Whether you’re the ultimate wine enthusiast or looking to make wine your profession, WSET offers a range of qualifications for every type of student. The Wine & Spirit Education Trust accommodates 12 different languages and is accessible in several counties. So what exactly is available through this institute?
For an overview of all wine certifications, including reviews of WSET, CMS, and NWS, you can check out our Sommelier Certification 101 page. For online sommelier certifications, please review our online wine courses page.
Level 1 Award in Wines
For anyone just starting in wine, this qualification is ideal. The course focuses on introducing different types of wine by learning the deductive tasting method. Other topics include common grapes and their characteristics, core food and wine pairing concepts, and how to describe wine accurately. Upon completing a 30-multiple question assessment, a lapel pin and a certificate are granted.
Level 2 Award in Wines
The L2 certificate builds on the knowledge gained in L1 and introduces more in-depth topics. Students study a variety of different grapes and how environmental, winemaking, and maturation affects these wines. Additionally, sparkling wine, fortified wine and major wine regions are introduced. The exam has two parts: a 50-multiple choice question assessment and a blind wine tasting. Upon successful completion, a lapel pin and certificate are awarded.
Level 3 Awards in Wines
Level 3 is considered a professional qualification, especially for those who are building a career in wine. The course provides an in-depth exploration into viticulture, fermentation, aging, and distributing wine. Sparkling, fortified, and still wines of the world are also presented. The tasting portion of this course is also thorough: students are required to evaluate and describe wine at a professional level.
The assessment consists of three parts: a 50-multiple question portion, a short written paper, and a blind tasting. To receive a lapel pin and certificate, all three sections are required. Students are also able to use ‘WSET 3’ as part of their professional signature.
Level 4 Diploma in Wines
This is the highest level of WSET Certifications. An L4 diploma is a six-part wine course imparting expert knowledge in winemaking, wine businesses, fortified and sparkling wines, and an independent research assignment. This wine diploma takes 18 – 36 months to complete, and upon completion, a lapel pin and certificate are awarded. Students are also able to use ‘DipWSET’ as part of their professional signature.
Apart from the wine qualifications offered by the WSET, there are also qualifications available in spirits and sake.
Level 1, 2, 3, in Spirits
These qualifications work similarly to the qualifications in wine. Each level builds on the knowledge of the previous level. The topics covered in these qualifications include the production of the spirits, types of spirits, flavor influences and how to analyze spirits’ taste.
Level 1, 2, 3, in Sake
Similar to the wine and spirits qualifications, each level forms the foundation for the following level. The topics here include types and styles of sake, and how to serve and store sake. In the third level, important issues regarding the sake industry and export markets are covered.
Whatever your industry needs, whether it be wine, spirits, or sake, the WSET offers some incredible options for each. These qualifications are held to the highest standard and great for any general wine or spirits industry.
What to Expect From a WSET Education
WSET is a franchise organization, which sells the rights to its educational programs to individual contractors. The content consists of PowerPoint presentations and wine tastings. At their best, these wine schools impart a thorough and detailed knowledge of wine. At their worst, an elitist British attitude reigns, along with an excessive reliance on repetition and memorization. The program is entirely geared towards the restaurant professional, with modules on serving etiquette, spirits, beer, and cigar service, which may not be of interest to all students.
For the best WSET education possible, we strongly recommend checking out reviews of individual wine schools.
The best programs employ instructors at the top of their field, who can make a standard WSET program shine. For instance, the Napa Valley Wine Academy offers the best in-person experience for WSET classes in the country.
Benefits of a WSET Education
Drilling down on the data, we have found that two types of students will almost always prefer this type of wine education. The first is those who have not earned a college degree. The rigorous demands of the program provide an assurance that these students are capable of achieving high status within their chosen profession. While these schools lack a level of creativity, they meet the educational needs of an underserved market.
The second group of students who seem to prefer WSET to other types of wine education are those outside the U.S. WSET is the most recognized certification worldwide, and it has spent decades adapting its programs in emerging markets like China, Africa and the Middle East. Its conservative nature and consistency is appealing to students who are working globally. WSET is well-known for its hierarchical structure, which may also benefit these learners by providing clear steps for advancement.
Our research is unambiguous on one important point: wine education does not have to be unique or trendy. There is great value in offering a wine course that has been largely unchanged for fifty years.
But our surveys show some concerning trends. Many students have soured on PowerPoint presentations, and are concerned by the lack of diversity within the organization. However, the program is so widely-known and respected that many continue to earn their Diploma despite these drawbacks.
Student Reviews of WSET
Dozens of sommeliers and wine professionals have rated the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. Check out those reviews here.