Posted on | October 31, 2009 | 6 Comments
This summer I completed the WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) Advanced course in Cork. It was run by the Wineboard of Ireland. The lectures and tastings were carried out mainly by Gary O’Donovan. His experience and tales from working in the wine industry for many years made for entertaining and informative lectures.
I don’t work in the wine industry and don’t know if I ever will, but I am interested in wine and the more I learn the more interested I become. I’m not great at motivating myself to find time and study alone, I prefer structured lessons so these courses grabbed my attention. I found the intermediate course an excellent start and so was looking forward to tackling the more challenging advanced course last Spring. So for 14 weeks or so, each Tuesday evening from 7pm till 9.30pm, I headed into Cork. There were about 20 or so people doing the course. Many in the trade, working in off licences, restaurants and hotels and others, amateurs like myself.
The first thing I must say was that it was a great gang of people. The course whilst very information intensive was good fun. Most classes incorporated a blind tasting of a few wines or spirits, depending on what region or spirit we were studying on a particular evening. Retsina tasting was particularly amusing, it brought back memories of Ios 1988, difficult to forget the pine resin flavours.
I found the tasting part of the course to be very subjective. Whilst guidelines were given and it was good to learn a systematic approach to evaluating and tasting the wine, I felt there was alot of interpretation involved which very much depended on the person doing the tasting. One man’s medium(-) bodied seemed to be another’s medium(+) bodied etc etc.
The range of wine producing regions and countries was huge. Before doing the course, I had only a very basic knowledge of Italian, Portugese, Central and Eastern European wines. Not to mention some New World regions. I really enjoyed learning about the vast range of different climates, topography, grape varieties grown, how they’re grown, the different wine making and aging techniques.
I loved learning about the different production methods/tastes in sparkling and dessert wines. I found the fortified wines and spirits section less interesting, but this is probably because I never drink these. The course finished with a blind tasting and a written exam.
What I have mainly taken away from this course, is an ability to understand labels and to choose grape varieties and wines from around the world that I like and which will suit whatever I’m eating at a particular time. I am also now more likely to try new wines as I have an inkling of what they may taste like.
I have heard gripes/complaints that courses like these should only be for people working in the industry and at cost of approximately €700, it is expensive to pay for yourself. However, I don’t believe this to be true. As result of doing the WSET course, I’m more likely to pay that extra few euro on a bottle of wine, to splash out on a more expensive wine occassionally as I hopefully will have an idea of what it may taste like and appreciate what traditions, costs have gone into bringing this wine to my local wine warehouse. This would appear to be a win-win situation for both me and people selling wine in this country.
My wine palate has definitely expanded and I have realised there is so much more to learn. Onwards and upwards I go!
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