Wine Classes at WSET – the Expert’s Choice
I’ve always been slightly in awe of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET global). It’s the largest global provider of wine and spirits qualifications offering beginner to expert courses in wine, spirits and sake through Approved Programme Providers across the world for enthusiasts and professionals. All the sommeliers and serious wine buffs I know go on their courses and I’ve been invited to review one of their classes. When I started writing about wine I was particularly nervous about describing the aromas and flavours generated by our beloved fermented grape juice. I went on a couple of courses, got to hang out with some professional wine writers and did some comparisons looking at different reviews of the same wines. I soon became aware how individual each person’s relationship with flavour is and became more confident in giving opinions. But as I approached the flagship, WSET School on trendy Bermondsey Street my old insecurities start to kick in. Would I be able to differentiate the aromas of leather and tobacco or would I get my hay and grass mixed up. First-world problems I know…It is at the Bermondsey site that WSET offer their full suite of courses, from one day Level 1 Awards in Wine, Spirits or Sake to the expert Level 4 Diploma as well as hosting regular London wine tasting events and introductory sessions for people looking to learn a little more about wine but who aren’t quite ready to commit to a course.I had signed up for a Masterclass with Master of Wine Michelle Cherutti-Kowal MW on Bourgogne Lesser Known Appellations. The classroom was packed with eager-looking oenophiles each sitting behind a crescent of tasting glasses and their own personal spittoon (spit don’t swallow is the order of the day at tastings otherwise things can get a bit messy…!).The class was a fascinating introduction to the Burgundy region and specifically the village-level wines where the value is to be found. We covered bottles that can be found at good wine importers rather than at your local supermarket and it was a great way to pick up some invaluable tips and insider knowledge for the next time you’re trying to navigate your way through a terrifying wine list. We tasted eight wines, four whites and four reds with everyone feeling able to join in and contribute their thoughts; and there was none of the ‘wine snobbery’ that can be so off-putting. My favourites of the wines we tasted were a white Rully, Les Plantenays, 2015, Louis MAX, 13% £18.99, a great example of a wine that exemplifies the malolactic process (you know what that is now!) and a Maranges, 2015, Domaine Chevrot et Fils, 12.5% £25, a light elegant Côtes de Beaune style red.
And a top tip? Well if you are after a Haut Côtes de Beaune or Côtes de Nuits the best value is to be found in warm years such as 2015. And a ‘how to impress your friends’ tip…talk about malolactic fermentation – the process in which the tartness of malic acid, is converted to that creamy, buttery lactic acid flavour which is to be found in many Chardonnay-based wines.
For those of us who drink wine – hands up who doesn’t… – it’s really empowering to feel more knowledgeable about something we invest a lot of time and money in. It’s also a lot of fun exploring the flavours, aromas, history and provenance of wines in an informed but enjoyable context.
For more information about the courses which WSET offers check out their website at wsetglobal.com