Wine drinking in class
Woo hoo! I’ve just received the news about my WSET level 2 examination and I passed…with distinction. As it is the first examination I have sat in decades I’m delighted. I couldn’t steady my pre-exam nerves with a glass of wine, which was completely at odds to the rest of the course where tasting (and drinking) was part of the lesson.
There is zero tolerance for drinking and driving in Dubai so I cycled to and from the course much to the amusement of the other students.
WSET stands for Wines and Spirit Education Trust and is a qualification with world-wide recognition. The course is held at the Emirates Academy of Hospitality in Jumeirah, Dubai (plus other parts of the world) and there were about 30 of us in class. Most of my classmates worked at various restaurants and bars around town and were looking to further their careers with this qualification. Only R and I had simply applied for the pleasure of taking the course.
It’s not advisable to look back with regret but if reincarnation and time travel is possible could I request to come back as Jancis Robinson please? I took her Wine Course book to Saudi Arabia with me in 1995. Mad you might think (and I’m astonished it wasn’t taken from me at customs) but I knew I’d have a lot of reading time on my hands (albeit no chance to put any knowledge into practise). When Confessions of a Wine Lover came out in 1997 this too was smuggled in with my luggage and I couldn’t believe that anyone could have had a life that perfect in terms of eating and drinking experiences.
Before and since Saudi-living I’ve been lucky enough to taste some pretty nice wines myself. Wine-drinking in Saudi? – well let me just say it goes on, but special it ain’t. I arrived at the course with more enthusiasm than expertise and a few random bits of knowledge thrown together and a few lucky blind tasting results. No previous knowledge is necessary to join the course.
Over the next 10 weeks we went through the major wine producing countries and regions, grape varieties, methods plus a bit about spirits. It seemed to knit the little bits and pieces together; every session was really worthwhile and very enjoyable due to the practical tasting. The WSET systematic approach to wine tasting is a little formulaic but it gave me a reference point for descriptions and assessments of wine. It means that you can link your previous experience of a certain wine with the one you are tasting now and put it in context. The course is called ‘Looking Behind the Label‘ and arms you with some great information when choosing wines. For instance I was looking at Spanish wines in a shop the other day and knew that the terms Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva referred to the amount of time they had spent being aged in oak (which obviously has an effect on the taste and price).
This new-found knowledge (and it’s right at the first rung of the wine information ladder) is not something to use to wax on and on about expensive and rare vintages – *friends now sigh with relief*. It’s more about finding wines you like.
I wish I had done this years ago so I’ve signed up again for September. Wish me luck with Level 3 Advanced Certificate ‘Exploring the world of wines and spirits’.
I can’t claim any credit for the beautiful images above (click on them to see the clever people that did).
A couple of other wine-related links if you live in the UAE :
Grapevine (MMI) – special offers, tastings, events for people who like wine.
Dubai Wine Club – informal meet-up group with monthly blind tastings.
Any tips for studying? Any wine experiences you’d like to share? (For non-drinkers, we’re back to food next time).