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Tuesday, 12 October 2010

WSET Advanced Certicate Course – Week One – “Course Induction and Tasting Techniques”

I have always been interested in wine and used to go to the Dulwich Wine Society for many years whilst living in South London.  Lately, I felt it was time to learn a little more about it and in a more structured way, and so decided to join the Advanced Certificate Course of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET).
To be eligible for this course, an online exam containing 50 multiple choice questions (based on the intermediate course) must be taken in 45 minutes and a score of 65% achieved. The test is not particularly difficult for anyone who has an interest in wine and wine regions, and I was lucky enough to pass it without taking the beginners or intermediate classes.
The course will run for 15 weeks every Tuesday. Our first class was on 5th October 10, at the WSET on Bermondsey Street and was led by the course organizer Michael Buriak. Michael was knowledgeable and rather entertaining in his explanations of the course syllabus and the WSET 'Systematic Approach to Tasting Wine'. 
This is an internationally recognised method for describing wines, with comments on the appearance of the wine, the nose, the palate, and conclusions including the quality, price category (inexpensive=£5.99 or less, mid price=£6.00-£9.99, high price=£10 to £14.99, premium=£15 or more), and readiness for drinking. 

These were discussed at some length as shown by our first four wines below. These tasting notes mean little to anyone unfamiliar with these wines but they help to illustrate the systematic approach used by WSET for tasting wines.
1.  Muscadet sur Lie

Appearance: clear, pale, lemon coloured
Nose: was clean, youthful, with green apple and lemon characteristics
Palate:  dry, high in acidity, with citrus and floral characteristics
Conclusions: Good quality, mid-priced, and ready to drink now.
2.  Tokay 5 Puttonyos 2000 Vintage

Appearance: clear, deep amber
Nose: clean, pronounced, fully developed, apricot, fig, honey, marmalade
Palate: sweet, high acidity, no tannin, high alcohol, full bodied, pronounced flavour intensity, apricot, tangerine and honey flavours, long finish
Conclusion: Outstanding quality, premium price, ready to drink now, but can improve with ageing.
3.  Beaujolais

Appearance: clear, medium intensity, purple
Nose: clean, youthful, raspberry, red plum and red cherry
Palate: dry, high acidity, low tannin, medium alcohol, red fruit flavours, medium length
Conclusion: good quality, mid-price, ready to drink now, and will not improve with ageing.
4. Rioja Gran Reserva 1999

Appearance:  Clear, medium intensity, garnet
Nose: clean, medium intensity, fully developed black cherry fruit,with spice, oak and cedar notes
Palate: dry, medium acidity, tannin and alcohol, black fruit, spice and cedar, medium to long finish
Conclusion: very good quality, premium price, ready to drink now and will not improve
These four contrasting wine styles were intended to introduce us to the range of descriptors conveyed by the standard WSET vocabulary.  Over the coming weeks, we look forward to using them with increasing rigour and to describe wines in a fairly objective, unfussy and unpretentious language, and sharing the wines we taste whenever we are told their provenance (we were not on this first tasting). 
Week 2: Wine Making!


  1. Sounds like a very detailed and useful course - you and Dr G will be even bigger wine experts than you already are!

  2. Thanks Cara, it is a lot of fun too! Why don't you join us sometime? I think food and wine go hand in hand, and can't imagine my life without either.

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  3. Luiz, you are going to love this course, I did it earlier this year (over the course of a week!), it was a bit insane and I wish I had spread it out over 14 weeks as it would have been much less exhausting,

    My advice would be to take detailed notes, but by the look of it, you won't be short!


    P.s Tokaji is the shit!

  4. Thanks Tuck, I am enjoying it very much but my goodness, there is just so much reading!! I will be posting the other weeks soon, been quite bad at keeping up with the blog in the last few weeks.

    Luiz @ The London Foodie


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