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What is WSET? Everything you need to know

Cos’è il WSET? Tutto quello che c'è da sapere

Many industry experts - and indeed those who are today considered the most important wine protagonists in the world - have obtained the WSET Diploma. This, of course, does not mean that the WSET is not accessible and also suitable for enthusiasts. So let's see how it works, the various professional opportunities and everything you need to know.

Here's a complete guide to the WSET, with everything you need to know.

What is WSET?

The WSET ( Wine & Spirit Education Trust ) is an institute that organizes highly professional courses and training programs in the wine and spirits sector. In fact, it is considered the greatest wine training center in the world.

The history of the Institute

WSET grew out of the Education Committee of the Wine & Spirit Association, established with financial assistance from the Vintners' Company in 1969 , in Great Britain. Since 1991 it has been provided in France, two years later in Austria, since 1994 in the United States, since 1997 in Japan, since 1999 in Australia.

Organization of the Institute

WSET management reports to an 8-member board of directors: three from the Vintners' Company, three from the Wine & Spirit Association, one from the Worshipful Company of Distillers, and another from the Institute of Masters of Wine.

Who delivers the WSET courses?

The Headquarters is the WSET Global in London, but today there are many authorized institutes.

Spread across over 70 countries through a network of more than 900 providers ( the full list is here ), today the WSET has over 75% of candidates outside the UK. In Italy it can only be obtained up to Level 3.

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What are WSET courses?

These are critical tasting courses , with in-depth recognition of the various profiles. They are divided into various units that give a vast and detailed knowledge on wine (but also on Spirits and Sake), in the different styles and qualitative differences, offering an understanding of the industry on a global level.

In doing so, it trains well-rounded experts, who master the theory, but also the techniques of deductive tasting.

What are the requirements to take WSET courses?

There is no particular requirement to access the WSET level one and two courses. Level 3 is a professionalizing course, and for this reason possession of Level 2 (or equivalent) is required. The Diploma is a highly specialized university course: to access it there is an enrollment procedure based on qualifications and CV.

How are the WSET courses structured?

The WSET courses are divided into three qualifications, which present different paths.

You can choose the wine route (Award in Wines) , the spirits route (Award in Spirits) and the sake route (Award in Sake) .

Do we always have to start from Level 1?

No. It is not always necessary to start from the first level: those who, for example, have already attended courses from associations or academies (among others: AIS, FISAR, ASPI, ONAV...) can start from the second level of the chosen path, which does not require have obtained a previous qualification.

In what language are WSET courses held?

Of Anglo-Saxon origin, WSET courses around the world are held in English or in the official language of the place where they are delivered up to Level 2.

How long do WSET courses last?

Achieving the Level 4 Diploma in Wines takes between 24 months and 3 years. On average, it takes at least 2 years to achieve it, with 500 hours of study recommended. The course is divided into 6 Divisions, at the end of each of which there is an exam.

How do the WSET in Wines courses work and what do you study?

The first level (Level 1 Award in Wines) is introductory to the world of wine. It analyzes the main world vines, outlining their characteristics and deals with the principles of tasting and food-wine pairing.

The second level (Level 2 Award in Wines) offers a higher qualification, offering greater depth. In particular, international and native vines are analyzed and we understand how the different regions of the world can express diversity in terms of style.

The third level ( Level 3 Award in Wines ) focuses on the factors in the vineyard and cellar that define the quality, style and price of wines from the world's main wine regions. The technical aspects of grape cultivation and cellar operations are explored in depth, offering those who obtain it a profound understanding of the quality of the wines and the characteristics that define their price and evolutionary potential.

Finally, the fourth level ( Level 4 Diploma in Wines ) is equivalent to a degree course. It guarantees in-depth, 360-degree knowledge of wine, with a particular focus on the management of a winery, from the vineyard to the commercial and marketing aspects. The course helps you understand how and why production and market aspects influence the style, quality and price of wine. The training offered is very detailed on both a theoretical level, with an in-depth look at all the world's wine regions, and a practical one, with the aim of training experts of the highest level. This is the preparatory qualification for the prestigious Master of Wine.

The same specialization, this time divided into three levels, is offered for Spirits and Sake.

What are the most peculiar characteristics of WSET courses?

Among the various: it is an international certification, so the teaching fully reflects this global approach, and is not service-oriented (like the Court of Master of Sommelier courses).

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How much does the WSET cost?

Costs vary based on Levels , Countries and the mode of use, whether online or in class. In WSET School London - for example - the price for the Diploma (Level 4) starts from around 2700 pounds for those who choose virtual lessons and from 4000 for those who opt for in-person ones. To these costs may be added those for extra tastings or special visits.

Every national provider, outside the UK, has prices in line with London prices. If you want to discover the courses and prices of Cristina Mercuri DipWSET's Wine Club click here .

Is it difficult to obtain the WSET Diploma?

Yes , in the sense that it takes a lot of study, the ability to store and manage a lot of data and a lot of practice. Since 1969, just over 10,000 people in the world have obtained the Diploma, who can boast the prestigious DipWSET suffix after their name.

The WSET Diploma exam is graded according to this scale:

  • grade above 75%: Pass with Distinction
  • vote between 65% and 74%: Pass with Merit
  • vote between 55% and 64%: Pass
  • vote between 45% and 54%: Fail
  • vote lower than 44%: Fail unclassified

What does DipWSET mean?

This is the acronym that graduates can add after their name, especially in their CV, when they have obtained their diploma .

What do the WSET Diploma exams consist of?

The exams are always written , and always with a practical and theoretical part. They can last a few hours or two days, depending on the unit that the candidate has to support. The exams always have open theory questions and questions on blindly tasted wine samples.

- Read also: Julien Miquel's advice for understanding French wines

What are the professional opportunities at WSET?

A WSET Diploma facilitates multiple high-prestige professional opportunities , especially for those who want to work internationally.

Upon completion, you can then practice professions such as: Export and Hospitality manager; Wine Expert (also for the creation of the wine list); Buyer or Sales Manager of important retailers; Head of Education and teacher of courses in the Wine & Spirits sector or in the organization of events.

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