Trying to finish off the WSET programme



Last few weeks I’ve been trying to kick myself up the proverbial arse to get reading my WSET (wine exams) books again. I’m only half way through the 2 year Diploma programme. Most people I did year one with have already started, if not finished it, taking their 6th and final exam a couple of weeks back. For a couple of reasons I didn’t do it with them, so the onus is on me to get online and sign up to finish it all off as soon as I can. But it’s not as easy as all that!

I’m not sure I can afford to do it right now. That’s not to say I can’t afford it financially, although stumping up the nearly £2000 isn’t exactly insignificant. I mean more with the time factor. I’m at a stage now where I’m trying to get two companies going, saying yes to any opportunity in the wine game I can, and also remembering to look after myself and manage my life a bit better than I had done in the years leading up to the change of career. Can I really find the 300 extra hours to cram in all that knowledge about Argentinian viticulture and local Hungarian varietals?

I flick from being up for it one minute, to then seeing it equivalent to passing a driving test the next. To a certain extent I’ve got no choice but to do it. Firstly, I’ve already done year one so I might as well. But secondly, and more importantly, it’s really becoming a very important badge of honour for people to make their way in the wine world. I’m painfully aware that I didn’t start from the back office at a wine warehouse and work my way up. I’m from a different world, and knew very little real detail until a couple of years before. I almost feel like I won’t get taken seriously until I’ve got it under my belt!

And finally, and much more positively, I’ve got to admit that I find the course pretty damn useful. Lots of people round the world like to chip in and give it a bit of shit for concentrating too much on one thing and ignoring others (I’ve read some American students were particularly pissed at a lack of detail in their wine world), but don’t miss the point. As a standardization tool it’s pretty well formed. I remember getting the books for Level 1 of the CFA exams (google it), reading it and thinking that none of this is actually true anymore, the financial world has moved on, but employers the world round need something to hang their hat on. Standardisation exams will always have a place. The WSET is just what it is for wine. No point bitching too much about it.

For anyone starting off wanting to know more about wine, then the 3-day Level 2 is perfect. For those looking to be a bit of a clever clogs then the 5-day Level 3 will sort you out. And for the full on wine geeks? The 2 year diploma is the way to go…or at least I think it is, will confirm when I’ve finished it!




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16 thoughts on “Trying to finish off the WSET programme”

  1. Good luck – I’m hoping to start mine early next year – and as you say, for those of use who didn’t start their wine interest in short pants / out of school / but come from a different world, it’s a hugely invaluable thing. And yes – the money thing is an issue. I’ve already started saving to pay for mine. I don’t know how you find the time to do everything – I hugely admire your drive and dedication to the cause !!(well, after all, it’s quite a nice cause #chink #chink)

  2. Plenty of people are taken seriously in the wine trade without having the Diploma. If you’re running your own businesses, there are far more fruitful things to spend your cash on.

    The money’s a moot point; the WSET are a money-making organisation, and far from the only way of learning about wine. Take a look at some of the distance learning courses you could do with US/Australian/NZ universities concerning wine for instance.

    1. Yeah, it’s funny, I think my over-riding thing has been that I’ve done year one, so might as well finish it off.

      I hear you on the uni courses though! The courses in Dijon and Bordeaux are really highly thought of too. Maybe one for the future?

  3. I’m in a similar situation myself, except it’s for re-sits in the diploma. Unit 3 theory, Sparkling and fortified. Still expensive to redo but trying to find the drive to start while staying a new role is difficult. I’ve really enjoyed it and have found it very useful.
    Good luck, I’m sure you’ll get started soon

    1. Same. I need to sit Spirits, retake Fortified and Unit3 Tasting. I think I’ll take a hit and do all this Autumn/ Spring. Like you Mike, not having a background in the Wine Trade (plus being a girl), every little helps. Keep going!

      1. It’s funny you talk a bout being a girl, I think the majority of any WSET classes I’ve ever done have been women, but there is a strange skew in the top jobs I guess

  4. I am in your boat as well. Halfway through the WSET Diploma. I only have Unit 3 to go (exam is June 2017). I am gearing up for a busy year. Best of luck to you!

  5. PBMMW,
    I can totally relate. I just took my Unit 4 Spirits exam and if I pass that all I have left is a retake of Unit 3 Light Wines. I’m into year three because of the calendar and needing retakes. Fingers crossed that I can finish up before another calendar year rolls by.

    But I completely understand the need for professional credibility when one changes careers at a later date. Here’s a blog I wrote about that, and how it’s hard to explain to non-industry friends just what all these exams are about, or for!

    Thanks for sharing your own struggles. Here’s to us both finishing sooner than later.



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