Each month, Erica interviews one of Enjoy Discovering Wine‘s former WSET student’s and the article is featured here. This month Erica has interviewed former WSET Level 1 Student – Steve Whitelock.
When you signed up for the WSET Level 1 in Wine what did you want to have happen?
I wanted to leave at the end of the day with a strong understanding of the ‘basics’ of wine and having learnt at least five new things, all of which, and more, I achieved. I was also determined to pass the exam to underpin my existing knowledge and that which I had newly acquired.
That new knowledge has made me think much more about moving wine from bottle to glass, rather than just ‘doing’ it. Storage, opening, cleaning, temperature, glassware. All these small steps can make the end experience of tasting and enjoying the wine that much better, and was something I’d paid a small amount of attention to previously or completely overlooked. So, just looking at that one aspect of the course, my approach has shifted a lot. I guess with regard to that, I left with a confirmation that I knew what I knew, which was pleasing, and I wasn’t too far away from a lot of what I learnt.
The food pairing exercise was particularly pleasing in that respect as cooking is my hobby and I’m always looking at pairing wines. The experiments we undertook with salt, spicy, sweet etc was eye opening because I had never experimented to that degree where I was looking at the impact of those elements on wine, so this will add an extra level of thinking for me going forward with all of my meal planning.
The food will always be the forerunner for me, but I will now be applying a more thorough approach to the choice of wine based on all the ingredients on the plate rather than viewing it as a ‘course’ . However, the flip of this for me will be selecting a wine from my own ‘cellar’ and building a plate of food around that which is quite exciting! I have built a very good cellar over the last few years of over 120 bottles, yet when I’m cooking I very rarely look in there for a match and tend to go out and buy something. Moving forward, I will be trying wherever possible to use my own wines, based on the knowledge I developed on the course and the cataloguing I have in place for each bottle.
I’ve been happily building up my cellar to its current size over the last few years through my own understanding and passion. However, early last year, when I decided to catalogue my collection, it dawned on me that I was actually quite serious about wine and that I should explore ways of broadening my knowledge and understanding to make sure I was getting the most out of my wine and give me a fresh perspective. I became aware of the courses through my brother-in-law and saw that as the perfect platform to launch my learning.
I realised it was more than just the drinking that interested me. That I had more than just a passing interest. I started looking at regions, grape varieties, producers in much more detail to understand where my wine was coming from, how it reached my glass. I have only really scratched the surface so the scope to increase my knowledge is vast. I have no real clear idea in my mind as to where I’d like my love affair with wine to go, but, given my passion for it, I could take it in any direction I wish. The next logical step is to take Level 2 and continue building from there.
If you enjoy drinking wine, studying it makes the experience much more rounded and will really take your enjoyment of wine to a whole new exciting and intriguing level.