what are you? a sommelier? on being a wset student of wine

ever since maria offered me the christmas present of a WSET intermediate certificate in wine taught by the good people of vincrest in hong kong, people have been asking me: so what are you now?  a sommelier?  whatever i am now that i have gained a little wine knowledge, my friends inevitably always make me choose the wine in restaurants...

after passing through the different levels, i am now preparing for the last exam of my diploma which is the incredibly exhaustive unit 3 covering all light wines of the wine world - including romania, bulgaria and the like. it's a real killer, with an incredible amount of material to remember and a very high level of skills we must apply in tastings. 

once i complete this, i will have the competence to work in the wine industry.  as a sommelier?  not quite, however.  a wine educator? progressively.  a wine buyer? yes.  a marketing executive of a small winery, could be.  in charge of an on-line wine selling organisation? perhaps.  as a wine writer?  if i improve the quality of my english, maybe.  as a wine events coordinator? why not?

whatever, i have enjoyed every classes i have taken until now.  i find the wset curiculum to be well structured and more importantly well balanced.  it really gives the student a complete tour of the wine world focusing a good amount of time on all wine regions including those in south america, australia, usa as well as those all over of europe including central and eastern regions.  not only with the theory but also with the several tastings that we do in class. 

these tastings really opened up my mind to the wines of far away regions and uncommon grape varieties.  in fact, i now seek them and more often than not, i choose a wine based on the fact that i have never tasted a sample of a region or that i have barely heard from before anything else.  so beware good friends, next time you let me choose a wine, you may end up having to drink something utterly disgusting all for the sake of continuous education!

i understand that the wset certify at various levels over 44,000 students each year in over 39 countries around the world.  the courses are divided among the several levels and whether one is professional or an amateur, there is enough to satisfy everyone "thirst" for knowledge.  qualifications are:

- level 1 - foundation - a good introduction to the world of wine

- level 2 - intermediate - for those with a serious interest and want to broaden their knowledge

- level 3 - advanced - for in-depth knowledge and structured approach to tasting

- level 4 - diploma - for in-depth study of various issues of the wine trade including wine production and marketing and also to develop a specialist and structured tasting expertise. this level prepares students for the extremely rigorous master of wine certification and is a very good introduction to the wine mba offered by bordeaux university

- level 5 - honours - an in-depth research project on a specific issue related to the wine trade

progressively throughout each levels, the wset strongly emphasize the development of thorough tasting skills using their systematic approach to tasting, a method to assess quality of wine based on objective criterias.  i admit that, at times, i had my difficulties with the systematic approach as i found it too much devoid of "the poetry and passion" of tasting.  however, i have come to realise its power as wines are evaluated systematically and consistently leaving little room for subjective interpretation and allowing one to clearly identify the quality of a wine when compared to other wines and make an objective judgement - no matter if one likes the wine or not.

this certificate has opened my mind to a fantastic world where the passion and kindness of the people is wonderful and addictive.  in fact, i am so enthusiastic about it that i have started this blog and made wine become an important part of my life. 

until i pass the diploma: