With WSET level 1 successfully completed I decided that I should carry on my wine education with level 2 – and I was feeling slightly cocky with my new found wine ‘knowledge’. That was until the study pack thudded through my door early one morning – soil types, climates, viticulture, PDO, vinification – all to be learnt before attending the three classroom days in London. I suddenly felt a lot less confident.
Before I talk about the three great days I spent at WSET HQ I have to get something off my chest. I HATE commuting. Stupidly I had decided to commute back and forth from Chippenham every day, adding 2hrs at the beginning and end of my day. Firstly, I’d like to know why people are so rude on trains; a smile, an excuse me or a thank you costs nothing. Secondly, why can’t the trains at least try to run on time? Three days of commuting nearly turned me homicidal – I take my hat off to those of you that have to do it every day. Rant over.
If you have already completed level 1, level 2 is a big step up in terms of how much you have to learn and the complexity of what you are learning. During the classroom sessions we looked at different grape varieties, key wine producing regions, sparkling wines (my favourite tasting session), fortified wines and spirits and liqueurs (my least favourite tasting session thanks to a heavy night on the whiskey many years ago, but that’s a whole other story).
Over the three days we tasted 48 wines and spirits of varying price but all deemed by WSET to be good examples of their type. This was a great opportunity to try wines that I had previously shunned as well as some that are out of my price range (Maison Chanson Puligny-Montrachet Hameau de Blagny 1er cru 2007 – £42.00 for example). A real eye opener were the German wines we tried. Thanks to trying poor quality versions of Liebfraumilch and Piesporter in the 90’s I had rejected all wines from this region but after tasting Maximin Grunhauser Abtsberg Riesling Spatlese (2000) I realised that there is much more to German wines than the mass-produced, acidic flavourless wines that have been inflicted on the world. This Riesling had aromas of lychee, peach and citrus with honey and apricot notes on the palate. It showed me that there is so much out there to experience, some good, some bad, but you don’t know until you try – and you might find yourself pleasantly surprised.
At the end of the third day there was a multiple-choice exam, not great after you have spent the morning sniffing whiskey and sampling champagne, but the questions were all covered by the tutors in detail so if you fancy doing the course, this is not something to worry about. Level 2 is a lot of hard work but it is a fascinating course with lots of opportunities for tasting fantastic wines.
Wines we tasted:
- Pio Cesare Barolo 2006 – £34.99
- Royal Tokaji Wine Company Royal Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos Blue Label 2007 – £16.99
- Chateau de Chasseloir Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie 2010 – £9.49
- Clos de Nouys Vouvrey Demi-Sec 2010 – £8.39
- Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel 2009 – £23.99
- Maison Chanson Puligny-Montrachet Hameau de Blagny 1er cru 2007 – £42.00
- Chateau Batailley Grand Cru Classe 2005 – £36.99
- St Hallett Blackwell Barossa Shiraz 2007 – £17.49
- Grosset Springvale Watervale Riesling 2010 – £21.99 – this one in particular opened a whole new world of wine to me.