pretty intimidated. Chapter after chapter of info, all tight font and text. Mountains of stuff I’d never heard of. How is tequila made? What are the regions of Australia you get the best Shiraz from? Buggered if I knew!
The 3 day lecture course was quite funny. I’ve not been in a lecture since I left uni in 2006. It was weird sitting there again with your handouts and following slideshows and all that doings. Weirder still was that in each 2 hour lecture you’re doing about 12 tastings. Of course you’ve got to spit it out otherwise you’d be wrecked by lunch time. And people weren’t there to piss about. There were mostly wine industry people all over the place, juniors who were basically given two or three days off to go pass the course, “Don’t come back without it!” sort of thing.
So day three (the day of the exam) came, and I don’t mind admitting it, I was quite nervous. That old adrenalin kick took me back to when you stood in the sports hall waiting to go in and do your GCSEs or something like that. I felt like I knew the stuff, but what if my pencil snaps? Or my brain falls out? Luckily the cure to my nerves was right around the corner. Well between the hours of 12 and 2 as a matter of fact. That was our last lecture before the exam, and it was all on spirits. So there I was with all these glasses of spirits lined up infront of me. I decided not to spit them all out, settle the nerves and that. The rest is a bit of a blur.
Since doing the course I feel like I’m just really up for more. When I buy wine I need to go and try new things. I buy online and ask for a box of “randoms”. All kinds of weird varietals (mostly single grape wines) and blends (mixes of different grape varieties) turn up, and a lot of it is hit and miss, but it’s the feeling like at least I know what it is before I open it. Sounds weird, but it’s a good feeling. A little bit of info and it’s opened up a huge amount of the industry to me that I’d never seen before.
I know there’s a lot to know, but even a little goes such a long way. I’m not saying everyone should rush out right now and sign up for tasting courses and taking weeks off work to do a lot of this stuff, but there are other ways. So keep reading blogs, listening to people, going to wine dinners, and all that jazz. Go drink Ports, Sherries, Rieslings, Grenaches. Over the coming weeks I’ll be starting to talk about the more famous white and red wines. Sweet and sparkling wines too. Go try them.
Level 2 down, I’ve already signed up for level 3. The book just arrived. It’s 3 times bigger. Ah crap!