WSET Diploma Progress Update

When I wrote my first post for Wine Sediments I had just started on the 2 year WSET Diploma course. I am now halfway through it, with my final exam scheduled for 9 January 2009, although I do have one more essay to submit in April 2009. There have been some interesting unrelated benefits I never expected.

Firstly, and probably most important, is that I’m enjoying my food more. I now notice what I eat – aromas and flavours, as well as colours and textures. You have to do so much tasting practice as part of the Diploma that it has attuned my brain to be a whole lot more observant about what goes in my mouth.tapas.jpg

Secondly, my knowledge of the physical world has got better. I try and look up every wine I drink in the Wine Atlas so this now means my knowledge of geography and climate, soils and topography has greatly improved.

I still have a long way to go however. Before March 9th 2008 I have 70 to 80 hours of studying to do, 60 of that being on Spirits and their production. The balance of study hours is Sparkling Wines which I should have done in December but, with a trip to China and an early family Christmas, meant studying took a back seat for the first time since I started the Diploma.

Discipline is very important when it comes to studying. Fortunately I am able to make myself sit down for around 30 hours per month as I enjoy it. I have chosen to do the course as a distance learner whereas most people choose to do it in a classroom. It’s half the cost doing it this way but I think you need more discipline and I have to find every opportunity to taste as I know that much of the classroom education at the WSET offices in London is spent tasting.

Fortunately being close to London I get to go to many of the trade tastings and help out at some events such as the International Wine Challenge. I also do a few hours for Oddbins now and then and they have a staff tasting program. I have individually recorded over 250 wines tasted in the last 12 months. I know that is conservative as I have been to many trade tastings where I have not recorded the wines but have slurped and spat my way through 25 to 30 at each sitting. Another by product of the Diploma is there is an acceptance from the trade that students attend trade tastings and this month sees producers from New Zealand, France and Sauternes/Barsac to name but a few come to London.

The remainder of this year will require me to write two more essays whilst continuing to study the main subject which is Light Wines of the World. This requires a minimum of 205 hours of study and the tasting of as many wines as I can lay my hands on. I’ve already done North and West Europe but how I’ll recall that in January 2009 for the exam I don’t know.

I’m often asked what I’m going to do with the Diploma when I’ve been awarded it. I didn’t set out when I started studying to achieve a particular objective. I simply wanted to expand my enjoyment of a subject that had always given me pleasure. I’ve achieved that already with the associated benefits mentioned above.

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Reader Comments

The Diploma is a great springboard to careers in the wine trade as well as satisfying our desire for vinous knowledge.

I finished my WSET Diploma in 1993 while working for oddbins going to as many tastings as possible and judging at the wine challenge.

I am now a winemaker

Good luck with the diploma. I finished last summer, having started a wine blog to help me with the discipline of writing tasting notes rather than just enjoying the wine. I’ve kept going as writing notes is now a big part of my enjoyment of wine, and food, as you’re discovering.

That sounds like a path I’d like to follow Chris - I only wish I’d done it 20 years ago! Plumpton College is not far from my home and every time a new student year starts I’m tempted to sign up for the winemaking course.

Golly - is your blog still up and running as I couldn’t find it??

You should be extremely proud of yourself both for achieving what you have and for influencing others to potentially tackle the same goal. Well done!

Good luck with the studies! I am booked to take my final diploma exam in June 2008. I’ve also started a wine blog ( but have found it really hard to study well recently (starting up a business in China may have just a teeny-tiny bit to do with that!).
Do you have any pointers? There are VERY few trade tastings here in Beijing!!!!

Type your comment here.
Never to late to start Colin, I was 30 when I started at Charles Sturt Uni (Wagga Wagga) and studied with people alot older than that. Its all about the passion.
I have a 45yo mate (diploma graduate) who has just finished at plumpton college and is now out there with many options.

Gabriella - thank you for the nice comment. I’ll certainly be using your site when I come to study wines of Spain and Portugal.

Fongyee - good luck with your exam in June. The only pointer I could give you, but I’m sure you know this already, is to keep tasting and when you think you’ve tasted enough, taste some more! It can get expensive however doing it on your own.