For the last two weeks I have been confined to a cellar…ok don’t feel too sorry for me. It was in a beautiful part of London and I was learning about wine. Now to people who have never professionally studied wine this must sound amazing! A whole two weeks drinking wine – maybe this drizzly summer isn’t that bad after all.
A few years ago I decided to take the Intermediate qualification through WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust). At the time I had limited knowledge of wine and was very much a social drinker, and had never been inspired enough to learn the intricacies and subtleties wine had to offer. As I went through my course I soon realised I loved it more than I thought, and actually I wanted to understand it not merely because I wanted to be knowledgeable on the subject, but I also wanted to understand how the wine world works.
I took the exam and passed with a merit, and so I thought one day I would brave the Advanced course. I had heard that the Intermediate was like sitting your high school GCSE’s, and the Advanced is like sitting you’re A-levels when you’re 18. Like with most things I thought ‘Nah! I’m sure it isn’t that tough.’ Could I have been any more wrong! The leap from Intermediate to Advanced was huge and more like entrance exams at 11 years old to doing an A-level.
The last two weeks have been some of the hardest weeks I have had in a while. I never drank any of the wines, ok well a little of the dessert wine slipped down (by accident!), but the most delicious, tasty, beautiful and excellent examples, not to mention premium price, wines were all swirled and then spat out into my spittoon. Seems a shame but there is no way I could have stayed attentive and alert for the entire day if I didn’t. After a glass of wine I’m ready for a nap!
I learnt everything from viticulture (grape growing) through to vinification (making them into wine). How to taste a Sauvignon Blanc from the old world versus a Sauvignon from the new world; an oak matured Cabernet Sauvignon from a young unoaked one; a cool climate Chardonnay versus a warm climate one. The course also included spirits and we learnt about the different styles, how they are made and what exactly is the difference between Cognac and Armagnac.
I knew it was going to be an intense course, I mean every day for two full weeks, and studying at night just to keep up in class. And although they prepared me for the exam I don’t think there would have been enough hours in the day to learn all that content. The exam was a blind tasting which I was more worried about until I found out there was going to be a huge written paper too. It’s been a long time since I had to study like that so you can imagine the fear that soon took over. Despite all this, I’ve had a fantastic few weeks and managed to come out unscathed and bursting with wine knowledge and, as much as you don’t believe me, sober!
It’s got me thinking about doing my Diploma in wine…don’t want to get ahead of myself. Best wait until I get my results first!